Tonight at 7 pm will be the NBA draft lottery where the order of the 1st round of the draft will be decided. The 14 teams who did not make the playoffs will all have a chance at a top 3 pick with the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, and Cleveland Cavaliers having the best chance at landing the top pick.
This will be the first year in a very long time that the Brooklyn Nets (or then New Jersey Nets) will not be participating in the lottery. For the teams that are participating, this is one of the most important days of the year.
For the record, I do not believe that the lottery is fixed, at least not anymore. However, what if it was fixed, and David Stern decides what teams he wants to land the top pick? Over the past two seasons, I have correctly picked the team that would win the lottery, first with the Cavaliers in 2011 and then with the Hornets last season. I made those decisions based on who I thought Stern would want to have the top pick. Of course, I could have just gotten lucky.
So, if the lottery were rigged, who would have the top pick this year? Below is how I predict the lottery to play out, if it was rigged. I will also give reasons why teams will or will not be higher up in the draft.
14. Utah Jazz
The Jazz have a very small chance at landing a top 3 pick. If they don’t get extremely lucky, they will pick 14th. This team has some pieces to be a playoff team in the future. There’s no reason why the NBA would want to move them into the top 3.
13. Dallas Mavericks
This is Dallas’s first time in the lottery in a very, very long time. Still, they finished .500 this year despite having a ton of injuries and they could make the playoffs next season even without getting a top 3 pick. Dallas will almost surely pick 13th.
12. Oklahoma City Thunder (from Toronto)
If there’s one team that the NBA doesn’t want to see in the top 3, it is OKC. If the draft is fixed, the one way the Thunder could move up is if the NBA tries to use reverse psychology against lottery skeptics who believe the lottery is fixed. I think moving OKC up will shut these people up because this team doesn’t need to get any better.
11. Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers should not be moving up. With Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, this team seems like a future playoff team.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves
Like Portland, Minnesota has plenty of good pieces on their roster with Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams, and others. The next step for Minnesota is getting out of the lottery and not coming back here next year.
9. Washington Wizards
Washington also seems to be heading in the right direction. With John Wall and Bradley Beal, the Wizards have a very good young backcourt which should be playoff bound sooner rather than later.
8. Detroit Pistons
The Pistons are in an interesting situation. With Andre Drummond, Greg Monroe, and Brandon Knight, this team should be on its way to becoming competitive again. However, Detroit has been one of the most boring teams over the last 5 seasons. Perhaps a top 5 pick will finally allow them to return to the playoffs.
7. New Orleans Pelicans
The former New Orleans Hornets have plenty of young pieces led by Anthony Davis and their future looks rather bright. Still, they can use another high draft pick to solidify their front court.
6. Phoenix Suns
Is any team in a worse situation than Phoenix? This might be the least talented team in the NBA. A top 3 pick would definitely help them, but I feel that there are other teams with even more needs than the Suns right now.
5. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers do not deserve a top 3 pick even though they had the third worst record in the league. With Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, and Dion Waiters, the Cavs already have three top 5 picks in the last two seasons. They don’t need any more high draft picks, they just need to play better.
4. Charlotte Bobcats
The Bobcats definitely want the top pick in the draft but I don’t think they will get it. There are other teams that the NBA wants to succeed more than Charlotte right now. This team still has at least 2 or 3 years to go before returning to the playoffs.
3. Philadelphia 76ers
This is the first shocker of the lottery. I think the Sixers will move up from #11 to pick 3rd. Has any team had a worse last 12 months than Philadelphia? After nearly shocking the Celtics to make the conference finals last season, the Sixers traded away Andre Iguodala for Andrew Bynum, who never played a game for them and will now be a free agent. David Stern probably feels bad for this franchise, and if he were to fix the lottery, he will reward them by giving them a top 3 pick.
2. Sacramento Kings
This is another franchise in need of an exciting young player to spark a dying fan base. It appears that the Kings will be sticking around in Sacramento and not be leaving for Seattle. Stern should reward those fans with the second pick in the draft, moving up from the 6th position.
1. Orlando Magic
The Magic have the best odds at getting the #1 pick, and I think they will get it. The team just lost their biggest superstar in team history, Dwight Howard, and Stern wants to replace Howard with the next great center in Orlando, Nerlens Noel. With Shaquille O’Neal and Dwight, this franchise has a history of drafting great centers with the first pick in the draft. That tradition will continue when they are awarded the #1 pick.