With the NBA draft lottery comes a renewed sense of optimism for many teams. If the right combination of ping-pong balls is drawn, a franchise that is a perennial also-ran can quickly become one of the better and more exciting teams in the Association.
This year is no different. The 2012 NBA draft appears to have one of the deepest classes in recent memory, and virtually every team in the lottery should quickly reap the benefits from the player (or players) they select in the top 14.
As a result of either their record or their shrewd personnel moves, some teams have a leg up on the competition long before any selections have been made. So, with the draft a month away, let's take a look at five teams with the most to gain on June 28.
The Washington Wizards need help in spades, and they should be able to get that help in this year's draft.
John Wall and Nene are the cornerstones of the Wizards' future, and the franchise is fortunate in the fact that there are plenty of wings and big men coming of out college this year who can complement their two young stars.
With all apologies to Jordan Crawford, a shooter like Florida's Bradley Beal would pair nicely with Wall in the Washington backcourt. The Wizards could use an interior presence as well, so don't be surprised to see the team take either Thomas Robinson from Kansas or UConn's Andre Drummond, depending what the team (or teams) in front of them do.
There's nowhere to go but up for Houston, who, with the No. 14 pick, have a 0.5 percent chance of winning the draft lottery.
Dreams of Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist are probably far fetched, but in a deep class, there will be some quality talent on the board whenever the Rockets get to pick. In addition, thanks to the Tracy McGrady deal in 2010, Houston also has the No. 16 pick (courtesy of the New York Knicks) that they could possibly use to move up in the draft.
With a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick—and a guarantee that they can't fall any farther than fourth—the Charlotte Bobcats are one of the few teams virtually assured a good draft pick come June 28.
Obviously, owner Michael Jordan and company would love the chance to draft Anthony Davis this year with the No. 1 pick (as would every other NBA team). But even if luck doesn't shine upon the Bobcats, it's almost impossible for them to blow their selection.
In this year's class, there are four players who are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack: Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Thomas Robinson. Unless the Charlotte front office evaluates players differently than every other team, they will pick one of the four. That player, along with Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo, will help to form the nucleus of the Bobcats going forward.
If everything holds to form, the Portland Trail Blazers will own two of the top-11 picks in the 2012 NBA draft.
Portland's original selection is at No. 11, but the team netted the Brooklyn Nets' lottery pick as a result of the Gerald Wallace trade earlier this year. The pick is top-three protected, so as long as the Nets don't move up in the draft lottery, the Trail Blazers will be sitting pretty come draft night.
Of course, for a snake-bitten franchise such as Portland, it seems almost inevitable that the Nets will move up in the draft this year. If that happens, Portland will receive Brooklyn's first-round selection in 2013 regardless of where it is.
By virtue of their 21-45 record alone, the New Orleans Hornets have the fourth-best chance to land the No. 1 pick in this year's draft. However, if the ping-pong balls bounce just right, the Hornets could wind up with two top selections in June.
In the now infamous Chris Paul deal, New Orleans received a first-round pick that originally belonged to the Minnesota Timberwolves. The unprotected pick only has a 1.1 percent chance of landing the top spot, but when Hornets' original selection is also taken into consideration, the team has a 14.8 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick.
Even if they don't move up in the lottery, there's no reason why New Orleans won't be able to draft two players who will have an immediate impact on their team.