The Memphis Grizzlies received the second overall pick, followed by the New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. The Cleveland Cavaliers received the fifth overall pick, despite having the joint-highest odds to win the lottery at 14 percent, alongside the Knicks and Phoenix Suns. The Suns received the sixth overall pick.
"It's just another positive event for us," new Pelicans general manager David Griffin said.
The Pelicans had just a 6 percent chance of netting the first overall pick but got kind bounces from the ping pong balls in the first year of a new lottery format designed to discourage all-out tanking. The last time New Orleans won the lottery, in 2012, they selected Kentucky center Anthony Davis with the first overall pick
The new format benefitted the Lakers, who jumped to the No. 4 pick despite having the 11th-best odds of receiving the first overall pick. The Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks suffered the biggest blows from the new format. The Bulls dropped to the No. 7 overall pick despite having the fourth-best odds of winning the lottery, while the Hawks fell to No. 8 despite having the fifth-best odds. The Washington Wizards, who had a 9 percent chance of getting the top pick, received the No. 9 selection instead.
Atlanta will also pick 10th overall as the result of a pre-draft trade last year that led to the Dallas Mavericks giving up their first-round pick this year for the right to select Luka Doncic. Minnesota will pick 11th, Charlotte 12th, Miami 13th and Boston 14th. That pick was conveyed to the Celtics by Sacramento as part of an earlier trade.
Tuesday's result gives the Pelicans an unexpected asset that could be used to replace Davis, who requested a trade during a tumultuous season that saw New Orleans finish with a 33-49 record. That might not seem so appealing to him now, not with Williamson likely coming to New Orleans.
The lottery luck appeared to have fired up the Pelicans' fan base. Approximately 20 minutes after the lottery result was revealed, the team tweeted that its chat interface for buying season tickets had crashed.
Williamson was watching the lottery result unveiling from a stageside seat, along with Murray State's Ja Morant, Texas Tech's Jarrett Culver, Indiana's Romeo Langford and more. Williamson was one of three now-former Duke starters at the lottery — R.J. Barrett and Cam Reddish were among the invited players as well.
"For three of us to be here, it's crazy," Williamson told NBA TV before the event started. "I don't think you usually see anything like that."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.