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.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.

Maryland star Melo Trimble declares for NBA draft

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Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:

Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.

Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.

“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.

Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.

The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.

Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.