With a Draft Lottery Result That Was a Low-Key Great Look for the NBA, The Pelicans Were Granted an Infallible Head Start on the Road to Zion
M Night Shyamalan, eat your heart out! Seriously, what a plot twist! It might not have made for the show we expected, but it gave us one that was insanely entertaining in its unexpected irony. The NBA has this almost inherent ability to create drama off the court, and I'll be damned if a bunch of chaos-causing ping pong balls didn't prove just that by making for an emotional roller coaster of a Draft Lottery that served as the heart-stopping high to the lullaby-like low of Game 1 of the goddamn Western Conference Finals.
With the Lakers and Knicks finishing in the final four, we had two big market, high-profile franchises whose most recent claims to fame were the amount of rubbernecking they've drawn as dysfunctional dumpster fires. Yet, both basically played nothing more than the roles of the far-too-obvious suspects in an episode of CSI before the Pelicans slipped in the backdoor as the spiteful, shock-value serial killer to the rest of the room's hopes and dreams of acquiring a generational-type talent. As an unbiased observer, I saw it as a poetically just conclusion without being one that was at all inevitable ahead of time, and what more can you ask for from the best soap opera in sports?
Let's face it. No matter how positively you view player empowerment, the third-party sabotaging that the entire Pelicans' organization was forced to suffer through this season was a black eye on basketball, as it was essentially the result of a hit being put out by the sport's most notable name and insatiable athlete. Look no further than Alvin Gentry's reaction for proof of that wrong now being righted and that collusion having successfully been combated...
Seems crazy that it could be good for the NBA that an athletic alien narrowly avoided landing in two cities with which that news would have undoubtedly proved most profitable, but I genuinely believe Adam Silver lucked into an huge upholding of integrity that wiped quite a few distasteful problems from his plate as Commissioner. After merely 6% proved most significant, the loser lottery now comes with unmistakable warning label that reads "tank at your own (high) risk". If there were a way to fix the draft without immediately calling all conspiracy theorists then this was it, so I appreciate the final framing of what was a complete curveball.
As for what this means for a Pelicans' organization that spent months getting dragged for their inability to do right by a former first overall pick? Well, Anthony Davis can continue to speak through others in saying what he wants for now....
However, we're talking about a guy that couldn’t even take a harmlessly light-hearted parting shot on a novelty tee shirt without backtracking and make up some lie about how he's not allowed to tie his own shoes without his stylist's supervision. Therefore, I’m not buying the idea that his decision is set in stone. Anthony Davis is both impressionable (See: being used as a seven foot pawn by 'Team LeBron') and terrible at playing the villain, so I have my doubts that can't be swayed to take substantially more money to write his redemption story on a roster that, with the addition of someone who might be is equal as a genetic anomaly, suddenly seems at talented as any other that might be in the sweepstakes for his services.
Who knows? Maybe AD does end up getting traded for a haul, and New Orleans does end up putting more young talent around the most structurally sound of foundational pieces in Zion Williamson. Whatever the case may be and however they go about trying to construct a contender under management that's now as qualified as it is confident, it will feel like a much more appreciable and karma-satisfying blueprint than a vast majority of the other rebuilds that could have been kickstarted last night.