The NBA Draft Lottery can be a magical night of euphoria or a dreaded event bringing doom and gloom for hardcore basketball fans. It all depends on which ways the ping pong balls bounce and whether or not the basketball gods smile or frown at a particular franchise. This season, due to the obstacles from COVID-19 that disrupted the normal NBA calendar, the draft lottery was held on a much later date than usual. However, with the NBA Playoffs, finally, in full swing, the calendar is back in motion and basketball fans can rest a little easier. Unless, of course, they find themselves a fan of one of the franchises who lost the most on the night of the NBA Draft Lottery.
Minnesota Timberwolves: The obvious winner from this year’s draft lottery is the Minnesota Timberwolves who snagged the first overall pick despite having equal odds with the Warriors and Cavaliers at 14%. Minnesota will now have their choice of a talented bunch of prospects who can contribute right away alongside D’Angelo Russell and Karl Anthony-Towns. I expect the team to not overthink this pick too much and just take the best overall player on their board, likely Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball. The Western Conference is loaded at the moment but the Wolves have had some positive momentum for their franchise as of late. Edwards or Ball would fit in nicely offensively with Towns and DLo, and while the Wolves desperately need more defensive protection, they can continue to address that need with their second first-round selection at #17.
Charlotte Hornets: One year after Kemba Walker, the most important player in franchise history, left for the Boston Celtics, the Hornets are perhaps in a better position than most expected them to be. After many overlooked this team as a depleted roster heading into the season, James Borrego led his squad to a surprisingly solid 10th-placed finish in the Eastern Conference. Due to their surprisingly appealing basketball this season, they only had a combined 19% chance to earn any of the top three draft spots. Despite their low odds, they landed at the #3 spot and will have the opportunity to draft a player with superstar potential. I still expect Anthony Edwards and LaMelo Ball to be the first two players off the board, but if the Warriors or Wolves go in a different direction, the Hornets would suddenly have a blue-chip prospect on their team.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have only made the playoffs once in the past five seasons, a definitive dark period in the team’s history. However, there’s legitimate cause for optimism in Chicago the Bulls grabbed the #4 draft spot which they only had an 8.5% chance of earning. Coby White, Lauri Markannen, and Wendell Carter Jr. are long-term building blocks for the franchise, but the Bulls could go in a number of directions with this pick. They could look for another combo guard to play alongside Coby White like Killian Hayes. They could also look for a long-term replacement for Otto Porter Jr. on the wing, someone like Deni Avdija or Isaac Okoro. This draft will be an interesting look into new general manager Marc Eversley’s plan for the team moving forward.
Cleveland Cavaliers: You seemingly can’t have a winners/losers article without talking about the Cavaliers as this team has been a roller-coaster in the post-LeBron era. Cleveland had a 52.1% chance of landing a top-four selection in this draft and a 40.1% chance of landing a top-three pick. They were co-favorites with the Timberwolves and Warriors to earn the number one selection, both of whom will be picking in the top two. The Cavs took what felt like a plummet down to the #5 spot, a disappointing turn of events for a team that had to be eyeing Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball at the top. If the Cavs weren’t hoping for one of those star guards, this dip down in positioning isn’t a major issue. There will still be plenty of talented players available with Deni Advija, Onyeka Okungwu, and Killian Hayes likely on the list of top targets for this team.
New York Knicks: Nothing ever goes right for the poor Knicks, a cursed franchise that just can’t catch a break. Not only did the Knicks not land a top-four pick, which they had a 37.2% chance to do, but they fell all the way to the #8 selection as the Hornets and Bulls jumped ahead of them in the draft order. This is a very deep draft, despite the lack of talent at the top, so it’s not the worst year for a team to take a tumble in the rankings. Cole Anthony, the guy I believe is the Knicks’ starting point guard of the future, should still be there at #8. This team probably had dreams of LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards, though, and like most things for Knicks’ fans, reality fell short of expectations. The Knicks have gotten a lot of draft decisions wrong in recent memory and the franchise has become a turnstile for overpaid players. There will be some solid options available for the new Knicks’ brass in this draft and fans will be hoping they can finally get it right.
Detroit Pistons: Along with the Knicks, the Pistons were also jumped over in the draft order by the Hornets and Bulls. Detroit had a 42.1% chance of landing a top-four spot and a 63.9% chance of landing a top-six spot. However, they ended up at seventh and will be disappointed as this is an important draft for the team. Blake Griffin has struggled to stay on the court and the team has shipped out several former starters recently including Reggie Jackson and Andre Drummond. This franchise is in need of a restart in a big way and nothing would have benefitted that effort more than an instant star player at the top of this draft. The Pistons will now have their choice of a group of high-upside role players who will rely on the structure and star talent to develop that the Pistons just don’t possess right now.
Atlanta Hawks: The Hawks were projected to receive the #4 overall pick in the draft and had the second-best odds, behind the three co-favorites, to receive the #1 pick. However, Atlanta dropped to #6 in the draft as another team hurt by the leaps up by the Hornets and Bulls. The Hawks are clearly moving in the right direction as a franchise as Trae Young is a budding superstar and there is plenty of young talent supplanting him. The Hawks will still have some good potential choices with their pick like Deni Advija, Killian Hayes, or Isaac Okoro.