The draft lottery may be the most important annual event in the NBA. It has the ability to change the courses of franchises and leave entire cities either celebrating or in despair. A lucky lottery can vault a team into championship-contender status a few years down the line. A poor lottery draw is a major setback.
So keeping that in mind, let's take a look at the lottery odds and break down the teams with the most at stake come Tuesday night.
Here are the full lottery odds:
|NBA Lottery Odds|
|Team||Record||Chances||1st-Pick Odds||2nd-Pick Odds||3rd-Pick Odds|
|New York Knicks||17-65||199||19.9%||18.8%||17.1%|
|Los Angeles Lakers||21-61||119||11.9%||12.6%||13.3%|
|Oklahoma City Thunder||45-37||5||0.5%||0.6%||0.7%|
Without question, the most interesting scenario to watch will be whether the Philadelphia 76ers end up with the Los Angeles Lakers' pick or Kobe Bryant and Co. are able to keep it. The Lakers traded their pick to the Sixers, but it is top-five protected; there's a small chance that two teams could jump into the lottery from behind the Lakers and drop them to the No. 6 selection.
In a draft that has four potential franchise players and several other excellent options at the top, having two top-six picks would set Philly up nicely.
Let's say the Sixers end up with the No. 3 and No. 6 picks. You'd have to think in that scenario they'd take the better player on their board between D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay at No. 3 and then select either Justise Winslow or Mario Hezonja.
Mudiay and Winslow would give the Sixers athletic options at positions of need who each can get to the basket at will and play excellent defense. Russell is a crafty perimeter scorer with a knack for making the brilliant pass, while Croatia's Hezonja may have the best blend of skill and athleticism on the wing in this draft.
Pairing Mudiay with Hezonja or Russell with Winslow—to go along with Joel Embiid at center, Nerlens Noel at power forward and eventually Dario Saric at either forward position—would make the Sixers a scary team in a few years.
Things could get interesting if the Sixers wind up with a top-two pick. It's hard to see their selecting Jahlil Okafor, who wouldn't pair naturally with Embiid. The Sixers could always look to trade back a few picks, of course—and if Karl-Anthony Towns is available, I wouldn't be shocked if the team kept adding assets to the frontcourt or eventually traded Noel.
If Towns goes first overall, though, and the options at No. 2 are Okafor or one of the top guards, the Sixers will likely upgrade the point and pass on the big man.
It would be devastating for the Lakers, however, which just endured a horrible season where second-round pick Jordan Clarkson was the only bright spot. Adding a top-five selection to go along with Clarkson and Julius Randle—and any other player the team manages to add in free agency—could help the Lakers rebuild on the fly and compete for a playoff spot next year while still feeling good about the future.
The loss of that top-five selection would stymie the retooling process.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, meanwhile, will be crushed if they drop out of the top two picks and miss out on both Towns and Okafor. This team needs a game-changer on the block, and Towns and Okafor—for different reasons, of course—each look like that type of player.
Okafor is as polished as NBA rookies get on the offensive side of the floor, and he would instantly take some of the scoring burden off Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. Towns, on the other hand, is a complete player who needs to add some polish to his offensive game but would instantly be a difference-maker on defense and on the boards.
Either way, Minnesota will want to come away with one of these two players. If they miss out on both, don't be shocked if the Wolves go after a player like Latvia's Kristaps Porzingis, a versatile, skilled power forward who may yet end up being the best player in this class.
The New York Knicks would love to win the lottery but have so many needs that just keeping a top-four pick would likely still dramatically improve the team. You have to think New York would be good with drafting Towns, Okafor, Mudiay or Russell.
And then there are the Miami Heat, another team with a pick the Sixers own. The Heat's pick is top-10 protected, however, meaning they'll lose it only if the Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Phoenix Suns or Oklahoma City Thunder miraculously jump into the lottery.
With a veteran roster, the Heat will be hoping they aren't back in the lottery anytime soon, so keeping the No. 10 pick and adding a young stud would be ideal. Chances are that will be exactly what happens, but Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie and the entire city of Philadelphia will be keeping their fingers crossed.