Tuesday night, prior to Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals, is the NBA Draft Lottery.
The Lottery represents the most important night of the playoffs for almost half of teams in the NBA, as with one bounce of a ping-pong ball, a team’s fortunes can be changed forever.
But whose fortunes need changing the most? For some teams, drafting Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley is their sole hope for success in the near future. But for others, such a move would merely add another piece to an already stable nucleus.
This year is a particularly interesting one, as many of the teams who actually need a star such as Rose or Beasley have little to no chance of actually landing one of them.
Below, I have ranked the lottery teams in order of how important winning the lottery is to the club’s future.
14. Portland Trail Blazers (0.6 percent chance of winning the lottery).
By far, this is the lottery team that is most set for the future. In Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, and LaMarcus Aldridge, the Blazers already have a nucleus that will be in place for years to come, complete with two potential franchise players.
Roy is already a star, and if Oden recovers from knee surgery there’s no reason to believe he won’t be too. Sure, adding a true point guard such as Rose would be a boon for the franchise, but it is by no means a do-or-die proposition. The Blazers won their lottery last year; landing Rose would just be icing on the cake.
13. Chicago Bulls (1.7)
While the Bulls are nowhere near as set for the future as the Blazers are, they still have a pretty large core of young scorers to build around. In Ben Gordon, Luol Deng, and Kirk Hinrich, Chicago has more young talent than any lottery team other than Portland.
Yes, they don’t have a low-post scorer. Michael Beasley would do wonders for filling that void. But this team is only one year removed from competing in the Eastern Conference, and having one flaw doesn’t put a club very high on this list.
12. Golden State Warriors (0.5)
Their core is not as young as that of the Blazers or the Bulls, but it is extremely talented nonetheless. It’s hard to feel too bad for a team that won 48 games this season.
Plus, in Monta Ellis, Andres Biedrins, and Michael Pietrus, the Warriors have the pieces to build a team around after Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson retire or become ineffective, as well as their point guard and post players of the future.
11. Seattle Supersonics (19.9)
The first of the teams that actually has a good chance to land one of the two studs. The Sonics are a very young team, and they probably won’t contend next year either.
However, the Sonics should be able to build around Kevin Durant for a very, very long time. Durant is a star of a greater magnitude than either Rose or Beasley. Like Portland, the Sonics won their lottery—a much bigger lottery than this year’s edition—a year ago.
10. Charlotte Bobcats (2.8)
We are starting to get to teams that have a slightly murky sense of their future now. But in Emeka Okafor, Raymond Felton, Gerald Wallace, and Jason Richardson, the Bobcats still have a bunch of pieces in place.
Okafor is a solid interior presence, and Felton is a good, if not spectacular, point guard. While both Rose and Beasley represent upgrades at their respective positions and Beasley would provide the low-post scoring the Bobcats lack, Charlotte does not strongly need either player.
9. Minnesota Timberwolves (13.9)
Like Charlotte, the Timberwolves already have several pieces in place. There is not quite as much talent on this roster, but in Al Jefferson, Randy Foye, Rashad McCants, and Corey Brewer, Minnesota does have a core of young players.
Jefferson has already emerged as a dominant post presence and potential 25-12 player. Rose would be a huge upgrade over both Foye and McCants in the backcourt, but the T-Wolves at least already have one potential star and several potential supporting players.
8. Miami Heat (25)
What makes this lottery so intriguing is that the three teams (Miami, Seattle, and Minnesota) who have the best chance of landing Rose or Beasley all don’t even crack the top seven of this list. Which means it’s very likely that all the teams who really need one of those two aren’t going to get either of them.
Like Portland, Seattle, and to a lesser extent Minnesota, Miami already has its star of the future in Dwayne Wade. The Heat are a bit lower on this list because of Wade’s injury history and the relative age of his supporting cast. But at least they have Wade, which makes them much better off than the seven teams above them.
7. Memphis Grizzlies (13.7)
The first of the teams that really needs to add a player of the caliber of Rose and Beasley. The Grizzlies do have Rudy Gay, Hakim Warrick, and solid point guards in Mike Conley and Kyle Lowry.
But none of those players can carry a team, and not even Gay really comes close. Can they all be contributors, maybe even starters, on a contending team? Perhaps. But there is no perennial all-star in that group, no focal point. Adding a player like Rose or Beasley would radically alter the make-up of this team.
6. Los Angeles Clippers (7.5)
The Clippers do have a star, in the softspoken Elton Brand. But he’s getting old, and years of physical play have exacted a pretty severe toll on his body. Brand cannot remain the centerpiece of this team for much longer.
Shaun Livingston has not really become the steady point guard the Clippers hoped he would be, and Rose would be a substantial upgrade at that position and immediately become the face of the team. Drafting Rose is the only chance the Clipper have at emerging—if only briefly—from the Lakers’ shadow.
5. Milwaukee Bucks (4.3)
Having chosen not to consider Bill Simmons for their GM position, the Bucks now turn to the lottery to generate good publicity. There hasn’t been much to write home about lately—Michael Redd can still shoot from anywhere in the gym, but the high draft picks that surround him have not lived up to expectations.
It doesn’t look like either Andrew Bogut or Yi Jianlian is the low-post scorer the Bucks had hoped they would be. Michael Beasley is. He would give Milwaukee basketball fans something to finally be excited about.
4. Indiana Pacers (0.8)
The Pacers are still recovering from the infamous melee in Detroit, and adding a centerpiece such as Rose, who not only is a future star but is known as a good citizen, would go a long way towards rebuilding this team’s image.
The Pacers find themselves in a similar position as the Grizzlies—A lot of potential contributors but no star, especially with Jermaine O’Neal’s recent decline. But Danny Granger and Mike Dunleavy are even less of a nucleus, so Indiana needs even more help.
Throw in coach Jim O’Brien’s dissatisfaction with the play of point guard Jamaal Tinsley, and adding Rose would have a tremendous impact for the Pacers.
3. New York Knicks (7.9)
Speaking of rebuilding an image, we have the New York Knicks. Under new leadership and a new coach, the Knicks are looking to ditch their overpaid, underachieving former stars and build around their young players. Adding a truly promising rookie would go a long way towards accelerating the rebuilding process.
The Knicks actually do have a couple important pieces in Jamal Crawford and David Lee. Crawford is the team’s shooting guard of the future. Lee is beloved in New York, and is the team’s heart and soul. But even he is no Rose.
Rose is the perfect fit in new coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense, which relies on excellent point guard play. The Knicks could be relatively successful with a great point guard. But they have a very uncertain future without one.
2. New Jersey Nets (1.1)
As poor a predicament as the Knicks may find themselves in, the Nets are in even worse shape. Their old nucleus of Jason Kidd, Vince Carter, and Richard Jefferson is just that—old. Kidd is gone now, Carter has stopped trying, and Jefferson is a shell of his former self.
All the Nets have beyond Carter and Jefferson—and at this point both players are far removed from reliable building blocks for the future—are Devin Harris and rookie Sean Williams.
Harris, whom the Nets acquired for Kidd, is actually a pretty good point guard, but who is going to score for this team? The Nets need Beasley. They need him badly.
1. Sacramento Kings (0.7)
Here we are—the team with the worst future outlook in the entire NBA. Like the Nets, the Kings can look back happily on earlier days, but the golden age of Chris Webber and Mike Bibby is long gone.
And there is suddenly very little left. Ron Artest already has quite a few miles on him and is not the player he used to be. Kevin Martin will get his twenty points, but he is not someone to build a team around. Shelden Williams is not the player anyone thought or hoped he would be when he left Duke.
More than any other team, the Kings have nobody to build around. Unless they land Rose or Beasley, the future of basketball in Sacramento looks pretty grim. With a 0.7 percent chance of winning their lottery, it looks pretty grim indeed.