The Importance of This Year’s NBA Lottery
Regardless the sport, fans get so excited for the draft. It represents the future of the organization. It supplies hope and optimism for a struggling franchise. It gives the chance to finally get a young superstar and have long lasting success. It can also create heartache and confirmation of the organizations ineptitude as teams reach on a prospect who flames out. The NBA Lottery is this Tuesday and it could produce franchise changing results. While the top prospects of this year’s draft (Fultz, Ball, Jackson, Tatum) are considered by almost all as sure things, the draft as a whole is considered to be one of the deepest in recent years. The opportunity to draft one of these players could have franchise altering consequences. The top spots in the draft this year are occupied by some of the leagues most historic (Celtics, Lakers) and promising (Timberwolves, Suns, 76ers) franchises. All of these teams are looking for that young star that will be able take them to the next level and turn the franchise around. The Lottery going poorly for one team means success for another. Here is what is at stake in this years NBA Lottery.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers are one of the most successful franchises of all time with a long role call of legendary players like Jerry West, Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Kobe Bryant, and Shaquille O’Neil. Due to division in the front office, aging players, poor cap management, and injuries, the Lakers have found themselves with the projected third pick of the draft. The Lakers struggles in recent years have earned them high picks that have resulted in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, and Brandon Ingram. Despite these high picks, they have yet to see the consistency and growth that is expected from prospects taken as early as they have been.
In this year’s draft the Lakers are looking for that prospect that is going to be a sure thing and develop into the star that Lakers fans are used to seeing on the court. The only concern is that the Lakers could easily lose their pick to the 76ers this year. Past trades involving Steve Nash and Dwight Howard have led the team to being on thin ice to retain their pick when they need it the most. There are a couple scenarios that can happen with this pick. It can get a bit complicated but try and stay with me.
First, the Lakers either stay where they are or move up into the first or second pick in the draft. This will result in the team keeping their pick and the opportunity to draft one of these young, potential franchise altering prospects. This is obviously the most ideal situation for the Lakers but still has consequences. This would result in the team sending their unprotected 2018 first round pick to the 76ers and a 2017 and 2018 second round pick to the Magic.
Second, the Lakers fall out of the top three picks. The end result of this could be devastating to the Lakers. They would send their first round pick to the 76ers and then also send their 2019 first round pick to the Magic. This is considered a very strong draft so losing the option to select a young star could further derail the franchise and lead the Lakers to being a frequent occupant of high lottery picks.
Trust the process! It really is a shame that Sam Hinkie wasn’t allowed to finish off what he started, especially now that all of the moves he made are coming to fruition. Over the past few years the 76ers have been able to acquire and develop young players without changes at the head coaching position. This resulted in a breakout year for Embiid who was finally able to hit the court before getting injured in the middle of the year. The team also saw progression in Saric’s game as he came over for his first year from Europe. The 76ers have the possibility to have a phenomenal draft and add to their promising young (and frequently injured) core of Simmons, Embiid, and Saric.
The 76ers are currently slotted as the fourth pick. They are guaranteed to have at least this pick. Ideally though they would like to jump into the top three (or at least have someone else do it) to push the Lakers out. This would result in the 76ers having two, likely, top five picks. With the strength of this draft, this would set Philly up to make a push for the playoffs and be a contender in the next few years. Adding the shooting of a player like Malik Monk and overall game of Dennis Smith, the 76ers could have a really solid back court to pair with their athletic big men.
On top of this, the 76ers also have the right to swap picks with the Sacramento Kings who are currently slotted with the eighth pick. If everything falls according to plan, this swap will likely not be exercised. However, if the Kings make a massive jump ahead of the 76ers or the 76ers have a massive fall in the pick standings, the 76ers will have the ability to switch picks with the Kings, giving them the higher pick. This could result in the 76ers adding a lot of talent to their roster and potentially completing the process.
The Kings transactions in recent years have produced bewilderment, laughter, and a general sense of they have no idea what they’re doing. This last season the Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins to the New Orleans Pelicans for a first round pick, Buddy Hield, and some other stuff that isn’t important right now. Some believed they could have gotten more for Cousins, but I generally liked the trade. Yes, Cousins is one of if not the best centers in the league, but he has constantly proven that he is a cancer in the locker room and just won’t work in Sacramento. They were able to get back a rookie who showed improvement and another lottery pick in a very strong 2017 draft while also avoiding having to pay Cousins $200 million next year. This move set them up to add more young pieces in this year’s draft.
The Kings currently have the eighth pick. They will likely end up keeping this pick but do have the possibility of sending it to Chicago. If the Kings first round pick falls out of the top ten though, then they will end up shipping it off to Chicago. They also own the rights to the Pelican’s first round pick which is slotted at number ten. This pick is top three protected so the Pelican’s would have to make a meteoric climb and be extremely lucky to keep this pick.
If things fall as they should, the Kings will have two top ten selections in a very deep and strong draft class. However, if things go the way they normally do for the Kings, they could end up losing not one but both of their picks this year.
The Lottery this year has some of the deepest talent we’ve seen in a long time. These rookies will be looking to change the course of their new franchise and help inject a winning culture. At the top of the draft the Celtics (who have swap rights with the Nets) will look to cash in with the first pick on the star they have been looking for and the Suns will want to add another supreme talent to their extremely young core.
A lot of teams will end up keeping their picks and the Lottery could be very straight forward with little to no movement. While that is by the book and ends up giving teams what they earned (unfortunately that feels like the most appropriate descriptor in this age of tanking), it won’t be nearly as fun. I want to see a lot of movement that ends up with these teams exercising swap rights and teams losing or gaining picks they never thought they had a chance at. I don’t want this because I am rooting for or against any teams. I am rooting for this because it will create amazing entertainment. It will create unimaginable opportunities for struggling teams. It will create daunting challenges for front offices to overcome.
This Lottery contains a ton of moving parts that can have long lasting effects, not just on the teams, but on the league as a whole. Thankfully this is coming in one of the deepest draft pools in recent years. Tuesday’s NBA Lottery has the possibility to completely alter the course of franchises.