The NBA playoffs haven’t be super competitive. The Rockets/Spurs series ended in a dud of a Game 6 while the Wizards/Celtics has been interesting to say the least. The best is yet to come as the eventual Cavaliers-Warriors Part 3 sets up in early June. But before the conference finals and NBA Finals begin, the marquee May event happens early next week: the NBA Draft Lottery. This year, between $495 sneakers and top-three protected picks, the lottery might be the most interesting it has ever been. The consensus seems there are several All-Star type players in this draft, but maybe only one clear superstar in the making: Markelle Fultz. Some teams, like the Los Angeles Lakers and the Orlando Magic, are apparently enamored with Lonzo Ball and his crazy but “smart” father. If all goes according to plan, this will be the last time the 76ers are in the lottery. Well, except for 2019 with an unprotected Kings pick or the unprotected 2018 Lakers pick. But besides Sam Hinkie’s second (and fourth?) greatest achievements, this could very well be Philadelphia’s final time in the lottery with their own pick. After four straight seasons with top-four odds of landing the top pick, it’s refreshing to know it’s finally over. Playoffs appear around the corner. But for now, let’s get ready for the lottery. I blame the curse of my friend’s house for Philly selecting third in back-to-back lotteries. Over the years I’ve gone to their house for various events. It’s uncanny how often Philly sports have been eliminated when I’m over the Finnegan’s. The 2010 Phillies, the 2010 Flyers, the 2008 Eagles. I could go on and on. In 2008 I watched Game 5 of the World Series at their house. The game ended up delayed due to rain in the middle. The baseball gods knew the Phillies couldn’t win their second ever World Championship with me at the Finnegan’s. Two days later at the comfort of my own house the Phillies won. So, Philly fans, I apologize for stupidly watching the lottery at the Finnegan’s. It won’t happen again. Last year I watched the lottery with my brother in our basement. This year I have work during the lottery. I don’t know what to do. It’s just a city council meeting, so I can have my phone on for updates. This could be a great self-control practice if I’m able to keep my phone off for two hours and not know the results until afterwards. It’s going to be a game-time decision, for sure.
Like mentioned before, this lottery has major implications. The Lakers desperately want to keep their pick since it doesn’t appear they’ve drafted a franchise-altering player in the past three years. It’s top-three protected, and the Lakers have the third best odds to land the top pick. A real movie-like scenario for Philly would be if the Kings won the lottery. The 76ers would then swap picks with Sacramento, and one of the more dumbfounded trades in NBA history would somehow look even worse. It’s hard to find a more stressful situation than the NBA Lottery. There’s nothing leaked. I swear ESPN drags it out longer each and every year. Last year takes the cake as far as most stressful, especially given how brutal the rookie class played this year.
Joel Embiid represents the 76ers this year. There’s nobody I’d rather see on lottery night than Embiid. Embiid has been rehabbing, and beating Justin Anderson in Madden according to his Instagram. The key of the lottery is getting to the commercial break, and you’re golden. This year’s lottery feels different than ever before. Maybe it’s Boston having an opportunity to play a Eastern Conference Finals game the day before winning top pick. Maybe it’s Sacramento having the Pelicans top-three protected pick. Maybe it’s the loaded 2017 draft class that haul comparisons to 1984, 2003 and 2014. Or maybe it’s the Lakers desperately wanting to keep their pick. Luke Walton assured Laker fans Los Angeles will keep its pick. He said Magic Johnson let him know. Embiid liked this tweet:
CSN Philly says the 76ers have a 53 percent chance of getting the Lakers pick. A Philadelphia team already won a “coin flip” this year: The Eagles were awarded the 14th pick to select Tennessee’s Derek Barnett at the NFL combine.
Laker fans already created Lonzo Ball jerseys, even though apparently LaVar “don’t need no advice from Kobe Bryant.” Los Angeles want Ball to be its franchise savior. Philly’s in a weird spot because next year the Lakers pick becomes unprotected for the 76ers if it doesn’t convey this year. I’m sort of in the camp that just wants the pick this year to add a guy like Malik Monk or Jonathan Isaac. Mainly because I like the players in that 4-5 range, but also because the Lakers could acquire Paul George before next season begins, which makes their draft pick next season much better. Luke Walton had some interesting thoughts on tanking in January:
It wasn’t as damning as people made it appear, at least in my opinion. He basically said Philly has some work to do, which is factual because the 76ers have yet to even sniff the postseason. The Lakers had 16 wins in mid January, and for most of the second half of the season it appeared they were all-out tanking for the worst record in basketball. But for some reason, I guess since Walton believes in good karma, began winning games in April. Los Angeles decided to go 5-2 in April for some reason. If the Lakers indeed lose their pick, they have themselves to blame.
Tuesday night franchises will learn their fate. It’s a silly event. Ping-pong balls play a vital role in the future of NBA successes. The Grizzlies just missed out on LeBron James. The worst NBA team in history just missed out on Anthony Davis. Every team in the lottery searches for the franchise-altering guy. Yeah, teams build successes in more ways than just the draft. Yeah, teams build success in more ways than just the beginning of the draft. But some team will learn it has the opportunity to draft Fultz by 8:30 Eastern on May 16. And maybe that franchise will be changed forever.