There comes a point during the season that 14 NBA teams turn their attention away from the wins-and-losses column and start planning for their future.
It's a liquid date, as some clubs fail to perform to expectations while others shatter their preseason projections. But it's an inevitability for nearly half of the teams in this league, the first true step toward reversing one's fate for the coming year.
The difficulty of that reclamation project just became a bit clearer with Tuesday night's 2013 NBA draft lottery painting a complete picture of the order for the upcoming draft (June 27).
The Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats and Cleveland Cavaliers entered the night with the best chance to land the top selection from the 2013-14 rookie class. Although no consensus has been formulated regarding which player from that class has separated himself from his peers, a majority favorite has emerged.
But even that player knows not to get too comfortable with his prominent perch, as team needs vary among the likely lottery winners.
Now that the dust has settled, though, we've been granted a more comprehensive look at which teams' stock is on the upswing after Tuesday night and which is headed further in the wrong direction.
Dan Gilbert was going to do everything in his power to make sure the 2012-13 season wasn't a complete waste for his Cleveland Cavaliers.
His franchise held the third-best odds of landing the lottery's biggest prize (15.6 percent, via SI.com), but he wanted more than numbers working in his favor. So he went searching for luck in some familiar places and some not-so-conventional areas.
For the third straight season, he made his 16-year-old son, Nick, the Cavaliers' representative. He also took to Twitter in search of another fortuitous face to add to his lottery posse and settled on Tate Moore's persuasive video (via NBA.com).
Call it a collection of good fortunes, or simply a fortunate bounce of the ping-pong balls. By any name, it's still a first overall pick for the franchise, its second in the past three years.
The Cavaliers already have a strong contingency of young stars in place and are in tremendous financial position moving forward, with only $33 million on next year's payroll and nothing yet on the books after that (via HoopsHype.com).
The Phoenix Suns don't have a head coach. They don't have a starter under the age of 23.
And they still don't have a No. 1 pick in their 40-plus-year franchise history.
USA Today's Sean Highkin said no team needed this lottery win as badly as the Steve Nash-less Phoenix Suns. Not only did they fail to hit the jackpot (they had an 11.9 percent chance of winning), but they also actually took a step back on the draft board and will have the fifth selection in the upcoming draft.
Phoenix has yet to identify a post-Nash strategy, as last season's attempt to rush its rebuilding project resulted in a disastrous 25-win season and cost Alvin Gentry his job midway through the season.
Point guard Goran Dragic put together a respectable campaign (14.7 points and 7.4 assists), but he's 27 years old and a five-year veteran in the league. What's worse is that the Suns don't have the financial room to add competent pieces around him. Phoenix already has over $50 million committed to next year's payroll and could surpass that mark by exercising some team options (via HoopsHype.com).
Last season, the Washington Wizards slipped one spot on lottery night and later used that draft choice (third overall) to grab Florida sharpshooter Bradley Beal.
Beal blossomed as a floor-spacer (38.6 three-point percentage), filling the ideal role for a John Wall backcourt mate.
But his contributions didn't end there.
Beal was Washington's lottery representative this time around and beamed as the Wizards made the highest jump up the draft board. The Wizards' 29-53 record was only seventh-worst in the NBA (and incredibly deceiving considering they started the season 4-28), meaning they had just a 12.4 percent chance to climb into a top-three draft spot.
Despite the odds against them, the Wizards did just that. They were granted the No. 3 pick and a host of options to fill out their roster.
Georgetown's Otto Porter and Indiana's Victor Oladipo could bolster Washington's young, talented perimeter. Or UNLV freshman Anthony Bennett could bring a jolt of athleticism to the Wizards' aging interior.
The Charlotte Bobcats have to be getting sick of the lottery process by this point.
A season ago, the franchise missed out on the chance to add Anthony Davis, falling out of the top draft slot despite posting the lowest winning percentage in league history (.106).
This time around, Charlotte had the second-best odds to receive the No. 1 pick, a 19.9 percent chance. Yet they were leapfrogged once again, by two teams no less.
The Bobcats were left with nothing more than the fourth draft pick, just one selection higher than their worst-case scenario. That means they'll have likely no chance at landing Nerlens Noel or Kansas freshman Ben McLemore, the two players with the highest projected ceilings in this draft.
And to add insult to, well, insult, the Portland Trail Blazers held steady with the 10th overall pick, meaning Charlotte will have to wait at least another season to grab the top-12 protected choice it's set to receive as part of the Gerald Wallace deal at the 2011 trade deadline.
Nerlens Noel's one-and-done campaign with the Kentucky Wildcats flashed even quicker than most before the eyes of the Lexington faithful that know all about the ups and downs of the NBA's age restriction.
A long (6'10") and lean (206 pounds) defensive presence, Noel has emerged as the closest thing to a lock for the top draft slot thanks to a tremendous blend of athleticism and raw ability. He's moved himself near the top of the class despite the fact that the torn ACL that cut his collegiate career short will also delay the beginning of his NBA career.
Consider him one step closer toward that first fateful walk across the Barclays Center stage.
Assuming he becomes Cleveland's selection at No. 1, Noel is set to enter a practically ideal situation.
He's joining a strong nucleus of young talent, led by All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving and bolstered by prolific wing scorer Dion Waiters and athletically gifted forward Tristan Thompson. And Noel should feel no need to rush his rehab process with Anderson Varejao manning the middle for at least one more season for the Cavs.
Thanks to the 20 wins and 62 losses that greeted the Orlando Magic in their first season without Dwight Howard, the Magic had the best chance (25.0 percent) to land the No. 1 pick and jump-start their rebuilding process.
But understanding that 1-in-4 odds to succeed was just a different way of saying they had a 3-in-4 chance to slide out of the top slot, the Magic leaned on their luckiest asset in hopes that fortune would fall in their favor.
Orlando's representative was long-time team executive Pat Williams, a man with four jackpot winnings on his lottery resume (via Brian Mahoney of NBA.com). Williams was around for the Magic's 2004 win that brought Howard to the franchise, the last year in which the ping-pong balls fell in favor of the odds-on favorite.
But Williams couldn't bring quite the same Midas touch, as his Magic fell one spot to the No. 2 draft pick.
In all honesty, there's no telling if the player atop Orlando's draft board is the same as Cleveland's, so the Magic could still land their No. 1 option.
But the mere thought of winning the draft lottery could have been a nice moral victory for the Magic fans, who are still feeling their way around the post-Howard landscape.
The NBA is no stranger to seeing its wealthiest teams add to their collection of riches.
But that additional artillery doesn't often make its presence felt this early in the offseason.
The Oklahoma City Thunder may have lost a step after sending James Harden to the Houston Rockets, but consider Tuesday night's gain a welcome addition to a team that finished with the Western Conference's best record this season.
Part of the bounty they received in exchange for Harden included the rights to the Toronto Raptors' first-round selection, a top-three protected pick. Toronto entered the night with just a 2.5 percent chance to crack that top trio (via SI.com), so OKC figured to have a cause for celebration, but Thunder scouts can now officially start scouring through the list of lottery talents likely available with the 12th pick.
Throw in the fact that another piece of that Harden package was 2012 lottery pick Jeremy Lamb (a sweet-shooting guard who spent a chunk of his rookie year with the Thunder's D-League affiliate Tulsa 66ers), and Scott Brooks could have an abundance of new toys to play with in his 2013-14 rotation.