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Detroit Pistons could again draw overall No. 1 NBA draft pick after lottery tonight

By BRIAN MAHONEY

AP Basketball Writer

Time for the NBA draft lottery, where some team will get a nice reward for a miserable season.

Not the Los Angeles Lakers, though. Their misery is set to make a good year even better for the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Pelicans are the lone playoff team among the clubs who can get a boost from lotto luck when the drawing is conducted tonight in Chicago.

The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and Orlando Magic all share a 14% chance of winning the lottery and the No. 1 pick for the June 23 NBA draft in New York.

Auburn’s Jabari Smith, Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero are among the top college players available.

The Pistons, Rockets and Magic were young teams who finished at the bottom of the league, the kinds of teams the lottery is supposed to benefit.

Then there’s the Pelicans.

They were just like most other observers in and around the NBA this season, expecting the Lakers to be a winning team, possibly a championship contender. But when the Lakers instead flopped to a 33-49 finish, eighth-worst in the league, it left New Orleans in position to cash in one of its chips from the 2019 trade that sent Anthony Davis to Los Angeles.

The Pelicans will make the pick from the Lakers as long as it lands in the top 10 — and there’s about a 99.6% chance of that.

Executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said nobody on the Pelicans was expecting to get a top-10 pick from the Lakers this season, in which New Orleans rebounded from a 1-12 start to make the playoffs led by All-Star Brandon Ingram — acquired in the trade with Los Angeles.

“So we got very lucky and as is often the case in our business, it’s better to be lucky than good,” Griffin said after the playoffs. “And if you can be both, you can achieve something and so we’re grateful we’re a playoff team that’s holding a lottery pick. It’s a highly unusual thing.

“So we got lucky there for sure.”

That’s what tonight is all about.

The Pistons had the luck last year, when they won the lottery and eventually chose guard Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick. He went on to finish third in the voting for rookie of the year.

The lottery sets the top four picks. The remainder of the non-playoff teams pick in reverse order of their finish. Besides the Rockets, Magic, Pistons and Pelicans, the other teams participating tonight are Oklahoma City, Indiana, Portland, Sacramento, San Antonio, Washington, New York, Charlotte and Cleveland.