On Tuesday night, the random selection of inanimate objects will determine the future of several NBA players and franchises.
A maddening exercise for teams other than the Cleveland Cavaliers and Minnesota Timberwolves, the draft lottery will especially torment some damaged franchises this year. While the lucky ones will get the chance to snag Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram, everyone else will rummage through an underwhelming draft class.
Most of the scenarios will send conspiracy theorists into overdrive. Two decorated rivals—one on the rise and the other set to start anew—could walk away with the 2016 draft's top two selections. Another team could finally get a lucky bounce (or two) and ignite its long-running rebuild.
Courtesy of CBS Sports' Sam Vecenie, here's a look at all 14 participants' lottery chances:
|2016 NBA Draft Lottery|
|Pick No.||Team||Chance to Win Pick No. 1||Chance to Make Top 3|
|2||Los Angeles Lakers||19.9%||55.8%|
|3||Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)||15.6%||46.9%|
|6||New Orleans Pelicans||6.3%||21.5%|
|7||Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)||4.3%||15.0%|
|9||Toronto Raptors (via Denver Nuggets)||1.9%||6.8%|
|13||Phoenix Suns (via Washington Wizards)||0.6%||2.2%|
Five weeks after general manager and president Sam Hinkie resigned, the day he spent years planning for may finally arrive.
The 76ers landed the No. 3 pick in each the last two years, but they now boast the best chance of landing the top choice. Given the growing debate brewing over Simmons and Ingram, drawing No. 2 would be fine.
Hinkie's blueprint depended on drafting a future cornerstone, but Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and the sidelined Joel Embiid (foot) don't yet fit the bill. With Simmons, the 76ers would snag an alluring athlete with a limitless ceiling. Ingram, on the other hand, would offer some needed perimeter shooting.
Then again, it's no guarantee that new team president Bryan Colangelo has the patience to stockpile youngsters. According to NBA.com's Scott Howard-Cooper, he left open the possibility of exploring trade offers:
It's hard to put a number or a value on degree of aggressiveness, but we'll certainly be open for business and listening to whatever is there. I think any time you have certain assets on the table in front of you, you need to determine what your best strategic move is, and some of that is yet to be determined. To what degree we'll be aggressive, it's too early to say.
This doesn't mean Philadelphia will suddenly follow the Brooklyn Nets' poor business plan of blow-torching the future to make the present slightly more bearable. He's doing his job by exploring every path, but he'd be foolish to exchange a premium pick for a veteran.
Enhancing the importance of this draft, the 76ers' hopes don't lie entirely with their pick. They also possess late first-round selections from the Miami Heat and Oklahoma Thunder and could possibly secure another top-five selection from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Los Angeles Lakers
If pure chance—or a frozen pingpong ball, for the conspiracy believers out there—shines brightly on the Lakers, they'll wield a top-three pick to begin a new chapter without Kobe Bryant. There's a 55.8 percent chance of this outcome manifesting itself.
If the basketball gods send the league's second-worst team lower in the order, though, the 76ers would get the precious pick. But at least the Lakers got 65 games out of Steve Nash for their troubles.
The pick also holds a top-three safeguard next year before becoming unprotected in 2018. Per ESPN.com's Baxter Holmes, general manager Mitch Kupchak is operating under the notion that his franchise will lose the lottery choice.
“That’s how you have to plan, yes,” Kupchak said last week. “And I’m fine either way. I would love to have the pick. I want to keep the 32nd pick. But you have to look at it both ways, and if it doesn’t work out where we get the pick, we get the pick next year, and we still have the ability to improve the team this summer.”
Although keeping ownership of the pick merely avoids the inevitable, the Lakers now have cap space and a fresh slate to attract free agents to Hollywood over the next two years. They may not sign a Hall of Famer of Shaquille O'Neal's stature or acquire an All-Star such as Pau Gasol, but they at least have a blank canvas and an attractive destination to harness before sacrificing the selection.
Adding Simmons or Ingram alongside D'Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson would give new head coach Luke Walton an interesting young nucleus. If pick No. 4 or No. 5 gets transferred to Philadelphia, Colangelo and Co. should at least send Hinkie a thank you note.
The Boston Celtics get to enjoy the best of both worlds.
Instead of tanking, they won 48 games. Usually the middle is poor real estate for an NBA organization without a marquee player, but the Celtics improved on the court without missing out on the lottery fun.
Desperate for a chance to lose to LeBron James in the conference finals instead of getting ousted in the first round, the Nets surrendered multiple first-round picks to Boston for the decaying package of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Jason Terry. Boston's highway robbery included an unprotected 2016 first-round pick. Brooklyn, meanwhile, never made it past the second round.
New Nets management, realizing the pick was gone no matter what the team did, rested Brook Lopez late in the season, resulting in a 10-game losing streak. The Nets finished 21-61, giving the Celtics a 15.6 percent chance of receiving their first No. 1 pick in the lottery era.
As other fans devolve into nervous wrecks, Celtics loyalists can relax and enjoy a no-lose scenario. Sure, a potential star would be great, but Croatia's Dragan Bender would also help a roster that needs a power forward. Buddy Hield or Jamal Murray would make a nice get for a team that needs shooting if the Celtics fall.
It also helps that they possess the Dallas Mavericks' No. 16 pick, their own No. 23 selection and three second-rounders (Nos. 31, 35 and 45). Don't be surprised if the Celtics, who are on the cusp of championship contention, look to leverage their bountiful supply to move up or land an elusive star.