Hours before the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery, Jackie MacMullan, the Great Chronicler of Basketball’s Golden Age, appeared on ESPN’s Around the Horn and loudly proclaimed that she would like to see the New Orleans Pelicans be awarded the first overall pick and have first dibs on selecting Zion Williamson.
“If you’re the NBA, what you really need is to show your small market teams some love,” said MacMullan. “So if you’re really going to rig the lottery, which I’m sure they’re not — let me be clear — but you know what, he should end up in New Orleans. They’re the ones that deserve him. They’re the ones that have had the most horrific year ever and had to put up with all of this Anthony Davis nonsense. Send him to the Pelicans.”
Jackie’s analysis couldn’t have been more spot on...or prophetic.
On January 28, 2019, Klutch’s Rich Paul announced the infamous trade request to the world: “Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.”
In the ensuing days, the noise began to grow louder and it quickly became clear that the upheaval would cost the Pelicans all hope for a successful season. However, they were not the lone franchise forced into a death spiral. The Los Angeles Lakers, whose pursuit of Davis became more and more deafening as the trade deadline approached, attempted to strong-arm the Pelicans into making a deal, but to their dismay, they miscalculated miserably and wound up destroying LeBron James first season in purple and gold.
Dell Demps lost his job at the height of the turmoil as Alvin Gentry called the situation a dumpster fire.
Come season’s end, Magic Johnson quit in highly unusual fashion.
According to many, two dumpster fires were raging out of control in a couple of NBA cities. Although Danny Ferry did a wonderful job of stabilizing New Orleans, the overwhelming majority was still concerned about the Pelicans future.
Shortly thereafter though, steps were taken to dramatically correct the team’s direction. David Griffin was hired and Gayle Benson unequivocally handed him the keys to the Pelicans franchise. Aaron Nelson was lured from the Phoenix Suns training group to head up New Orleans oft beleaguered staff. Money and other resources began to filter down through the organization, promising to soon fix or upgrade all areas in desperate need of attention.
Yet, unmistakable wounds nevertheless laid open. The Pelicans were going to attempt to build around Jrue Holiday, but who else was going to help him lift the franchise from the abyss? With no sure fire way to quickly initiate a positive turnaround, the Lakers faced the real dilemma of an aging LeBron and a young core that might have suffered irreparable damage to their confidence.
Suddenly, the Pelicans have the opportunity to draft Zion Williamson, the widely considered next transcendent star. Moreover, they have perhaps the next most valuable trade chip in Anthony Davis to bring in a lot of key pieces to build around Zion and Holiday.
The Lakers, meanwhile, can utilize their fortuitous fourth overall pick in the upcoming draft to bring LeBron the help he requires. In fact, it’s possible Los Angeles might now be able to satisfy New Orleans demands for Anthony Davis. Include that pick and another future asset or two in conjunction with Brandon Ingram, who Griffin has been bullish on in the past, and one more promising young player, the Pelicans could willingly say yes this time round.
The outcome of yesterday’s lottery might have just rectified the most detrimental — certainly the most embarrassing — wrong in recent league history. Two franchises that just wrapped up unprecedented disastrous seasons have immediately improved their future prospects because of the extension of one sorely needed helping hand.
Thank you, powerful, mysterious forces!?
For more on our reaction to the impending start of the Zion Williamson era, be sure to listen to our latest podcast!