2014 NBA Draft Lottery Team-By-Team Preview
With the always-entertaining 2014 NBA draft lottery scheduled to take place on Tuesday (ESPN, 7 p.m. Central), Pelicans.com rounded up writers from the other participating teams for a comprehensive preview. Here are the thoughts of numerous writers who cover lottery teams:
Alex Boeder, Bucks.com
Pre-lottery slot: 1
The Bucks need a star, any position will do. The team is firmly in best player available mode after starting 16 different players and ranking 30th in defense and 26th in offense last season. And so the timing is perfect to hold the best lottery odds in a top-heavy draft, because they can simply choose the best player and then build from there, rather than feel compelled to fit a player into a specific position of need and risk passing up the best player in the process.
The Bucks boast some promising young pieces, including small forward Giannis Antetokounmpo (19), center Larry Sanders (25), power forward John Henson (23), and point guard Brandon Knight (22). These four are all very much still on the way up, and the hope is that they will grow into above-average starters at their respective positions.
That said, the rebuild will be a process, which can be a good thing. No one will expect the team to contend for a top five spot in the East next season, so they have the luxury of choosing the best long-term option (someone who might peak along a similar timeline to Antetokounmpo, for example) as opposed to needing an immediately impactful player.
In the end, the Bucks need the guy that we all look back on in eight years as the best player that was available.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Bucks
It is funny how the lottery odds work. The Bucks have the best shot at getting the No. 1 pick (25.0%), and they have a 64.24% chance of landing in the top three. So to answer the question, getting a top three pick is simply expected.
But then again, if you look at their lottery chances individually, they technically have a better chance of getting the No. 4 pick (35.76%) than getting any one of the others. Thus, it can’t be too much of a surprise if they land at No. 4, but they also cannot possibly fall any lower, so it would absolutely be a disappointment to not get in the top three.
Now, getting the No. 1 overall pick? With new owners in place, a new stadium in the works, and a feeling of renewal in the air, that would be just right.
In 14 previous trips to the draft lottery since the weighted system was introduced in 1990, the Bucks have moved up just twice, moved down five times, and stayed the same seven times. Of course, the two times they moved up, they moved all the way up to No. 1.
This time, they don’t have to worry about trying to move up.
David Locke, UtahJazz.com
Pre-lottery slot: 4
The Jazz have a group of nice young players, however they don't have the guy that makes the other team cringe. The Jazz need a player who can be the lead dog and take the team with him. Regardless of position the Jazz are looking for the best talent.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Jazz
This league is about greatness. Not about good or very good. It is about greatness. Best way to get that greatness is to be in the Top 3. All of the Jazz young players would take a different light if they were coupled with the next star of the NBA. One player could accelerate the Jazz rebuilding process.
Jazz owner Greg Miller was incredible on CBS Undercover Boss (it will re-air May 23 on CBS) and that should give the Jazz good karma and lottery luck.
Marc D’Amico, Celtics.com
Pre-lottery slot: 5
The only person who truly knows what position the Celtics are targeting this offseason is Danny Ainge, because he’s the only one who has an idea of what Boston might look like in the coming years. There are a lot of questions to be answered in that regard, as Rajon Rondo is entering the final season of his contract and starting guard Avery Bradley, forward Kris Humphries and guard Jerryd Bayless will all be free agents this summer. Since we aren’t privy to Ainge’s goals and personnel aspirations, we’ll just say that the Celtics need to add the best talent available when they make their pick, regardless of position. Doing such would add an asset to Ainge’s team, and that’s exactly what you need when you’re rebuilding.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Celtics
Jumping into the top three slots would be paramount for the Celtics. We all know how highly regarded this draft class is. To be armed with a top-three pick would allow Danny Ainge to explore all options, from drafting a top talent to making a splash on the trade market. No matter what Ainge does with a potential top-three pick, the Celtics would be guaranteed to add an elite talent to their roster.
Here’s the good: The last time the Celtics were in the position they’re in this year, with the fifth-best chance of winning the lottery, they jumped up three spots to No. 2. That’s a pretty good omen. Now for the bad: That happened in 1986, and the Celtics haven’t moved up in the lottery since. Boston dropped back in three of its last nine lottery appearances, including a fall from second to fifth in 2007 (missing out on Greg Oden and Kevin Durant), and from second to third in 1997 (missing out on Tim Duncan). We like to think we’ve paid our lottery dues. It’s time to win.
Jason Wise, Kings.com
Pre-lottery slot: 7
Play-making and shooting are a team need according to Kings General Manager Pete D’Alessandro. Sacramento finished 18th in field-goal percentage, 27th in 3-point field-goal percentage and 23rd in assisted field-goal percentage during the 2013-14 season. In a Draft Lottery pool loaded with potential All-Star caliber talent, the addition of a skilled wing or frontcourt player could make a major impact.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Kings
The Kings hold 4.3-percent odds of securing the first-overall selection and the highest probability (59.9 percent) of nabbing pick No. 7. Jumping from its projected spot would give the team an opportunity to land another potential franchise cornerstone capable of making an immediate impact as the team looks to build a contender heading into a new downtown arena in 2016. Adding a top-three pick could instantaneously fill team needs by pairing star DeMarcus Cousins with a talented running mate.
Sacramento looks to overcome lottery odds, where it has moved down from its projected draft position in nine of the previous 18 drawings – twice falling the maximum three spots — and emerge with a Top 3 selection for the first time since 1991.
Keith Langlois, Pistons.com
Pre-lottery slot: 8
The Pistons fully expected the 2013 lottery to end their run of four straight non-playoff seasons. That they won 29 games and will be back for a fifth straight lottery draw came down to their inabilities to (a) shoot straight and (b) string defensive stops together. So anything that addresses those two ills gets priority billing. The Pistons finished 29th in 3-point shooting, ahead of only Philadelphia, and 30th in foul shooting. After signing Josh Smith, the Pistons attempted to address their anticipated shooting needs by signing franchise icon Chauncey Billups and Italian national team star Gigi Datome. Billups was hurt much of the season and Datome never fully cracked the rotation. Departing free agent Charlie Villanueva’s calling card – his 3-point stroke – failed him all season. Josh Smith shot a career-high 265 triples while making less than 27 percent. Brandon Jennings shot under his career norm from the arc. For all of that, their offense functioned at a higher level (18th in efficiency) than their defense (25th in efficiency.) Their best offense was often the missed shot, thanks to Andre Drummond’s league-leading offensive rebounding. Defensively, the Pistons allowed way too much dribble penetration. They simply must improve at guarding the ball and defending the staple play of most NBA offenses, the pick and roll. The Pistons gave up too many straight-line drives to the rim. Drummond, the Pistons believe, has All-Defense potential, but he hasn’t yet become the dominant rim protector a team that struggled to guard on the perimeter required to make a playoff push.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Pistons
As much as they’d love to draw into the top three in a draft where the consensus holds that there is a clear big three – Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid – the Pistons have a far greater desire this lottery year: don’t get jumped. The Pistons enter the field at No. 8 and can’t afford the 17.6 percent chance that a team behind them draws a top-three pick. If that happens, the Pistons must convey their 2014 No. 1 pick to Charlotte as a condition of the 2012 Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette trade. (The pick is protected only if it’s No. 1 in 2015.) The Pistons would love to land Wiggins or Parker, giving them either phenomenal athleticism (Wiggins) or a potential No. 1 scoring option (Parker) on the wing. Because of the presence of the 20-year-old Drummond, Embiid would be less a fit.
Since their run of six straight trips to the Eastern Conference finals ended in 2008 and their last playoff appearance in 2009, the Pistons have entered the lottery at seven, seven, nine and seven. They’ve yet to move up, but twice (2011, ’13) have been bumped one spot. They’ve done well for themselves, landing Greg Monroe, Brandon Knight, Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They’d like to pull a top-three pick this time and say goodbye to the lottery for good.
Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com
Pre-lottery slot: 10
The Pelicans’ most crucial need is improved health. In an incredible string of poor luck that may be unprecedented in the NBA, by the end of 2013-14, the Pelicans were sometimes without any of their seven leading scorers, a group that combined to average a total of 103.9 points per game. Three of those players – Ryan Anderson, Jrue Holiday and Jason Smith – sustained season-ending injuries prior to the All-Star break, knocking the Pelicans out of contention after they’d hovered around .500.
Unfortunately, you can’t acquire a clean bill of health in a draft, but then again, New Orleans is unlikely to keep its first-round pick anyway, holding just 4.0 percent odds of doing so (in other words, a 1-in-25 chance). Position-wise, the Pelicans have at least one proven veteran at every position except small forward, where frequent starter Al-Farouq Aminu is entering free agency. The other natural small forwards on the roster are even less experienced than the 23-year-old Aminu. New Orleans has lacked a feared scorer at the three spot since Peja Stojakovic was winding down his career during the last decade.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Pelicans
This is the ultimate all-or-nothing draft lottery for New Orleans: either the Pelicans keep their first-round pick because it’s in the top three, or they lose the pick to Philadelphia. If New Orleans manages to move up into the top three, it would be an immense boost, particularly when you consider that many draft experts believe there are exactly three players in the top “tier” this June. With 2012 No. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis having emerged as an All-Star in 2013-14, Pelicans fans would be ecstatic to see their team add another promising young piece.
Other than the Orlando Magic, it’s arguable that no NBA franchise has benefited from the lottery as much as New Orleans. Two years ago, the then-Hornets won the Anthony Davis Sweepstakes despite having just 13.7 percent odds of doing so. In the club’s early years, it won the ’91 lottery and chose the iconic Larry Johnson, a first step toward relevancy on the court. In another example, the 2004-05 New Orleans club finished with the worst record in team history (18-64), then dropped to fourth at the lottery, but ended up with Chris Paul, who’s had the best NBA career of any player from the ’05 draft.
Aaron Lopez, Nuggets.com
Pre-lottery slot: 11
Beset by injuries to no fewer than six rotation players in 2013-14, the Nuggets saw their streak of consecutive playoff appearances end at 10, putting them in the lottery for the first time since 2003. With Ty Lawson entrenched as the team’s leader at point guard, and a deep frontcourt that features Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, Danilo Gallinari and J.J. Hickson, Denver could use added size and scoring at shooting guard. Veteran Randy Foye nearly set the franchise’s single-season 3-point record while filling that role last season, but he often was undersized defensively. The Nuggets will continue to push the pace under coach Brian Shaw, so athleticism and the ability to run the floor figures to be a prerequisite for anyone they select in the draft. That being said, Shaw also wants to Denver to be more defensive-minded and believes that his guards should set the tone on the perimeter. Unless the Nuggets jump from No. 11 to the Top 3, it’s going to be tough for any rookie to crack the rotation next season. Denver has 10 players under contract and two others likely to exercise player options, leaving the team two-deep at nearly every position.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Nuggets
Only three teams in lottery history have jumped from a double-digit draft position into the Top 3, so the emotional boost alone would be huge for a franchise looking for an immediate return to the playoffs. The last time the Nuggets picked as high as No. 3, they took Carmelo Anthony in 2003. Anthony went on to make four All-Star appearances with Denver and helped the Nuggets end a nine-year playoff drought. Landing another similar young talent would go a long way toward jumping back into contention in the highly competitive Western Conference.
To put an NBA spin on an old saying … if the Nuggets didn’t have bad luck, they wouldn’t have any luck at all. Never in their history have the Nuggets moved up as a result of the lottery draw, but they’ve moved down at least one spot eight times. In 1991, Denver had the best odds of landing the top pick but was bumped to fourth when Charlotte and New Jersey leaped into the Top 3. The Nuggets “settled” for Dikembe Mutombo, who remains the franchise leader in career blocked shots.
Matt Petersen, Suns.com
Pre-lottery slot: 14
The perimeter scoring department was well-manned this year for the Suns. Their top three scorers (Goran Dragic, Eric Bledsoe, Gerald Green) were all guards and Phoenix ranked in the top 10 in the league in three-pointers per game and three-point percentage. Dragic and Green are under contract and Bledsoe’s restricted free agency makes his return more than possible. The mission now is to add low post power to complement the Suns’ perimeter punch. Sixth man Markieff Morris was the default option when it came to scoring on the block, but the front office has repeatedly stated its intent to upgrade the overall talent on the roster. With the backcourt set and last year’s No. 5 overall pick Alex Len waiting to be groomed at center, power forward and small forward (P.J. Tucker is a restricted free agent this summer) would appear to be offseason focal points.
What Getting a Top 3 Pick Would Mean for the Suns
Unbridled optimism. The Suns would likely no longer need to package their mid-range first-round picks and a young player or two in order to address their primary need. There’s also the double-bonus of seeing Minnesota’s pick slide from 13 to 14 - outside of its top-13 protection (from the Wesley Johnson trade two years ago) and into the Suns’ hands. They would basically be adding a top three pick to their already expected trio of mid-first-round selections. In a nutshell, the Suns’ assets and potential for talent acquisition would more than double.
Phoenix has missed the playoffs 10 times in the 30 years of the draft lottery era. They have moved up into the top three just one time. Luck is hard to come by, and even then, it’s no guarantee. The Suns’ lone top 3 pick in that span (1987) was used on former UNLV star Armen Gilliam, ahead of Scottie Pippen, Kevin Johnson, Horace Grant, Reggie Miller and Mark Jackson, all of whom were taken later in the first round. Luck is great, but cashing in on it is just as important.