The NBA draft lottery never goes quite according to plan. No matter who wins the ping-pong ball sweepstakes, there will always be teams sitting in much worse position than they expected.
In a draft class that clearly lacks a lot of elite talent, several lottery teams could have used some extra ping-pong balls to work with. Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Detroit Pistons and Minnesota Timberwolves may miss out on what little top-tier talent this draft class has to offer.
All three franchises are in need of the types of game-changing players who will likely come off the board in the top three selections. While the trio is set to pick in accordance with its pre-lottery odds, sometimes not having good luck is bad enough.
Let’s take a closer look at each team’s draft positioning and break down why each would have benefited from better luck on lottery day.
*Draft order courtesy of Bleacher Report's Twitter account:
5. Phoenix Suns
The difference between the fourth and fifth pick isn’t all that great this year, but as we’ve seen so many times in the past, all it takes is one draft spot to change the future of a franchise.
At No. 5, Nerlens Noel, Ben McLemore, Otto Porter and Anthony Bennett may all be off the board—four players widely regarded as the top-tier prospects in this draft class.
The Suns will still have plenty of options, but it will be a much riskier venture with that group already off the board.
In the NBA, building a winning roster is all about value and potential. Every slot further down the draft board is a lesser opportunity to cash in on both.
With so many holes to fill, Phoenix will undoubtedly find a starter with the fifth selection, but it’s hard to pinpoint who that starter will be—and at what position.
Unlike the Cavs, Phoenix didn’t have much luck at all in the lottery, and the odds of Ryan McDonough finding a true game-changer are now that much slimmer. For the Suns to have a successful draft, they will have to make good use of both the fifth and 30th selections in the first round.
8. Detroit Pistons
Had the Pistons jumped a few spots in the lottery, their job on draft day would be exponentially easier. Detroit isn’t that far away from being a contender in the Eastern Conference, but many of the pieces it so desperately needs will probably already be off the board.
With Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe already in place, the Pistons will likely be focusing on finding a couple more perimeter scorers to augment an already solid core. Unfortunately in a draft class without a lot of elite frontcourt talent, the first six or seven picks will feature a run on scoring guards and forwards.
Prospects like Porter, Bennett, Trey Burke and C.J. McCollum would be perfect fits in Detroit, but there’s a good chance at least three of them will have already found a home by the eighth pick.
The Pistons may still be able to choose from the likes of Shabazz Muhammad and Michael Carter-Williams, but there’s no denying the talent drop-off beyond the first seven selections.
Like Phoenix, Detroit will be drafting in spot similar to where it was projected (No. 7), but it was an unlucky break to move back a spot. Every draft pick matters, and the Pistons may ultimately lose out on their player as a result.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves
Unless Minnesota gets really lucky, the player it desperately needs won’t be on the board at No. 9.
Injuries have hampered the Timberwolves’ rebuilding efforts, but when healthy, they boast one of the most well-rounded squads in the league. Unfortunately, they’re still missing a shooter who can take advantage of Ricky Rubio’s tremendous passing and ball-handling skills, and the Timberwolves will struggle to find that player with the ninth pick.
McLemore, Victor Oladipo and McCollum would be excellent options should they be available, but McCollum is the only player of the trio with any chance of still being available beyond the eighth selection.
With the top-tier perimeter scorers already off the board, Minnesota may be relegated to setting for its top-ranked player still available—in this case, likely a power forward or center like Indiana’s Cody Zeller or Maryland’s Alex Len.
No lottery pick will be an especially bad slot to select an impact player, but Minnesota could have been far luckier when the ping-pong balls came out. As it stands, the Timberwolves will likely be left to gamble on a player who won’t fill a glaring positional need.