The NBA held its annual draft lottery last night to determine the order of the top-14 selections in the June 23 draft. These picks all originally belonged to the 14 teams that did not make the playoffs, although the Cavaliers and Jazz each ended up with two lottery picks through trades (Cleveland from the Clippers, Utah from the Nets).
Only three teams actually “win” the lottery, meaning the right combination of ping pong balls came up to give them a top-3 selection; everyone else simply falls into order based on their win-loss record for the season.
What we learned after 30 minutes of painfully forced TV drama that is the lottery special that even I won't watch, the order of the lottery in this year’s draft will be:
1. Cleveland Cavaliers (from LAC)
2. Minnesota Timberwolves
3. Utah Jazz (from NJ)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Toronto Raptors
6. Washington Wizards
7. Sacramento Kings
8. Detroit Pistons
9. Charlotte Bobcats
10. Milwaukee Bucks
11. Golden State Warriors
12. Utah Jazz
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets
Bad Luck: The Raptors, Wizards, and Kings all dropped two spots from where they were projected to land (#3, 4, and 5, respectively). Toronto went through hell in their first post-Bosh season. Washington hasn’t made a smart decision in quite some time and might be getting punished by the basketball gods for those hideous new uniforms. Kings’ fans would have been fine finding out their pick was completely stolen from them, as long as their team is still in Sacramento next year. Dropping two spots in a draft this weak is pretty significant, so I’m curious how this bit of poor luck will play out for these three clubs.
Got What They Deserved: The Timberwolves went into full on tanking mode at the end of the year while Kevin Love was injured, earning the highest percentage chance of landing the top pick. They were not rewarded for their effortless efforts, however, and lost the top spot to the Cavs. The Clippers should have earned the right to take Kyrie Irving, one of the most-complete PG prospects in years, with the #1 selection, but they traded their pick/chance away halfway through the season in order to pair up Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe as their PG tandem of the future (that wasn’t meant to be a joke, but it kinda sounds like one). I know the Clippers tend to muck up their high draft selections anyway, but imagine how much better those downtrodden fans would feel moving forward with a core of Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and Kyrie Irving.
Best Position Imaginable: Obviously the Cavaliers made out like bandits, turning the Clippers’ lottery pick (which only had the 8th best chance of becoming the #1 selection) into the #1 selection, which pairs up nicely with their own #4 selection. There is now a very real chance that the Cavs could come out of this draft with the only two can’t-miss prospects (in my opinion): Kyrie Irving and Enes Kanter. With two franchises run by absolute idiots drafting in between their two picks, the Timberwolves and Jazz (sorry Utah fans, but Kevin O’Connor has lost his magic since Greg Miller took over for his dad), Cleveland could be the talk of this draft for years to come aftering picking up two franchise cornerstones in the wake of the LeBron James collapse.
Best GM’s/Front Offices In the Lottery: Houston’s Daryl Morey has looked good for most of his 4-year tenure. Sacramento’s Geoff Petrie has been with the Kings forever (since 1995) and has won multiple Executive of the Year Awards, partly due to his very good track record in the draft. Milwaukee’s John Hammond has helped build a decent squad in a small market – don’t hold this last year against them; they were ravaged by injuries.
Worst GM’s/Front Offices In the Lottery: Most of the rest, which is why they’re in the lottery. Of particular note are the Timberwolves, whose duo of owner Glen Taylor and GM David Kahn is amazingly terrible, the Raptors’ Bryan Colangelo, who could find a way to overpay volunteers, and the entire front office of the Golden State Warriors, who just fired young coach Keith Smart after a single season that saw him lift the team’s win total by 10.