Meanwhile, it was yet another loss — in a historic season full of them — for Michael Jordan and the Charlotte Bobcats.
The Hornets, recently sold by the NBA to Saints owner Tom Benson, won the NBA's draft lottery Wednesday and the No. 1 pick overall — which they almost certainly will use to pick Kentucky star Anthony Davis.
At least that's what the consensus college player of the year is expecting. Moments after the Hornets won the lottery, Davis said he was looking forward to playing professionally in the place where he led the Wildcats to a national championship in April.
The good news for the Hornets comes after a difficult season in which they traded all-star Chris Paul and a couple of years in limbo where they couldn't do much to upgrade the roster while the league was looking for a buyer.
"Just a first step for us to winning it all," Benson said in a TV interview after the lottery.
The Hornets moved up from the fourth spot, where they had a 13.7 per cent chance, to earn the pick.
"Everything was surreal once they announced the fourth pick," said Hornets coach Monty Williams, who represented the team on stage. "I said 'This is pretty cool.' I knew my wife and kids were home praying that things would go well and they did."
The Bobcats, after going 7-59 for the worst winning percentage in NBA history, fell to the No. 2 pick. Washington will pick third and Cleveland fell one spot to fourth.
Charlotte had a 25 per cent chance of grabbing the No. 1 pick, but instead will have to take the best player after Davis, possibly his teammate, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
The team with the worst record hasn't won since Orlando drafted Dwight Howard in 2004.
"We will still take the best player available and when you win seven games you have a lot of holes," Bobcats general manager Rich Cho said. "From a competitive standpoint and for anyone who has played sports or been competitive, you want to win and be No. 1. We know we're still going to get a good player."
Cho and team vice chairman Curtis Polk said they hadn't heard from Jordan, the Bobcats owner.
"Being No. 2 isn't terrible. We'll be fine," Polk said.
The Toronto Raptors will pick eighth.
The league bought the Hornets from owner George Shinn in December 2010 and the sale to Benson was completed in April. The NBA was criticized for the conflict of interest of a league owning a franchise, particularly when Commissioner David Stern blocked a trade that would have sent Paul to the Lakers in December, then approved another that landed Paul with the Clippers.
The ownership uncertainty hindered the Hornets, but they were in a celebrating mood Wednesday after earning the No. 1 pick for the first time since 1991, when they were still in Charlotte and took Larry Johnson.
General manager Dell Demps said he pumped his fist in the room where the drawing took place after seeing that the balls had been drawn in the Hornets' favour.
"When our combination came up, it was an exciting feeling," he said. "I got an incredible rush. ... We knew what the odds were. We hoped for the best. It was nothing we could control. We're just happy."
The Hornets, who went 21-45, also have the No. 10 pick. They played hard at the end of the season even as it reduced their lottery odds, winning eight of their final 13 games with a young roster.
"Obviously, we're very excited," Demps said. "This is a great day for the city of New Orleans, our fans. ... This is the start of a new beginning."
Though they didn't officially say it, it's expected to start with Davis, one of the most dominant defensive college players in years who was Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four even as he went 1 for 10 from the field in the championship game. He blocked a record-tying six shots and had 16 rebounds and three steals in the Wildcats' 67-59 victory over Kansas.
"Davis is not LeBron. He's not Tim (Duncan). But they were young once and Tim had four years of college," Williams said.
The Nets were the other big loser when they stayed in the No. 6 spot. They owed their pick to Portland for this season's Gerald Wallace trade unless they moved into the top three.
The Cavs beat the odds last year and moved up to take Kyrie Irving, the eventual Rookie of the Year, and tried to follow the same formula. Nick Gilbert, the 15-year-old son of owner Dan Gilbert, was back on the podium in his bow tie, and the Cavs' travelling party that included Dan Gilbert, and former Browns quarterback Bernie Kosar and current Browns players Josh Cribbs and Joe Haden sported the same dress.
But there was no repeat, as the Cavs went backward this time.
"Still feel very good about (number)4 pick," Dan Gilbert wrote on his Twitter page. "We are getting a great player there and good additions w/our other 3 picks. I believe."
Sacramento rounds out the top five of the draft, to be held June 28 in Newark, N.J.
The Golden State Warriors stayed at No. 7, meaning they get to keep their pick instead of having to trade it to Utah. The Trail Blazers will also have two lottery selections, the Nets' and their own at No. 11.
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in New Orleans contributed to this report.