The 2013 NBA Draft class is recognizably weaker than last year’s or the draft class that will follow in 2014, but even with a weaker selection available, landing a No.1 pick is still enough to get a franchise turned around and heading in the right direction.
Thanks to the Draft Lottery, a handful of teams have at least a slight chance at landing the first pick, but of course the odds lie with those who stake claim to the worst record in the league. The Charlotte Bobcats currently hold that title, but they will take no solace in the odds after missing out on the first pick and a shot at Anthony Davis last season.
Of the bottom dwellers around the league, the three scraping the very base of the barrel all reside in the Southeast Division. Orlando, Washington and Charlotte all have a good shot at staking claim to the No. 1 pick and have all rightfully resigned their season to a lost cause. Each franchise will be hoping for that No.1 pick, if not to use it to draft an important player then to use as a trade chip.
Three teams, one chance to find a player that can change the franchise. Washington had their chance in 2010 when they drafted John Wall while Charlotte drafted the No.2 pick last year. Which one has the best chance and history on their side? Who would they likely be looking to take and do they need the No.1 selection? Let’s take a look.
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The Magic traded away one of the pieces that could of helped them win games this season when they dealt away JJ Redick in a six player deal with Milwaukee last week. The team got back some expiring contracts and young talent to aid in their rebuilding process, but nothing that could have the effect a No.1 pick would generate.
In looking at the remainder of Orlando’s schedule, they actually may stand as good of any of the three to finish with the worst record in the NBA. Aside from one game each against Charlotte, Washington, Cleveland and Sacramento, every team on the Magic’s schedule is already in the playoffs or sniffing around the eight seed in their conference.
Orlando has a history of lucking out in the lottery. In 1992, the Magic landed Shaquille O’Neal with the first pick in the draft after finishing with the second worst record in the NBA. O’Neal could have easily been a Minnesota Timberwolf after that franchise finished with just 15 wins, but it wasn’t to be.
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Then, in a twist of fate, after just one season in the dumps in 2003-04, the Magic once again landed a No.1 pick and found the player that proved the franchise’s salvation in Dwight Howard. But like Shaq, Howard would be off to Los Angeles after years in a Orlando uniform and now, the team is need of a new savior. They won’t find it in this year’s draft most likely, but they could find a player talented enough to officially kickoff their rebuilding process.
Two options that would undoubtedly intrigue the Magic are Oklahoma State point guard Marcus Smart to be a long term replacement for Jameer Nelson or they could roll the dice and go after a rehabilitated Nerlens Noel, the Kentucky standout who tore his ACL a couple weeks ago. In any case, the Magic will have players to build around and nothing but the future to look forward to for the rest of this season at least. Don’t be surprised if they end up with that first selection as they seem to have good fate on their side.
The Bobcats are due for the first selection. The schedule they face gives them around seven games they can realistically win, but if their young talents of Kemba Walker and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist continue to blossom, they could surpass Orlando in the standings and face needing a bit of luck to lock up that one seed. Regardless, the Bobcats will easily be in the top three and in contention to seal up a pick that can make a difference.
The franchise hasn’t had much luck landing a No.1 pick, so despite this being a weak draft class, Charlotte would feel good to bring in a top talent of any draft group. With Gerald Henderson a commodity they can trade and Ben Gordon’s deal expiring next season, the Bobcats would likely love to land athletic Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore. Even if Orlando does get the top pick, the Bobcats could still land McLemore, but they won’t be leaving much to chance after finishing with 20 wins at best this season.
The Wizards chances of landing another No.1 pick are dwindling by the day thanks to the successful return of their last top pick. Since John Wall’s return from a knee injury, the team has begun to look reasonably competitive and could push for 25 wins very easily. They’re 13-9 since Wall’s return and regardless of what the rest of their schedule looks like, it seems they’ll be at best in contention for a top three pick.
Given the expiring contract of Martell Webster, Trevor Ariza’s ability to opt out of his deal and the fact that Jan Vesely isn’t panning out to this point, it wouldn’t be a shocker to see Washington pursue a small forward. That puts them in line to land UNLV’s 6-foot-7 inch Anthony Bennett or UCLA’s solid shooting Shabazz Muhammad.
The Wizards may be just one pick away from contending for a playoff spot, but they don’t necessarily need it to be a No.1 selection. That said, they’ll have a few balls in the lottery pot with their logo on it, so you can’t rule it out. And if they or the Bobcats or the Magic should land that No.1 pick, the Southeast division will get a bit harder for the Miami Heat to walk away with next year.