The NBA draft lottery is notoriously fickle, as teams who suffered through a losing season in hopes of landing a foundational superstar are left to the random whims of the ping-pong ball machine. With one of the more talented classes in recent history available, the stakes are even higher than usual tonight.
The lottery process selects the top three teams, with the non-top three teams either staying in their slot or moving one spot lower if a team with worse odds leapfrogs them. Here are the complete odds for each team to receive the No. 1 pick tonight, led by the Milwaukee Bucks:
|Rank||Team||Chance of Winning|
|6||Los Angeles Lakers||6.3%|
|10||New Orleans Pelicans||1.1%|
|11||Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)||0.8%|
|12||Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)||0.7%|
Depending on the lottery's outcome, there could be different favorites to emerge as the first pick. Here's a look at a direction each franchise might head in if it wins the lottery.
Milwaukee Bucks: Jabari Parker
Though many have Andrew Wiggins pegged as the top pick, Duke's Jabari Parker could provide a more immediate pro-ready skill set. Indeed, with an intriguing young 3 in hand already in Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks could opt for more projectability.
Parker would hardly represent a consolation prize, as he has the potential to emerge as the best pure scorer from this class. ESPN.com's Chad Ford recently opined that Parker could provide the wing scoring the Bucks lacked last season (subscription required):
The Bucks' biggest need is a power forward who can draw a double-team, so Randle will get a long look from them. But the Bucks are also super intrigued with Parker and feel he can play both the 3 and the 4 for them. Wiggins and Exum are also possibilities, but both are riskier picks for a team that needs to show major improvement next year. Parker is the most NBA-ready player in the draft, and I think he's the favorite if Milwaukee gets the No. 1 pick.
The Bucks are effectively a barren cupboard beyond the intriguing upside of the "Greek Freak." Parker immediately adds a likely All-Star to their foundation and represents a nice go-to scoring foundation as Milwaukee rebuilds under new ownership.
Philadelphia 76ers: Andrew Wiggins
Wiggins possesses more athleticism than any prospect in recent memory and flashed his tantalizing upside throughout his freshman season at Kansas. At the draft combine, he again reinforced why he has earned so much hype in recent years:
During the season, ESPN's Chad Ford (subscription required) reported that the Sixers were one team that had Wiggins "atop their board all year." It makes sense that the 76ers would go after the prospect with the highest upside. General manager Sam Hinkie razed down the roster with the intent of building a championship-level core, even if it meant accepting losing as part of the process.
In some ways, Wiggins' rawness would actually play into Philadelphia's strategy. Paired with Michael Carter-Williams, the Sixers would play one of the worst ball-handling backcourts in the league, albeit one with drool-worthy length and potential. However, while 2014-15 figures to be rough once again, a core of Wiggins, Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and another top pick could represent the foundation of the next great Eastern Conference power.
Wiggins will likely take several years to form into an All-Star, a tough proposition for someone labeled as a surefire future superstar. However, playing in Philadelphia would temper the short-term expectations, allowing Wiggins to develop under the tutelage of Brett Brown.
Boston Celtics: Joel Embiid
Parker and Wiggins look like the most logical candidates for the top pick, but Boston is one team that could go off the board. Since a back injury that forced him to miss the NCAA tournament, Kansas center Joel Embiid has seen his stock dip slightly as teams fret over his medical red flag:
NBA execs say Parker's draft stock likely unchanged -- however point to Embiid's back as a red flag in this decision.— Steve Kyler (@stevekylerNBA) May 11, 2014
That should come with a caveat, for the seven-footer is unlikely to slip past the top three picks. However, as SI.com's Ben Golliver suggests, Embiid and the Celtics could be a perfect match:
This is a clear-cut round peg, round hole, isn’t it? Boston’s makeshift frontcourt was brutalized this season, and the rebuilding Celtics aren’t in a great position to address their interior needs in free agency. Embiid has the highest upside of any big man in this class and it shouldn’t necessarily take him four or five years to be an impact player, especially in protecting the rim and hitting the glass. Boston committed to a long-term vision when it signed coach Brad Stevens to a six-year contract. Assuming good health (which is a big caveat to be sure), Embiid looks like a potential cornerstone on both sides of the ball.
The Celtics are absolutely starved for rim protection, as the likes of Jared Sullinger, Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass are undersized options who are more valuable for their stretch 4 capacities on offense. Brad Stevens instilled defensive discipline into an undermanned roster, but without a real center, the C's still finished 20th in defensive rating, per NBA.com.
Embiid provides the type of support Boston could build around. His offensive post game is already advanced, and with further seasoning, Embiid could certainly turn into the league's best all-around big man.