The 2017 NBA draft is still more than a month away, but that doesn't mean some of the biggest draft drama isn't already here. In fact, one of the most exciting portions of the draft process—the infamous draft lottery—is right around the corner.
On Tuesday, we'll find out which teams will actually be picking at the top of the draft. If you're looking to watch the action unfold, the event will take place at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN.
The NBA uses a weighted lottery system involving pingpong balls, number assignments and 1,001 total number combinations. We're not going to dive into the entire process here—Bleacher Report's Alec Nathan did an excellent job of doing so if you'd like to check it out—we're just going to give the numbers you care about: the odds.
We'll look at all 14 lottery teams and their chances of receiving the first overall pick or a top-three selection. We'll also examine the teams with the most at stake in the draft lottery and the draft.
|Team||Chance to Win Top Pick||Chance to Win Top-3 Pick|
|Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets)||25.0%||64.3%|
|Los Angeles Lakers||15.6%||46.9%|
|New York Knicks||5.3%||18.3%|
|New Orleans Pelicans||1.1%||4.0%|
Teams With Most at Stake
There is no tanking in the NBA, right? The draft lottery was created, in part, to prevent teams from purposely putting a bad product on the floor in order to acquire high draft picks. Of course, this works better in theory than in reality, and we've seen plenty of teams play bad basketball—especially late in the season—with the hopes of a lottery pick in mind.
The Philadelphia 76ers have been perhaps the league's best example of this over the past few years. The team managed to win 28 games last season but hadn't won more than 20 in the three previous years.
These records yielded Ben Simmons with the first overall pick last year, Jahlil Okafor with the third overall pick in 2015 and Joel Embiid with the third overall pick in 2014.
Philadelphia has a core of young, talented players. Now it's time to add a legitimate difference-maker to the group and to put an end to this stretch of bad basketball. The best chance of doing so is to land a lottery pick.
Which potential superstar the 76ers decide to add to the mix—be it Washington's Markelle Fultz, Kansas' Josh Jackson or even UCLA's Lonzo Ball—will depend on where the 76ers pick.
"I think the lottery day itself is a benchmark of sorts for where we go from here," 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo explained, per Keith Pompey of Philly.com. "It's going to determine the course of action in some cases to what we might do. We got a scenario."
Philadelphia's draft scenarios include the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round selection if that selection doesn't fall in the top three. The 76ers could end up with two picks in the top seven, but landing a lottery pick would be ideal.
Los Angeles Lakers
The Lakers have a ton at stake in the draft lottery and not only because landing a lottery pick preserves the team's first-rounder. The team needs a quality, high-profile player to help move them out of the shadow of recently retired Kobe Bryant.
Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka (Bryant's former agent) and president of basketball operations Magic Johnson don't necessarily believe it will take a first-round pick to find that player.
"Magic and I just have a real level of confidence and optimism," Pelinka said, per Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times. "Our trust is in hard work and kind of just the pursuit of excellence with everything we do. It's not contingent on getting the pick or not getting the pick."
Let's be honest here, though: The Lakers are going to have a much better chance of turning their fortunes around if they land a lottery pick.
The NBA is a better league when the Lakers are good, and the Lakers haven't been very good lately. The franchise hasn't won more than 30 games since the 2012-13 season.
If Los Angeles can get a lottery pick and then select the right prospect for the team, they should become a more exciting—and a more relevant—franchise in 2017 and beyond.
Since we're on the topic of relevance, when is the last time the Phoenix Suns were a relevant team? They haven't been to the postseason since the 2009-10 season, yet they haven't exactly been embarrassingly bad during their losing stretch either.
In fact, the Suns had a winning record just three seasons ago, though their mark of 48-34 was only good for ninth place in the Western Conference. Unlike the 76ers.
To put things simply, Phoenix may need a lottery pick to remind some that the franchise even exists. Unlike the 76ers, the Suns haven't been bad enough to earn a lottery pick—they've just been bad. The last time the franchise had a top-three pick was back in 1987.
Landing a lottery pick won't ensure Phoenix returns to the postseason, though, as Phoenix forward Jared Dudley recently explained.
"You look at the top five picks from the last couple years, all those teams are still in the lottery," Dudley said, per Doug Haller of AZCentral.com. "Just because you get a top-five pick doesn't mean anything. It's now: What veterans you add to that mix to help (the youth)? ... It takes a while."
Still, the Suns need to add top-tier talent if they're going to kick-start a legitimate turnaround in the next couple years. Their chances of doing so in this year's draft could hinge largely on the lottery.