NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Pelicans wound up with the sixth overall pick in Tuesday night's NBA draft lottery, dropping a spot after finishing with the fifth-worst record in the league this past season.
New Orleans, which had a 27-55 record, was pushed back after the Washington Wizards, who were 29-53 and initially slotted eighth, jumped to third overall. The Cleveland Cavaliers received the top overall choice. It marked the first time in franchise history that the Pelicans, founded in 1988 as the Charlotte Hornets, had the sixth overall pick.
"We think it's a deep draft and we'll be able to add a contributor," Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said after witnessing the lottery results in New York. "We think that it could be a different type of guy. It could be a guy that's ready to play right away or it could be a developmental type guy."
A year ago, when the Pelicans were still called the Hornets, the organization had tied for the third-worst record in the NBA, but lost a coin flip with Cleveland, meaning New Orleans had the fourth-best odds of getting the top overall choice. Losing that coin flip might prove to be one of the best things that ever happened to New Orleans, which nonetheless won last year's lottery and wound up with former Kentucky star Anthony Davis, the consensus best player in that draft.
Now the face of the franchise after a solid rookie season as starting power forward, Davis joined the Pelicans' delegation that flew to New York for this year's lottery, and which also included team owner Tom Benson, Demps and head coach Monty Williams.
This year, the Pelicans could have wound up with either of the top three spots or fifth through eighth. Williams nodded but showed little emotion when the Pelicans' pick was announced.
"I'm a little surprised, but I'm not disappointed by the sixth pick. It's still a high pick," Williams said. "There are a lot of quality guys that will be available, a lot of rotation guys. We feel good about the pick. It's only going to add to the young core that we have."
The Pelicans had an 8.8 percent chance of getting the top pick. Their chances were 9.7 percent for picking second, 10.67 for third, 26.2 percent for fifth, 36 percent for sixth, 8.4 percent for seventh and 0.4 percent for eighth. Because the lottery, which is weighted based on teams' records, determines only the top three picks, with the rest picking in reverse order of finish, the Pelicans could not drop more than three spots from their fifth-worst position and could not move up one spot to fourth.
Some of the top players who are projected to be available around the sixth pick — should the Pelicans choose not to trade it — include Indiana shooting guard Victor Olapido; Georgetown small forward Otto Porter; Syracuse point guards Trey Burke and Michael Carter-Williams; and Maryland center Alex Len.
But the Pelicans could very well opt for a trade.
"You never know," Demps said. "There are trades, there's other opportunities that may present themselves. We're going to look at every angle to give ourselves the best possible chance to make our team better."
The Pelicans are looking to shore up several positions either through the draft or free agency. One of them is small forward, where Al-Farouq Aminu started this past season.
Aminu averaged a career high 7.7 rebounds and 7.3 points, but is slated to become a free agent July 1, and the Pelicans could decide against pursuing an extension.
Another position of interest could be shooting guard, given Eric Gordon's lack of reliability in his first two injury-plagued seasons in New Orleans, and the inexperience of 2012 10th overall pick Austin Rivers, who struggled to look comfortable or score reliably during much of his rookie season.
At point guard, the Pelicans appeared pleased with the progress of Greivis Vasquez and the development of backup Brian Roberts, but Roberts also is slated to become a free agent.
While the Pelicans are happy with top power forwards Davis and Ryan Anderson, they could be enticed to take a big man with the potential to push 7-footer Robin Lopez for playing time at center.