With the most important moment in the short history of the Brooklyn Nets coming tomorrow at 8 PM, I thought this would be a good time to look at all the teams in the NBA Draft Lottery and think about what order they may fall in the draft. Many think that David Stern and the NBA control the lottery process and created the lottery so that the NBA could decide which top players go to which teams. Not everybody believes that this is true, and those people believe that the lottery is what its name describes: a lottery. However, for those of you who think that the NBA may have some influence over the lottery, this article is for you. Below you will see my predictions of where each team will fall in the lottery and I will give a short description of the reasons why.
#14 Houston Rockets (34-32).
The lottery usually sticks to form at the top, and that should not change this year. The Rockets appeared to be an overachieving team until about 10 games remaining in the season where they really fell apart. They always seem to be at the bottom of the playoff race every year but never quite make it. They return to the lottery again this year and they should be able to select a pretty good player with the 14th pick.
#13 Phoenix Suns (33-33).
The Suns overachieved this year, but came up just short in the playoff race. This is a team facing a lot of questions this offseason, with the biggest being if Steve Nash will return. He is a free agent. If he does not return, the Suns should enter full rebuilding mode and possibly even trade up in this draft. They do have a few tradable pieces in Marcin Gortat, Channing Frye, and others that could be good additions to playoff teams.
#12 Milwaukee Bucks (31-35).
This is a Bucks team that had playoff hopes after trading for Monta Ellis at the trade deadline, but they were too weak at center to contend with bigger teams. On top of that, their best big, Ersan Ilyasova, will be a free agent, so they will really need help at the pf/c spot. Look for them to draft a big at the #12 position.
#11 Portland Trail Blazers (28-38).
If the Trail Blazers get the Nets’ pick, they will have two lottery picks, which would be the start of a bright future in Portland. I will talk more about them later when I discuss the Nets’ draft pick, but this is a team that did not have a good season. They started off very strong despite playing in a very tough division when some thought they would contend with Oklahoma City for the division crown. Injuries ultimately cost the Blazers their season, and then they began tanking, starting with the Gerald Wallace trade. The NBA doesn’t like tankers, so I don’t expect their #11 pick to move up any higher in the lottery.
#10 New Orleans Hornets (from Minnesota Timberwolves) (26-40).
With Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio, the Timberwolves have a bright future. However, after Rubio’s season-ending injury, Minnesota fell out of the playoff race and finished with a poor record. Some would say that they were tanking, but this is not the case because they don’t even have a lottery pick. That pick was traded to the New Orleans Hornets, who will have 2 picks in the lottery. I will talk more about the Hornets later when their own pick is discussed.
#9 Toronto Raptors (23-43).
This is the first small change I predict seeing in this lottery. The Pistons will move up one spot to #8 and the Raptors will fall to #9. I don’t really think the NBA cares about which team ends up with the #8 or #9 picks; I just have a feeling this will happen. The Raptors haven’t made the playoffs since 2008 and have had plenty of lottery picks that have not worked out as expected. They experienced another mediocre season last year, and there is not much evidence of that changing any time soon.
#8 Detroit Pistons (25-41).
The Pistons will move up one spot to #8. The Pistons are one of the saddest NBA franchises right now. Last year they finished 28th in the NBA in attendance despite being 1st in the category only three years ago in 2009. That is a very fast drop-off and the NBA is not happy about it. They do have some pieces to one day return to glory, starting with their lottery pick from last year, Brandon Knight and 2010 lottery pick Greg Monroe. Another top-10 pick should lead to an improvement next year, but this team is still at least 2 or 3 years away from a playoff appearance.
#7 Golden State Warriors (top 7 protected. Utah Jazz receive pick if out of top 7) (23-43).
Golden State is very nervous about this pick, and I think the NBA has taken notice. The Warriors have been trying to complete a trade with Utah in order to keep their pick this year no matter what, but it is now looking unlikely that a trade will occur. Utah is a young, emerging team that already is full of lottery picks, and I’m not sure David Stern would want to give them another one. Another reason why I believe that Golden State will keep their pick is that they have recently announced plans to move to San Francisco from Oakland within 5 years, and a lottery pick will help create a little bit of excitement in northern California.
#6 Cleveland Cavaliers (21-45).
This is the first major shake-up in this draft. Cleveland is slotted to pick at #3, but I believe the pick will be pushed all the way back to #6. The reason for this is that the NBA already let the Cavs win the lottery last year with both the #1 and #4 picks. Even if they get the #6 pick this year, they should be able to select a talented player. They just don’t need a top 3 pick right now. Another reason that I think the NBA will push back Cleveland is because they definitely tanked towards the end of last season. The team only won 8 games total in the months of March and April. In contrast, the San Antonio Spurs won 26 games during that time. The NBA is aware of the tanking going on, and I expect it to punish some of the biggest offenders. However, if I am wrong and if Cleveland gets the #1 pick, the Cavs can easily turn into a dynasty. With a point guard/center combo of Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis, the Cavaliers will be an excellent team for years.
#5 Washington Wizards (20-46).
Washington is another team that I expect to move back 3 spots in the lottery from #2 to #5. The Wizards really underachieved this season and the only team worse than them was the Charlotte Bobcats. Before the season, the Wizards were a trendy pick to be the 8-seed in the east, but they very quickly fell out of the playoff race. John Wall has not lived up to his expectations coming out of Kentucky and the #6 pick in last year’s draft, Jan Vesely, averaged under 5 ppg in his rookie season. They have also been one of the most dysfunctional organizations ever since the Gilbert Arenas gun scandal. The Wizards don’t need a top-3 pick; they need a change of attitude across their entire organization.
#4 Sacramento Kings (22-44).
I predict the Kings to move up one spot from #5 to #4 in this draft. The Kings are due for a playoff appearance and haven’t made it since the Mike Bibby, Peja Stojakovic, and Chris Webber era in 2006. They have had plenty of lottery selections over the years, and they do have a few pieces now in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins that are very talented. The question for the Kings is if those players want to remain in Sacramento and would be willing to sign extensions. If they can make a good selection in the top 5 of this lottery, next year I expect them to contend for a playoff birth. The other big issue facing the Kings organization is whether or not they will remain in Sacramento. There have been rumors of them moving to either Anaheim or Seattle, and neither really makes sense, especially Anaheim. This team once had the best fans in the NBA and playoff games were similar to Oklahoma City playoff games today. Those fans would return if the Kings built a new arena and began winning some games. I think the NBA wants to keep the team in Sacramento and the least it can do to help that cause is moving them up one spot in the draft.
#3 Charlotte Bobcats (7-59).
Sorry, Bobcats fans, but you will not get your savior, Anthony Davis. Charlotte’s only hope is getting the #1 pick, but I don’t think they will get it. The reason for this is that the two teams above Charlotte just need it more. The Bobcats have very few fans and I think the NBA is realizing that returning a team to Charlotte after the Charlotte Hornets left for New Orleans was a mistake. Aside from Kemba Walker and maybe Bismack Biyombo, this team has virtually no pieces that can help them build for the future. The #3 selection will help, but the Bobcats were really relying on Anthony Davis to come in and play center for them. Charlotte has needs at every position, so Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal, or Thomas Robinson can also help them quite a lot.
#2 Brooklyn Nets (22-44).
Nets fans will breathe a sigh of relief after getting the #2 pick. Even though they would have preferred the #1 selection, nobody can complain about getting #2. The worst case scenario is avoided and the Brooklyn Nets will still have a good chance at being a playoff team as soon as next year. The NBA will have a big part in bringing the #2 pick to Brooklyn. David Stern wants basketball to succeed in Brooklyn, and it will start with giving the Nets a lottery pick. If the Nets do get this pick, they will have a big decision to make. Do they want to use it to draft a player like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal or Thomas Robinson, or do they want to trade it to Orlando for Dwight Howard? I would have to think that they would include the pick in a trade to the Magic to acquire Dwight. However, if they have the #1 pick, they may choose to just keep it and select a younger, healthier, and cheaper Anthony Davis over Howard. The NBA has sometimes been cruel to the New Jersey Nets over the years, but the Nets will finally hit a home run in the lottery this year (I know I’m calling the #2 pick a home run even though most would only consider the #1 pick a home run. The #1 pick would have been a grand slam, and even though they may be in Brooklyn, they are still the Nets. The Nets don’t hit grand slams).
#1 New Orleans Hornets (21-45).
With the #1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft, the New Orleans Hornets will select Anthony Davis out of the University of Kentucky. Why do the Hornets get this pick over the Nets or Bobcats? The NBA wants this team to succeed in New Orleans and doesn’t want to see them move. David Stern loved seeing the New Orleans Arena packed every night when Chris Paul was a Hornet and he thinks that this team could become a winner. He has seen how popular the New Orleans Saints have become in the city, and he thinks the Hornets can also become popular if they had a superstar like Anthony Davis. Also, Stern definitely has some type of connection to this team because he was their GM for much of the last two seasons and he had a big part in bringing Eric Gordon to New Orleans. With the #1 pick, another lottery pick, and Eric Gordon (who is a restricted free agent), the Hornets should be ready to compete for a playoff spot as early as next season.
Who do you think will win the NBA Draft Lottery?