Fortune Favours the Brave: 2017 NBA Draft Lottery Guide

1-133Call it luck or call it karma.

Whatever you label it, the fortunes of one team in particular are going to be tested by the basketball gods on Wednesday morning Australian time, and that team will be the centre of everyone’s attention.

The Los Angeles Lakers could walk away with a top-three pick or no lottery pick at all following the NBA’s 33rd annual draft lottery, to be drawn at 8 p.m. Tuesday night local time.

As usual, the lottery drawing is not just about which team may move up or down in the lottery. No, no—where would the fun be in that?

There is a lot more to it as the ramifications of trades past (and potentially future) are on full display. Some GMs will leave celebrating, some will smile in relief, while others may want to jump out the nearest window.

This year’s draft class has been described as one of the best—and deepest—of the past 14 years, since the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2003 lottery and the right to select a kid out of Akron, Ohio. That kid was ready to contribute right away, and the 2017 draft class has several players who may fit that bill. Players such as Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson should all be able to help their new teams immediately next season.

With that comes hopes and expectations: the hopes of a draft prospect turning a franchise around and the expectations of them being able to help right away. Three of the most storied franchises in NBA history will be arriving at the lottery drawing with one, the other, or both.

The Lakers’ post-Kobe rebuild has well and truly commenced, and while it may be going slower than expected so far, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka surely have visions of leaving the lottery with their foot firmly on the accelerator. They hope to land another potential franchise piece to possibly pair with D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram or Julius Randle, but may leave without a lottery pick at all.

If the lottery gods conspire against them and the Lakers move out of the top three, their pick will be conveyed to the Sixers and the Sam Hinkie legend will live on in Philly. Landing a top-three pick could mean adding one of the top prospects in this draft, or it could be a trade asset to acquire Paul George or another big name. That would really accelerate their rebuild.

Of course those Sixers will be hoping that they can still “trust the process” and pinch that Lakers pick. They could in theory walk away with two picks in the top four to add to Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric.

Even if the Lakers cling to their top-three pick, the Sixers have once again increased their odds of landing the number one pick by virtue of another trade. With their own odds and the Kings’ odds (the Sixers have the right to swap picks with the Kings), the Sixers have a 15 percent chance at that top pick.

Don’t forget about the Celtics. The Eastern Conference’s most surprising team has the right to swap picks with the Brooklyn Nets, the team that just happens to have the best odds of winning the lottery. It’s been a great year already for the Celtics after they earned the first seed in the East and realised they have a superstar in Isaiah Thomas. Danny Ainge will be hoping the luck of the Irish is on their side a little more as adding a potential franchise piece to this already strong squad could vault them into legitimate title contenders next season.

So this year’s lottery drawing is huge for those teams.

In addition, the Sixers can swap picks with the Kings (that would happen if Sacramento moves into the top three), while the Kings could lose their pick outright to Chicago if it falls out of the top 10.

Finally, the Pelicans will only keep their pick if it moves into the top three, otherwise it goes to Sacramento as part of the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

Here are this year’s lottery odds, from (tiebreakers were done on April 18):

Team Odds for number one pick Odds for top-two pick Odds for top-three pick
Boston Celtics

(via Brooklyn Nets)

25.0  46.5 64.3
Phoenix Suns 19.9 38.7 55.8
Los Angeles Lakers 15.6 31.3 46.9
Philadelphia 76ers 11.9 24.5 37.8
Orlando Magic 8.8 18.5  29.1
Minnesota Timberwolves 5.3 11.3 18.3
New York Knicks 5.3 11.3 18.3
Sacramento Kings 2.8 6.1 9.9
Dallas Mavericks 1.7 3.7 6.1
New Orleans Pelicans 1.1 2.4 4.0
Charlotte Hornets 0.8 1.7 2.9
Detroit Pistons 0.7 1.5 2.5
Denver Nuggets 0.6 1.3 2.2
Miami Heat 0.5 1.1 1.8

As we all know too well, the draft lottery rarely goes to plan. The team with the greatest odds has come away with the first pick exactly five times since the weighted lottery system was introduced in 1990. However, it has happened the past two years for the Wolves and Sixers, so obviously the Celtics are hoping to extend that streak.

The lottery will be held at the New York Hilton Midtown and as always, each lottery team will be represented at the drawing.  Those on hand this year will include current players like Embiid (who hopes this year’s Sixers pick has a better reaction to being drafted than he did), Celtics co-owner, governor and CEO Wyc Grousbeck, and Magic Johnson.

As a reminder of how the lottery actually works, the drawing is done behind closed doors and the ESPN TV broadcast will only announce the results of the lottery as deputy commissioner Mark Tatum opens 14 envelopes, starting with the 14th pick and working up to the top three.

It’s important to note that not all 14 lottery picks are actually drawn on the night. Only the top three selections are drawn out via a four-ball numbered combination. The team assigned the first four-ball combination will be awarded the first pick. The same happens for the second and third picks. The rest of the order just falls into place based on their records or draft odds (following tiebreakers) thereafter.

So if Boston (via Brooklyn)—which has the best odds this year with a 25 percent chance of landing number one—fails to snag one of the top three picks, the furthest it can fall is to fourth place.

With that in mind, it may only take one team to move up into the top three for the Lakers to lose their pick to the Sixers, unless of course the Lakers move up themselves.

It would take three of the bottom six teams (by lottery odds) to move into the top three spots for the Kings to move out of the top 10 and have to forego their pick to Chicago. So they’re pretty safe in keeping that pick. They would then need to convey their second-round pick instead though, but the Kings will be praying that’s the case as they start their post-Cousins rebuild in earnest.

There are obviously a number of ramifications from this lottery drawing. In a stacked draft like this, even a top-10 pick could speed up a franchise’s rebuild or become a valuable trade chip on draft night or when free agency begins.

Fortunes can be changed quickly and those who’ve been brave enough to trade their way into enviable positions may come out smiling brightest.

1-134So grab your horseshoes, put on your lucky socks, pray as hard as you can to the basketball gods, or just bring Nick Gilbert along, because once those ping pong balls are drawn, everything changes in an instant.

Follow me on Twitter @tomhersz
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Author of the article

When you’re introduced to the NBA as a 6 year old in 1984, staying up late to watch Bird, Magic and Dr. J, it’s pretty hard not to fall in love with the game. I became consumed with the Association, and as my own game was developing, I tried to emulate as much as I could at an early age and learn how to play “the right way”. I have memories as a teenager of being glued to Saturday Basketball on TV and spending every spare cent I had on basketball cards and replica jerseys and so began my obsession with NBA knowledge and stats. I played my first season of Fantasy Hoops in 2002, as my serious playing days were slowing down. I now play in 5 or 6 leagues every year. To say I’m obsessed with Fantasy Hoops would be an understatement. To say I love nothing more than sharing my opinion on a player’s value would be entirely accurate, and I guess, the reason why I’m here. Follow me on twitter: @tomhersz @downtownball