Well, it appears that our Houston Rockets just can't catch a damn break. Even when they're sitting at home, licking their wounds, preparing a plate of nachos while getting ready to watch Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, they can't catch a damn break.
Last night, at NBA headquarters, the NBA conducted its 35th draft lottery to decide the draft order of the 14 non-playoff teams, with the grand prize being the most ballyhooed college player since Anthony Davis back in 2012, Duke's Zion Williamson. In the end, somewhat ironically and, for the rest of the Southwest Division (including the Rockets), a tad sports-tragically, Williamson will likely become a teammate of Davis' (at least until the Pelicans trade Davis) as the New Orleans Pelicans won the lottery on Tuesday night.
The prize? A whole lot of highlights like these, should the Pelicans choose the likely route and use the first pick to take Williamson:
Ok, so this was one of the more intriguing draft lotteries in years, in part because of Williamson as the grand prize, but also because of some of the teams participating, including big market franchises like the Knicks, Lakers, Bulls, and Mavericks (whose pick wound up going to Atlanta, thanks to a stipulation in last year's Doncic-Young trade).
For what it's worth, the lottery gave us the following order for the first 14 picks:
Let's unpack some of the ramifications of the developments tonight from the lottery:
Life in the Southwest Division just got tougher
If you're the Spurs or the Rockets, this was about as poorly as it could have gone for an event in which you weren't participating. The Southwest Division was fortified with the top two overall picks. The Pelicans landed the No. 1 overall pick and will likely use that on Williamson, which who knows, may be enough to persuade Anthony Davis to stick around. (More on that in a minute.) Meanwhile, the Memphis Grizzlies bucked the odds to get the No. 2 overall pick, which they will likely use on Murray State super-guard Ja Morant. In a draft that isn't very deep, the Rockets will likely face the top two players eight times per year for the foreseeable future.
Any Anthony Davis trades are on hold for now
The Pelicans new general manager David Griffin said as much after the lottery fell the Pelicans' way, that he is hopeful of putting a team around Davis that will entice him to stay. The perennial All-Star forward/center has one year left on his deal, after trying to force his way to the Lakers prior to this past season's trade deadline. The Pelicans held firm on not moving Davis, which led to lots of awkward fan reactions throughout the balance of the season. Personally, I was hoping the Rockets might put a package together for the Pelicans and risk getting Davis with just one year left on his deal, but this probably will make the Pelicans more patient on moving Davis, not to mention the Lakers (who presumably would still like to deal for him) managed to get the fourth overall pick, which reminds me....
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Poorly run franchises didn't TOTALLY get over
Look, if there's one sports occurrence that's been questioned for its legitimacy more than the NBA draft lottery, I'm going to need you to tell me what it is. Going back to the first lottery in 1985 (grand prize, Patrick Ewing), there's always been a question as to whether the league conducts some chicanery from time to time. When the top four teams in this lottery were revealed to be, in no particular order to that point, the Knicks, the Lakers, the Pelicans, and the Grizzlies, everyone braced themselves for a Knicks/Lakers exacta box at the top of the draft. Thankfully, they ended up third and fourth (still pretty good, but no Zion or Morant). Also, thankfully, Cleveland, who's won the lottery three times this decade and won the biggest lottery of all when LeBron James' Akron-based mom was impregnated 35 years ago, finished fifth. Teams with bad ownership got high picks, but at least they didn't get Zion Williamson.
Remember, Rocket fans.... it's not THAT bad
Hey, if you're down and feeling blue over the Rockets getting knocked out by the Warriors for the fourth time in five years, just remember — your team is at least highly relevant, maybe one of the top three teams in the game. In other words, you're not the Bulls: