For the portion of the NBA’s corps that spent the year well outside the competitive landscape, the NBA Draft lotto represents a (mostly) randomized shot at the game’s ultimate consolation prize: the golden grail of an early roll call in the NBA Draft. The league’s lower class have the chance for both their struggles and measured efforts at being, let’s call it ‘strategically inept’ (but not tanking, that’s a no-no word according to Adam Silver), either payoff or go to waste.
In the immortal words of De La Soul, ‘stakes is high’. Entire decades can be altered by calling the right name on draft night, for better or much worse. For every ‘process’ that pays out as it did for the Sixers, there can also be the Kings or Magic, who have perfect attendance on the annual lottery broadcast, with no signs of letting up.
It is on that seesaw of a situation where we find ourselves today. Of the 14 slots — and 13 teams — slotted to select in lotto range, who has the chance to either make or break themselves the most in June’s draft? Here’s a look at the Disaster Index for this year’s lotto teams.
1. Phoenix Suns
Record: 21-61 — #1 Odds: 25%
Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images
Outcome: Odds were in their favor as the league’s worst team received the first pick. It is only the seventh time in history that outcome has played true to form in the lottery era. This also stands to be the first time in franchise history the Suns will make the top pick.
Disaster Odds — Zero to none. There is no chance the Suns can fumble this one, save for a Darko-like pitfall by Luka Dončić once he reaches the United States. Whether it is selecting the European star or taking local collegiate hero DeAndre Ayton, the Suns are in position to add a dynamic talent with huge upside either way.
For my money? Dončić is enticing, but Ayton is a matchup nightmare that could have some Karl-Anthony Towns/modern Patrick Ewing to his game. And that screams franchise player to pair with Booker.
2. Sacramento Kings
Record: 27-55 — Top 3 odds: 18.3%
Outcome: The Kings are already the winners of the year. Just a month ago, the Kings lost a coin flip to break a tie for the sixth and seventh positions in the lottery. And now in one of the great odds defying rises in draft history, they bounced back all the way up to the second pick.
Disaster Odds — Zero. With there being a divide among many on whether Ayton or Doncic the better pick, the Kings win either way as one or the other lands in their lap. They need wing capable of Doncic’s scoring touch in the same way Ayton would run well with last year’s top pick De’Aaron Fox long-term too.
For my money? Doncic. Waste no time and get that card in Adam Silver’s hands as fast as humanly possible.
3. Atlanta Hawks
Record: 24-58 — Top 3 odds: 42.6%
Outcome: The Hawks moved up one spot in the odds technically, although they shared the same odds for the top three that the Dallas Mavericks did, who ultimately took the slide instead of Atlanta.
Disaster Odds — Reasonable: They could have really, really used one of the top two picks, as they are as much in need of foundational player as any team in the league. They need frontcourt talent that can play strong around the glass, but also could use a pure stretch four that can shoot as well. This means that either Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr. or Michael Porter Jr. makes the most sense here, as each would fit. But all carry a reasonable degree of risk considering the lack of talent that would surround them.
For my money? While Bagley makes them a better rebounding team instantly, Jackson can slide directly into that stretch forward need and hit the glass hard enough to not be a liability. Take the young Spartan.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
Record: 22-60 — Top 3 odds: 55.8%
Outcome: A hurtful scenario for the Grizzlies, who went from the second-best odds for #1 and over a 50% shot at top three pick to watching two teams bump them to #4
Disaster odds — Average: Although the slide hurts, it does not doom the Grizz, who still have a reasonable amount of talent on a roster that was ravaged by injury this year. They will have the choice of the top two prep players in the nation over the past two years in Porter and Bagley within their grasp, as well as a talented rim protector in Mohamed Bamba.
Could Michael Porter, Jr. be the steal of the draft? (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
For my money? Play with the upside and go with Porter. There was talk of him being the #1 pick just a year ago, so he’s an upside coup at four.
5. Dallas Mavericks
Record: 24-58 — Top 3 odds: 42.6%
Outcome: An even tougher slide than the Grizzlies met found the Mavericks, who were victim of the line-cutting of the Kings the most.
Disaster odds — Low: The Mavericks are stuck in a rebuilding mold and really can lean towards the best player available at this spot. They need to get bigger and better upfront and have a guaranteed opportunity to do that here.
For my money? Bagley would be a gift at number five and does a bit of everything the Mavs need. He would be worth trading up for, let alone taking outright.
6. Orlando Magic
Record: 25-57 — Top 3% odds: 29.1%
Outcome: The odds of moving up were hopeful at best, but they only ended up moving down one slot in the end.
Disaster odds — Intriguing: Since 2013, the Magic have picked sixth or lower five times. However, none of those picks have managed to uplift the franchise very far. They have a roster that is hard to sort out, as much of its parts do the exact same thing. They could add on more of the same and hope for a different outcome, or make a bold strike in an attempt to shake things up.
For my money? Go bold or go home. Many people are split on what Trey Young can be, but there is no team in the top 10 that could afford to let him figure who he is as much as the Magic can.
7. Chicago Bulls
Record: 27-55 — Top 3 odds: 18.3%
Outcome: The victory of winning the aforementioned coin flip over the Kings was short-lived, as not only did have to watch the Kings rise with odds that could have been their own, they also ended up sliding back to seven in the end.
Can the Bulls find gold again at #7 like Lauri Markannen? (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
Disaster odds — High: Given their specific set of needs, the Bulls’ world would be in a much better place if they sat where say, Atlanta, currently does. They need another scoring forward that can be paired with Lauri Markkanen, but most of the best ones are gone now. Instead, getting a defense first big man or wing is the next best outcome, but that will not a be transformational pick for the team.
For my money? Bamba gives them a much-needed shot blocker who has gargantuan reach. He may take a bit of time offensively however.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers (from Brooklyn)
Record: 50-32 — Top 3 odds: 9.9%
Outcome: The Cavs really needed another stroke of lotto magic, as a top three pick could have done wonders in their upcoming bid for the affection of LeBron James this summer.
Disaster odds — Through the roof: It is impossible to say right now what this pick will represent for the Cavs or if it will ever suit up for them at all. As a bargaining chip, it’s lukewarm at best. As one that is utilized for their internal goals, there is some upside. No matter what, it is a complete tragedy in being the final return for dealing Kyrie Irving.
For my money? Collin Sexton would fit in well in the Eastern Conference Finals today for the Cavs. He can defend, push the pace and score. And they could need it all of this and more if The King relocates his court again.
9. New York Knicks
Record: 29-53 — Top 3 odds: 6.1%
Outcome: The Knicks landed exactly where they were supposed to by the odds.
Disaster odds — Higher than average: Who knows with the Knicks, who currently have their biggest weapon in Kristaps Porzingis out of action and a who’s who of lotto flame out point guard types. Nothing seams to stick here, so anything could go wrong.
For my money? Take the most versatile talent available in Miles Bridges. The athletic, 3-and-D forward can instantly improve their perimeter defense and can shoot a bit as well.
10. Philadelphia 76ers (via Los Angeles Lakers/Boston Celtics)
Record: 52-30 — Top 3 odds: 4%
Outcome: The Sixers hold on to the pick they landed from the Boston Celtics as a part of last year’s deal between the two clubs and the Lakers as part of the Sixers moving up to #1 a year ago.
Disaster Odds — Zero: This is a team that improved by 24 games despite getting only 253 minutes from last year’s #1 pick. It is highly unlikely how well the #10 pick performs will make or break them. This is a luxury pick made possible by a great trade.
The 76ers are in finishing touches mode and Mikal Bridges could be house money. (Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos)
For my money? Mikal Bridges. The 6’7 forward fits perfectly into the depth-based approach the club deploys. His solid overall game fits in well with the deep Sixers collective, and it doesn’t hurt to keep the Villanova star in front of the local base either.
11. Charlotte Hornets
Record: 36-46 — Top 3 odds: 2.9%
Outcome: The Hornets landed exactly where their record dictated they would.
Disaster Odds — Slim: By the virtue of a deep draft class and the Hornets not having a massive glaring need other than working on a contingency at point guard behind Kemba Walker, they are in a good position just outside of the top 10. They have options a plenty here and could get creative.
For my money? This is a fantastic range to catch Kevin Knox at. He’s an athletic wing who has some upside as a penetrating scorer, something the Hornets lacked far too often from their small forwards last year.
12 & 13. Los Angeles Clippers
Record: 39-43 — Top 3 odds: 4.7% (combined)
Outcome: Sitting with the chance to come away with two picks in the top 14, the Clippers showed up to the party early. They grabbed their scheduled slot at 13 and then got right back on the board by getting the Pistons pick at 12 as well, as the payoff of the Blake Griffin deal. The pick top four protected only.
Disaster Odds — Historically high: While it is nice to have a pair of picks as ammo, the returns from this range of the draft have been far from transformational in the last few decades. The last future All-Star to be pick at 12: Mookie Blaylock in 1989. From #13, none other than Kobe Bryant in 1996.
For my money? If both Wendell Carter and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander are both still on the board, the Clips should take them both. Carter is instant DeAndre Jordan trade insurance, while SGA should provide a steadier hand at the point than Austin Rivers. However, finding a way to trade one — or both — of these fringe picks could be the best route to take.
14. Denver Nuggets
Record: 46-36 — Top 3 odds: 1.8%
Outcome: The Nuggets — the best team to hit the lottery since the 48-34 Phoenix Suns in 201 — predictably took the 14th pick. The franchise’s streak of never moving up in the lotto continues.
Disaster Odds — Low: This is an all upside pick for the Nuggets, who narrowly missed the playoffs and have one of the best young cores in the league. They have done a fantastic job of drafting over the past few years (including selecting — and trading — Donovan Mitchell a year ago) and will be in range to add another fitting piece this year.
For my money? Texas A&M’s Robert Williams works well here, as he could add a new element of physicality underneath the rim and allow Nikola Jokic to continue to work his magic away from the rim even more efficiently.
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