There somehow seem to be even more questions now than before the Ping-Pong balls bounced in the Pelicans’ favor. What will New Orleans do with disgruntled star Anthony Davis? Will the Knicks or Lakers use their top-four picks to trade for the six-time All-Star? And how will the draft affect free agency? Nothing in sports compares to the NBA offseason, and Tuesday night’s draft lottery set the table for a fun summer. Here are the best- and worst-case scenarios for each team that was awarded a top-four pick.
No. 1 pick: New Orleans Pelicans
When Anthony Davis, who is signed through next season, demanded a trade, it made for an awkward few months for the Pelicans. But no one is feeling sorry for them now.
Best-case scenario: The Pelicans will have plenty of suitors for Davis if Zion Williamson, the once-in-a-generation player who was the prize of Tuesday’s lottery, doesn’t entice him to stick around. As a small-market team, New Orleans isn’t a top destination for free agents, so it’s probably best for it to build through the draft anyway. Trading Davis would allow the Pelicans to build around Williamson, Jrue Holiday and the haul of assets they get for Davis.
Worst-case scenario: It’s hard to screw up this situation, but if the Pelicans keep Davis around to see if they can persuade him to stay long-term and he ends up leaving in free agency anyway, that would be a colossal misread.
No. 2 pick: Memphis Grizzlies
Murray State’s Ja Morant is the No. 2 player on most draft boards, but he plays the same position (point guard) as the Grizzlies’ best player: Mike Conley Jr. So will they put their 31-year-old leader on the trading block?
Best-case scenario: Conley is due to make $32.5 million next season. It’s in the best interest of the Grizzlies — and Conley — for Memphis to move him to a contender and fully embrace the rebuild with a core of Morant, last year’s No. 4 pick Jaren Jackson Jr., and whatever it can get in return for Conley (maybe a mid-first rounder?).
Worst-case scenario: If the Grizzlies convince themselves that Duke forward RJ Barrett is a better fit for the way this team is currently constructed and decide that Conley is going to retire in Memphis, then expect them to be in the lottery again.
No. 3 pick: New York Knicks
Just breathe, Knicks fans, breathe. New York had only a 14% chance to get the No. 1 pick, so it was a bit premature for fans to start dreaming of Zion doing 360 dunks in Madison Square Garden. And while the Knicks lost the lottery, they still have tons of cap space.
Best-case scenario: The Knicks could acquire Davis with a package that includes the No. 3 pick, Kevin Knox and a future first-round Mavericks pick from the Kristaps Porzingis trade. And then they could pair Davis with an elite free agent (maybe Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving?). But the dream scenario is to keep the pick, draft RJ Barrett and still get two big-name free agents.
Worst-case scenario: If Knicks fans think not getting Zion was bad, imagine if no big-name free agents want to come to New York, and they waste their cap space on second-tier players like Julius Randle and Bojan Bogdanovic.
No. 4 pick: Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers’ front office is a mess, but whoever is in charge has a lot to work with: LeBron James, a group of promising young players, cap space and now the No. 4 pick.
Best-case scenario: By getting the No. 4 pick in the lottery, as opposed to the 11th as expected, the Lakers can sweeten their offer to the Pelicans to acquire Davis. While the Knicks have a higher draft pick to offer New Orleans, the Lakers have much better young players who they can include in the trade. With LeBron, L.A. is in win-now mode and trading for Davis would instantly make it a contender.
Worst-case scenario: There’s a big drop-off after the top three prospects, so if the Lakers are unable to trade this pick, they’ll be adding a young project to a roster full of them. And if big-name free agents don’t want to play with LeBron, expect a 2018-19 reboot.
Who’ll be left at No. 9?
The draft lottery went about as bad as it could have for the Wizards, who had a 9% shot at the No. 1 pick and just a 3.8% chance at No. 9 — where they fell. Here’s who they could target with that selection.
The 6-foot-8 freshman’s draft stock plummeted after a poor NCAA Tournament. But he has a nice shooting stroke and the skill set is there.
The 6-foot-8 sophomore is a good passer with a solid mid-range game and soft touch around the rim. His shooting range is limited, though.
The 6-foot-8 junior is a strong rebounder who can defend and is comfortable on the perimeter, but he needs to develop his shot.