New Orleans Hornets win NBA Draft Lottery, rights to Anthony Davis

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Tom Benson is a good luck charm for New Orleans.

He is in the process of buying the struggling Hornets franchise to keep the NBA’s smallest market from losing its team — now the biggest star to come out of college in years is headed there.

The New Orleans Hornets have won the NBA Draft Lottery. Which means they will be drafting Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, the consensus No. 1 pick many scouts think could have a Kevin Garnet-like career. He is a franchise changing pick. He led Kentucky to a national championship — won in the Superdome in New Orleans.

“New Orleans right now needs a lot of help but we’re getting better every day,” Benson said on the broadcast. “Between the Saints and the Hornets, wow, no telling what’s going to happen.”

The Hornets had been run into the ground by former owner George Shin, the NBA itself had to buy the team and run it for a year, and the Hornets were forced to deal Chris Paul before the season (or lose him after it for nothing to free agency).

The fact the league owns New Orleans will spawn 1,000 new conspiracy theories on how the lottery is rigged. I’ll just say this — if it was rigged the biggest star to come out of college in years would not be headed to the league’s smallest market.

The Horents have some nice young pieces, led by guard Eric Gordon, and new coach Monty Williams turned them into a team that played hard. Now they just got really interesting.

The Hornets had a 13.7 percent chance of winning the lottery, and their move up the board was the only shake up in the draft order. The rest of the draft stayed to form.

1. New Orleans
2. Charlotte Bobcats
3. Washington Wizards
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via Nets)
7. Golden State Warriors
8. Toronto Raptors
9. Detroit Pistons
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota)
11. Portland Trail Blazers
12. Milwaukee Bucks
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets

A few quick notes:

• New Jersey’s pick, the sixth overall, goes to Portland as part of the Gerald Wallace trade. Wallace is a free agent, if the Nets don’t resign him they will have given the pick away for a three-month rental. That is very Nets.

• The Warriors did not get leapfrogged by a team below them, so they get to keep their pick — if it was 8 or lower the Jazz got the pick. Golden State’s tanking at the end of the season really paid off.

• Notice the Hornets will also have the No. 10 pick, that via Minnesota.

Watch Pacers fan boo Paul George during introductions (video)

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Paul George – who told the Pacers he’d leave in free agency, prompting them to trade him to the Thunder – expected boos in his return to Indiana.

Pacers fans delivered.

They’ve also booed him every time he has touched the ball, which will certainly persist.

John Wall returns for Wizards-Grizzlies

AP Photo/Nick Wass
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WASHINGTON (AP) — Point guard John Wall was in the Washington Wizards’ lineup Wednesday night against the Memphis Grizzlies after missing nine games with a sore left knee.

Coach Scott Brooks said Wall would play in the mid-20-minute range, perhaps a bit more.

The Wizards (14-13), currently in first place in the Southeast Division, went 4-5 in Wall’s absence.

“He such a force offensively,” Brooks said of Wall. “He’s a two-way player and he’s one of the few guys in the league that can find open 3-point shooters going 100 miles an hour in transition.”

Wall, 27, is averaging 20.3 points and 9.2 assists per game.

Pacers president Kevin Pritchard likes tweets critical of Paul George trade

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Pacers general manager Kevin Pritchard was widely panned – including by me – for trading Paul George for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

Oops.

Oladipo and Sabonis are killing it while George has underwhelmed.

Upon George’s return to Indiana, Pritchard took the opportunity to gloat. The Pacers general manager recently liked these tweets (hat tip: Matt Ellentuck of SB Nation):

This is petty – and I love it. Pritchard earned the victory lap.

Report: Rival executives still expect Paul George to leave Thunder for Lakers

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Paul George has been pretty open about his plans.

He told plenty of people – including the Pacers – he planned to leave for the Lakers in the summer of 2018. Even after the Thunder traded for him, George spoke of the lure of playing for his hometown team.

Of course, George also left the door open to re-signing with Oklahoma City. He proclaimed he’d be dumb to leave if the Thunder reached the conference finals or upset the Warriors.

So far, Oklahoma City (12-14) doesn’t even look like a playoff lock, let alone a team capable of knocking off Golden State or reaching the conference finals. So, cue the inevitable speculation.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Rival execs still expect Paul to head for the Lakers in free agency

Do these executives have inside information into George’s thinking, or are they just speculating based on already-available information? Some executives are incentivized to drum up the Lakers threat, because they want to trade for George themselves now. If these executives insist George will leave for Los Angeles regardless, they might pry him from Oklahoma City for less.

There’s also a theory George is hyping his desire to sign with the Lakers so a team would have to trade less for him. That got him to the Thunder for what looked like a meager return (but hasn’t been). It might get him to a more favorable situation before the trade deadline without hampering his next team long-term. Of course, this theory isn’t mutually exclusive with George actually signing in Los Angeles. It could just get him better options to choose from this summer.

Surely, the Thunder are trying to parse all this noise. If their season doesn’t turn around, they should explore flipping George rather than risk losing him for nothing next summer. But they should also be wary that he’ll bolt for Los Angeles at first opportunity just because rival executives predict it.