Draft Lottery: Team-By-Team Needs
With the 2007 NBA Draft Lottery coming up on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. ET on ESPN, some participating teams have weighed in on three lottery-related questions about their respective squads.
Writers from each team website break down what their team needs, what will happen if they get a Top 3 pick, and provide a little history lesson about their previous lottery luck.
Team needs: Therve are two main areas the Grizzlies will be looking to address this offseason, either through the draft, free agency or trades. The first of those needs is the center position. While Pau Gasol has done a commendable job playing at the five, the team has been searching for a big man for several seasons so that Gasol can slide back to his natural position of power forward. In addition, the Grizzlies will need to address the point guard spot. Chucky Atkins is a free agent, last year's first round pick, Kyle Lowry, played just 10 games due to a broken wrist, and Damon Stoudamire was still hampered by the serious knee injury he suffered in December 2005 at various times last season. Of course, depending on where the Grizzlies pick in the draft, if there's a player who doesn't fit either need who's just too good to pass up, President of Basketball Operations Jerry West has shown that he's not afraid to take the best player available, regardless of position.
If the Grizzlies finish in the top three of the lottery... The Grizzlies will enter the lottery in a unique position: while most teams bring their lucky charms hoping to move up into the top three, and are ecstatic if they get the top pick, the Grizzlies are just hoping they don't move down. Having finished the 2006-07 season with the league's worst record, the Grizzlies have the best shot at the top overall pick. While Memphis can do no worse than the fourth pick in a draft that is widely considered very deep, ultimately the best case scenario is the Grizzlies' 25.0 percent chance of getting the top pick pans out and the team will be able to control their own destiny in the draft.
Lottery luck: The last time the Grizzlies were in the lottery was 2003, but were handcuffed with one major stipulation. If the lottery balls bounced their way and they got the No. 1 pick, it was theirs to keep. Anything other than the top pick, and it was to be sent to the Detroit Pistons to fulfill a trade made years earlier. Further adding to the drama was that the consensus No. 1 pick that year was a player by the name of LeBron James. So you might say there was a lot at stake. After the first 11 envelopes had been revealed, only Cleveland and Memphis remained, with everything riding on the Grizzlies getting that top pick. Of course, the lottery gods smiled on Cleveland that day, the second pick went to Detroit instead of the Grizzlies, and the rest is history.
Team needs: With one of the youngest rosters in the league, the Celtics wouldn't mind adding some veteran leadership to their squad. And given the depth in this draft, Danny Ainge's BlackBerry will probably be buzzing off the hook after the lottery, regardless of what pick the Celtics land. With the team guaranteed at least a top-five selection, one thing is certain: The Celtics will get some help this June. The team thinks this is one of the deepest drafts of recent years, so we'll be getting an impact player regardless of how the ping-pong balls drop. After Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, guys like Yi Jianlian, the three guys from Florida and Brandan Wright are all enticing players.
If the Celtics finish in the top three in the lottery... Given our finish in the bottom two this season, many fans are expecting at least a top-two finish on May 22, but they call it a lottery for a reason, and there's still a possibility that we end up picking at No. 4 or No. 5. The odds say that we have a 55.8 percent chance of drawing a top-three pick, a 38.7 percent shot at landing a top-two selection, and a 19.9 percent shot at the No. 1 overall. We're sending Tommy Heinsohn to Secaucus; he was on our first championship team in 1957 and won eight rings as a player, then he coached the team to a pair of titles in the mid-70s. And he's been broadcasting our games for over 25 years, providing "objective" commentary and occasionally chastising a few officials along the way. Nobody bleeds Celtics Green more than Tommy, so I think we're in good hands.
Lottery luck: Um, let's just say 1997 didn't pan out quite the way we'd hoped. The look on M.L. Carr's face that night said it all. The Celtics finished last in the league at 15-67 and had two shots at winning the first overall pick after dealing Eric Montross to the Mavericks, but ended up with No. 3 (Chauncey Billups) and No. 6 (Ron Mercer), a pair that Rick Pitino dubbed the backcourt for the next decade. Well, 10 years later, Billups only played 51 games for the Celtics, and while he obviously turned out to be a player, it happened five teams later as a member of the Detroit Pistons. And Mercer, who's out of the league, played for six other teams and never really panned out despite an encouraging rookie season. So yeah, the Celtics could use a little lottery luck this time around.
Team needs: Hopefully we are going to have a healthy team next season and we'll get a chance to see what our team is all about. We have eight players under contract and a number of quality free agents on our team. In the draft or in free agency, we'll need to add a more physical presence on our front line. We also need to address the athletic, swingman position - like a 2/3 or 3/2, as well as our point guard position.
If the Bucks finish in the top three of the lottery... Our General Manager Larry Harris was extremely shocked - to put it mildly - when we moved from sixth position to the No. 1 pick in the 2005 Lottery. His hands were shaking and his excitement was quite evident when being interviewed after the Lottery results were announced. I think we'd take the same reaction if we were able to move up from where we are currently slotted (No. 3).
Lottery luck: We were very fortunate to move from No. 6 to No. 1 in the 2005 lottery. We selected the consensus National Player of the Year, center Andrew Bogut from Utah, who has been a terrific player for us and one of the cornerstones of our franchise. Prior to the lottery, a Lucky Charm contest was held on www.Bucks.com to solicit lucky charm ideas from our fans. GM Larry Harris ended up taking a fishing lure called "Little Cleo" to help us land the 'big one," and we did. He also took a purple and white bracelet (our colors in 2005) that a young lady considered lucky, and it brought us luck as well. It was a great way for our fans to share in our lottery luck.
Team needs: Health would be very helpful, but I don't know if that is something we can acquire through the draft. That aside, the Hawks need some help at the five spot and at the one. As much as people bemoan the Hawks' lack of productivity at lead guard, most NBA insiders will tell you that the biggest problem for the Hawks over the last two years has been the absence of an inside presence to make teams reconsider their forays into the paint. Zaza Pachulia does a great job for the Hawks, but his contributions skew more towards the offensive end of the court. If we can add someone to complement his offense with some tough interior D, that would probably be the best thing for the squad. With age and injuries affecting the Hawks all season at point guard, getting a young PG to come in and learn the ropes would also be high on the team's wish list.
If the Hawks finish in the top three of the lottery... there will be much rejoicing on Peachtree, and much bitterness (well, maybe not so much given their record) in Phoenix. For those who don't know, the Hawks' pick goes to the Suns if it's not in the top three. So even setting aside the prizes to be won at the top of this year's class, the team will be ecstatic to keep their pick by moving up, especially given the odds that they will keep Indiana's pick (currently slotted for No. 11, it goes to Atlanta so long as it's not in the top 10). Should the Hawks obtain the No. 1 pick, Oden pretty clearly fits the team's needs. If No. 2 is the position, Kevin Durant is certainly the kind of talent that you pick up now and figure out the roster fit later on. At No. 3, there are several players available (Al Horford, Joakim Noah, Roy Hibbert) who presumably can provide some of the services mentioned above.
Lottery luck: It hasn't been in the Hawks' corner of late. The team has only moved up once since the lottery went to its current format in 1994. In 1997, the team moved up from No. 5 to No. 3, a pick that was then traded to the Grizzlies in the deal to obtain Shareef Abdur-Rahim. Incidentally, that year was also the only time Dominique Wilkins has ever represented us at the lottery... until this year. Incidentally, the team in the No. 4 spot going into the lottery has never won the whole shebang. If you ask me, the four-spot is due.
Team needs: The Sonics will probably employ a "Best Player Available" philosophy to some degree or another with no huge, glaring needs. The only key player who is not under contract for next season is small forward Rashard Lewis, whom the Sonics hope to re-sign to a new contract when and if he opts to become a restricted free agent this summer. Point guard could be an area the Sonics look to address after Luke Ridnour and Earl Watson split minutes at the position last season. Neither player was able to establish himself as the starter at the point.
If the SuperSonics finish in the top three of the lottery... their reaction will be jubilation, like most everyone else. Adding another star to the Allen-Lewis duo would give the Sonics a trio that could compete with almost anyone in the league. That kind of player could also help the Sonics at the defensive end, as neither of their stars is known for their defense. Getting a top pick would be extra sweet for the Sonics because of the buzz it would create as the team attempts to find a long-term arena solution in the Seattle area.
Lottery luck: The Sonics had plenty of luck in 1990. Despite having just two of the 55 ping-pong balls in the hopper after missing out on the playoffs due to a tiebreaker, they earned the second overall pick and drafted Oregon State's Gary Payton, the face of the franchise for more than a decade. Since then, the Sonics have not moved up or entered the lottery higher than the 10th spot. The Sonics were a part of the inaugural unweighted lottery, finishing with the fourth pick and selecting Xavier McDaniel from Wichita State.
Team needs: Minnesota's primary needs are two-fold: a low-post scorer who can rebound, and a slasher who can shoot. Despite having the league's best Windex Man in Kevin Garnett (12.8 per) and getting 5.1 boards in 18.7 minutes from second-round pick Craig Smith, the Wolves finished 21st in rebounding. Minnesota struggled to score in the paint and didn't run many sets out of the low block. However, there is a plethora of inside help in this draft: names like Greg Oden, Al Horford, Brandan Wright, Yi Jianlian, Joakim Noah and Roy Hibbert all look solid on paper. In other news, Minnesota finished 13th in the NBA in shooting from the field and 16th from three, but struggled to get to the basket (29th in FT attempts). An improved Randy Foye (last year's lottery pick) will help here, but an athletic slasher who can also knock down the three consistently - think Kevin Durant or Corey Brewer - would fit tight like Under Armour. Julian Wright is an enticing talent as well, but is not yet an outside threat.
If the Timberwolves finish in the top three of the lottery... No thanks. Who wants a top three pick in this talent-less draft? Oden and Durant in particular are terrible and have no upside... on opposite day. Come on now. Obviously, Minnesota would be excited to sneak into the top three in a draft some might compare to the '92 edition featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Alonzo Mourning. But the fact is, there are several excellent players in this draft, and whoever is No. 3 on Minnesota's board could easily slip to seven, eight or nine on someone else's. Is there a huge difference between a Horford, a Brewer, a Jeff Green or either Wright? That said, there is an 18.3 percent chance the Wolves get into the top three, and a 5.3 percent chance for the top pick. With the buzz that would surely ensue from a top-two selection, the Wolves would have to ask the Hornets to swap names.
Lottery luck: Or lack thereof, in the Wolves case. Saying Minnesota has been lucky in the lottery is like suggesting that Halle Berry isn't attractive. The Wolves have literally never moved up in the draft, and have moved down more than once, most notably in 1992. That year marked the only time the Wolves owned the league's worst record, and both Shaq and 'Zo stood waiting at 1 and 2. Instead, Minnesota got Christian Laettner at No. 3. Ouch. Other Wolves lottery picks still in the NBA include Donyell Marshall, Garnett, Ray Allen (traded for Stephon Marbury on draft day), Wally Szczerbiak, Rashad McCants and Brandon Roy (traded for Foye). It'll be the third straight lottery appearance for Minnesota, after a five-year hiatus from 2000-04. This year, the Wolves are sending Foye to do their bidding. Whaddya say, kid?
Team needs: The Bobcats finished 33-49, posting the all-time best third-year expansion team record in recent NBA expansion history, and were just seven games out of a playoff spot in the East despite starting the season 7-21. What will it take to elevate Charlotte to that next level? Two things would help greatly, be it through the draft, free agency or an offseason trade. The Bobcats need a closer - that guy who can take over a game with time winding down in the fourth quarter. Charlotte finished 2-4 in games decided by three points or less and tied for the league lead with 10 overtime games, going 5-5. Those close games become wins and overtime might be avoided if they can grab that clutch player who puts his team on his back. Gerald Wallace had 10 games of 30 points or more and is making the league take notice, but adding a scoring complement would be key. The Bobcats would also like to get some inside help, preferably a starting center that would allow Emeka Okafor to stick in the power forward spot. Aside from Okafor's 43 double-figure rebounding games, only Wallace (17) finished with more than eight such games.
If the Bobcats finish in the top three of the lottery... the buzz around this team will continue to grow to a fevered pitch. With a new coach about to take the helm, a solid nucleus of young players in place and a surplus of salary cap space, adding a top three pick - particularly one of the big two (Greg Oden, Kevin Durant) - would instantly fill a team need and make this squad a contender in the East. Granted, having a 1.9 percent chance to land the top pick doesn't seem like the best of odds, but Bobcats President and Chief Operating Officer Fred Whitfield landed the No. 1 pick with the Wizards in 2001 and will be representing Charlotte in Secaucus, N.J. He'll have one or our Bobcats fan's lucky charms with him too. Seeing as a team seeded eighth hasn't won the lottery since the NBA began using a weighted system in 1990, the Bobcats should be due.
Lottery luck: It's too early to tell just how good the lottery has been to the Bobcats in their brief three-year history. After being given the fourth overall pick at the 2004 NBA Draft Lottery, Bobcats General Manager Bernie Bickerstaff shipped that pick and the 33rd overall selection to the Clippers for the second overall pick and agreed to select Predrag Drobnjak in the 2004 expansion selection. That second pick turned into 2004-05 Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor. The Bobcats fell from second to fifth at the 2005 Draft Lottery, but armed with two lottery picks, they landed two North Carolina Tar Heels - Raymond Felton (fifth) and Sean May (13th) - in the first round. Things remained status quo for the Bobcats in 2006 as they entered and remained at the No. 3 spot following the lottery and acquired Adam Morrison in the 2006 NBA Draft. The Bobcats have yet to move up in an NBA Draft Lottery and are hoping this will be the year.
Team needs: It's no secret that Chicago could use some help in the low post on the offensive end. Veteran P.J. Brown is not under contract for the 2007-08 season, and although players such as Andres Nocioni and Tyrus Thomas could fill in at the "four" depending on match-ups, acquiring a more traditional power forward would be ideal. Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon and Luol Deng make up the core that GM John Paxson is looking to build around. This offseason, whether it is on draft night, via a trade, or through free agency, he'll try and locate the players that will propel Chicago to the level of an NBA title contender.
If the Bulls finish in the top three of the lottery... John Paxson will have an early lead as an NBA Executive of the Year candidate. Paxson, who orchestrated a complex five-player sign-and-trade deal with Isiah Thomas and the Knicks in October 2005, sent Eddy Curry packing in a deal that will provide the Bulls with a lottery pick for the second consecutive year. Chicago has the right to swap first round draft picks with New York this summer, and while landing in the top three is a longshot (1.9 percent), it beats picking at No. 23. Greg Oden would be the likely pick should Chicago land the top selection, while Paxson and the Bulls wouldn't be too disappointed to "settle" for Kevin Durant at No. 2. Given Chicago's lack of a prototypical power forward, Florida's Al Horford might be an excellent third option.
Lottery luck: If you're looking for a team to complain about the NBA's draft lottery process, well... you probably shouldn't look Chicago's way. The Bulls have won it once (1999) and landed among the top three selections three times in the last five years (second in 2002, third in 2004, and second in 2006). More importantly, however, has been the success Paxson has had on draft night since taking over in the spring of 2003. Kirk Hinrich was selected seventh overall in 2003, and the following year, the Bulls added a pair of lottery picks in Ben Gordon (third overall) and Luol Deng (selected seventh overall by Phoenix and traded to Chicago). Last summer, Chicago selected LaMarcus Aldridge at No. 2, then dealt him to Portland for Tyrus Thomas (No. 4) and Viktor Khryapa before adding Thabo Sefolosha thanks to a second draft night deal with Philadelphia.
Team needs: If there ever was a year to miss the playoffs and end up with a lottery pick, this would be that year. This draft is rich with talent, whether a team picks first or 30th. The Kings have a 84.62 percent chance of drafting 10th in the draft. While a higher pick would be awesome, the 10th pick could aid the Kings' needs tremendously. This draft and more specifically, the lottery, is stacked with height, which is something the Kings will probably hope to acquire on June 28. Seven out of the top 15 prospects, according to their vitals on ESPN.com, are 6-foot-10 or taller. The Kings ranked 30th in rebounding and 28nd in blocked shots in 2006-07. They would certainly love to get better in the paint. At the same time, the Kings field goal percentage ranked 21st in the league and their dime dropping ranked 22nd. If the Kings found themselves with a chance to pick a top rate playmaking point guard, they could very well go in that direction as well.
If the Kings finish in the top three of the lottery... While top three is nice, it seems that having a top two selection is where every team hopes to land. The Kings chance of winning the lottery is 1.8 percent, while getting the second pick is slightly higher at 2.12 percent. Considering the Kings lost the lottery tiebreaker with New York and Charlotte earlier this year and have only won the lottery once (1989, Pervis Ellison) in Sacramento, the city would be electric if lady luck smiled upon the Kings. Both Greg Oden and Kevin Durant could make an instant impact on the Kings. Oden would help by blocking shots and causing havoc in the paint, while Durant could bring the athleticism and inside-outside combination that made the Kings so potent for years. It's safe to say if the Kings land a top two pick, ARCO Arena would make any other NBA arena sound like a library in 2007-08.
Lottery luck: While the Kings have become known for retooling their rosters with trades and proven free agents (Chris Webber, Mike Bibby, Ron Artest), the solid play from the Kings youth in the last six games, coupled with Kevin Martin's breakout season, show that the Kings should also be known for selecting quality players in the NBA Draft each year despite a typical mid to late pick in the first round. Barring a trade, the Kings now have a lottery pick for the first time since they drafted Jason "J-Will" Williams with the seventh pick in the 1998 Draft. In fact, in the past 15 years, the Kings have drafted in the single digits of the NBA Draft Lottery only four times (including the aforementioned J-Will). The other three picks were Walt Williams in 1992 and Bobby Hurley in 1993, both of whom were seventh overall selections. Brian Grant was selected with the eighth pick in 1994.
Team needs: With Chris Paul, David West and Tyson Chandler, the Hornets are set at point guard, power forward and center for the foreseeable future. Peja Stojakovic is under contract for the next four years and will join those three in the starting lineup, provided Stojakovic can return 100 percent from his season-ending back injury. Stojakovic's health and Desmond Mason's pending free agency mean that the Hornets may target a swingman who can play the shooting guard and small forward positions. The Hornets would love to add a perimeter shooter, after finishing near the bottom of the NBA in three-point percentage, overall field-goal accuracy and scoring. Both first-round picks in 2006 were spent on big men (Hilton Armstrong and Cedric Simmons), so it's less likely they'll look for frontcourt players.
If the Hornets finish in the top three of the lottery... they probably should host a wild party on Bourbon Street. Their chances of getting the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 picks are each less than one percent - 0.60 percent, 0.71 percent and 0.87 percent, respectively - meaning it would be an incredible evening for the franchise if there is a move into the top three. But the Hornets have roughly a 98 percent chance of ending up at either No. 13 or No. 14 in the draft, so I don't think anyone is holding their breath. A move into the top two would be a dream scenario and could yield a player such as Texas' Kevin Durant, a perfect fit based on the club's weaknesses and positional needs.
Lottery luck: Overall, the lottery has been very favorable to this franchise. The Hornets were an expansion team in 1988 but quickly ascended to playoff status after winning the 1991 lottery (they picked Larry Johnson) and being awarded the No. 2 pick in 1992 (Alonzo Mourning). They also bucked significant mathematical odds in 1999 by ending up with the third pick (Baron Davis), despite finishing 26-24 during the lockout season. This is the third straight lottery appearance for the Hornets. They finished in their expected No. 12 slot last year, but were bumped out of the top three in the 2005 lottery. Of course, they used the No. 4 pick on 2005-06 NBA Rookie of the Year Chris Paul, so what initially appeared to be "bad lottery luck" ended up working out rather nicely for the Hornets, too.