Pelicans won’t rely on luck at NBA draft lottery

NEW ORLEANS — The NBA’s annual draft lottery is known for team representatives turning to lucky charms in hopes of landing the No. 1 pick.

It all started with the first lottery, enacted by commissioner David Stern in 1985 to prevent teams from losing games intentionally. That year, former player Dave DeBusschere, representing the New York Knicks, brought along the lucky horseshoe of On The Road Again, a pacing Triple Crown winner. The Knicks won the first pick and used it to select center Patrick Ewing.

After that, lucky charms just became a part of it. But coach Monty Williams, who will represent the New Orleans Pelicans on Tuesday night in New York, won’t be carrying anything to enhance the team’s chances of landing the top pick for the June 27 draft. Williams doesn’t believe in it and has said many times he isn’t superstitious.

“I believe in Psalms 46:10,” he said, referring to a psalm that calls for faith. “That’s where I lay my hat. I’ll be thankful that I’m there. It’s a nice event. If you can get the No. 1 pick, it’s even better.”

New Orleans, which finished with the NBA’s fifth-worst record at 27-55, has an 8.8 percent chance of landing the first pick. Its chance of landing the second pick is 9.65 percent, and it has a 10.68 percent shot at getting the No. 3 selection.

Last year, when the franchise was known as the Hornets, it won the No. 1 pick and selected power forward Anthony Davis of Kentucky. If the Pelicans get this year’s first pick, too, it will mark the first time since the Orlando Magic in 1992 and ’93 that a team won the top selection in consecutive years.

Williams and General Manager Dell Demps wouldn’t say what position they’ll target with their first-round pick, whatever it ends up being. Mock drafts have New Orleans selecting Michigan point guard Trey Burke, but an athletic small forward who can score might best fit the bill. The player rated tops at that position is Georgetown’s Otto Porter, who’s 6-foot-8.

The Big East Conference Player of the Year was a consensus first-team All-American. He has been compared to NBA veteran Tayshaun Prince because of his slender build. Porter may not be the defensive player Prince was in his prime, but Porter could be better offensively.

Williams did not mention Porter by name, but it appears he would be a good addition based on the kind of players the coach said he would like to have. That has been reinforced by what he has seen in the playoffs — particularly from the Indiana Pacers, who eliminated the Knicks on Saturday to reach the Eastern Conference finals.

“Indiana has guys who can do it both ways,” Williams said. “That’s where the game is now. You can’t just have pitchers. They’ve got to be able to pitch and hit. And that’s where we want to be.”

Where the Pelicans pick obviously could influence whom they select. The Pelicans have a 26.1 percent chance of remaining at No. 5, but their chances of dropping to the sixth spot are 36.0 percent. New Orleans could fall to the seventh spot if two teams behind it move into the top three; the Pelicans can’t select fourth or anywhere lower than eighth.

Orlando, which had the worst record in the league, has a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick, followed by Charlotte (19.9), Cleveland (15.6), Phoenix (11.9) and the Pelicans. The remaining eight teams in order of their odds are Sacramento, Detroit, Washington, Minnesota, Portland, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City (from Toronto), Dallas and Utah.

Point guard doesn’t seem to be the highest priority for the Pelicans since Greivis Vasquez finished third in the league in assists (9.1), backup Brian Roberts is coming off a promising first season with the team and Austin Rivers, selected 10th last year, is pegged as the heir apparent.

As the Hornets, the franchise had 13 lottery selections. Since coming to New Orleans, it had six before this year — Chris Paul (2005), Hilton Armstrong (’06), Julian Wright (’07), Cole Aldrich (’10), and Davis and Rivers last year. Aldrich was traded on draft day to Oklahoma City.