The wait for the Zion Williamson sweepstakes is over, and a shocking winner emerged.
The New Orleans Pelicans, which held just a 6 percent chance to win the No. 1 overall pick, leapfrogged eight teams Tuesday.
Betting the NBA draft lottery seems like an exercise for degenerates, but for those precious few who backed New Orleans, they cashed tickets of +1300, according to MyBookie.
So $100 bettors won $1,300.
The NBA changed its draft lottery odds this year to discourage tanking among teams near the bottom of the standings. The bottom three teams all had a 14 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick, but Cleveland and Phoenix fell out of the top 4. Chicago, with 12.5 percent odds, also fell out of the top four.
That left the New York Knicks (14.0 percent), Pelicans (6.0 percent), Memphis Grizzlies (6.0 percent) and Los Angeles Lakers (2.0 percent) all made the top four.
Knicks fans had to feel good about that development in the moment as their odds improved considerably from the beginning of the night.
But their stomachs dropped as both the Pelicans and Grizzlies (No. 2 overall) jumped ahead of them. The Knicks will have to settle for No. 3, and may miss out on both Duke’s Williamson and Murray State’s Ja Morant.
New Orleans star Anthony Davis has been subject to trade talks ever since he requested to be moved during the 2018-19 regular season.
David Griffin, executive vice president of basketball operations for the Pelicans, has maintained he’d like to convince Davis to give New Orleans another chance.
That may be easier to do now that the franchise has secured the No. 1 overall pick and the right to draft Williamson. Or it could be even more incentive for the Pelicans to trade Davis and build a great young nucleus around Williamson.
The Knicks will have to look toward free agency, where they’ve been rumored to covet Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
Meanwhile, the Lakers got a nice boost by moving up to No. 4 in the draft, where they’ll try to add a young talent to pair with LeBron James.
One has to wonder whether a part of Williamson felt disappointed. The Lakers and Knicks, two of the NBA’s most storied franchises in the country’s largest markets and part of the final four franchises with a shot at the No. 1 overall pick, would’ve provided him a boost in marketability and shoe-contract leverage.
“I don’t know why; I’m just still nervous,” Williamson said, admitting he’s never been to New Orleans. “Maybe because … all eyes were on me. And I think it’s a lot to take in, ’cause I don’t know where I’m gonna be.”