By BRETT MARTEL, Associated Press
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — There finally could be some good news for Hornets who suffered through a miserable season as part of the fallout from the Chris Paul trade.
The deal that led to lots of losing in New Orleans also yielded two picks in Wednesday night's NBA draft lottery.
With luck — something that has been in short supply for the Hornets lately — New Orleans could end up with two of the top overall picks in the June 28 draft.
Or if the tough luck continues, the worst-case scenario is that they'll pick seventh and 13th overall.
The Hornets finished the past season last in the Western Conference at 21-45, which was tied with Cleveland for the third worst overall record in the NBA. However, Cleveland won a coin flip to break the tie, meaning the Hornets, for the purposes of the lottery, are considered the league's fourth-worst team, slightly lowering their odds of one of the top overall picks.
Trading Paul to the Los Angeles Clippers also brought New Orleans a first-round pick that originally belonged to Minnesota, which had the 10th-worst record in the league, meaning that pick could fall to no worse than 13th.
The NBA uses a weighted lottery based on the order of finish, meaning the worst teams still have the best chances of picking at the top. In New Orleans' case, the two lottery picks combined give the Hornets a 14.8 percent chance of landing the first overall pick, a 15.46 percent chance of picking second and 16.04 percent chance of picking third.
Regardless of how the odds pan out, Hornets executives are optimistic about the direction of the franchise in recent weeks.
In mid-April, the NBA announced that Tom Benson, owner of the NFL's New Orleans Saints, had agreed to buy the Hornets for $338 million and as part of the deal agreed to a lease extension at the New Orleans Arena that would keep the team in the Big Easy at least through 2024.
The hope is that more certainty about the franchise's future, not to mention a local owner with deep pockets, will help the Hornets compete for top free agents and return the franchise to playoff contention, regardless of where the lottery picks fall.
Of course, a couple of top picks in this year's draft wouldn't hurt.
"This continues to be an exciting time for our organization, on the heels of the lease extension with the state and the securing of local ownership," Hornets president Hugh Weber said. "Having the ability to improve our on-court product through two lottery — and potential top-10 — picks in the upcoming NBA Draft is another positive step toward the future of this franchise."
Kentucky 6-foot-10 forward-center Anthony Davis, an exceptional shot-blocker with a smooth and accurate midrange jump shot for a big man, appears to be the best choice for the Hornets should they win the lottery. However, general manager Dell Demps isn't showing his hand, saying Tuesday that he would hold off on any draft-related comments until after the draft order was certain on Wednesday night.
Other top draft prospects include Kentucky 6-7 forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kansas 6-10 power forward Thomas Robinson, Connecticut 6-11 center Andre Drummond, North Carolina 6-8 forward Harrison Barnes and Florida 6-5 shooting guard Bradley Beal.
Odds are at least one of those players will end up in New Orleans as the chances of the Hornets' top overall pick dropping all the way to seventh are pretty slim, at 1.27 percent.
Once the Hornets know where they'll be picking, they can start inviting players in for workouts and see which ones they like best.