A Look at the Lottery

Davis a lock at No. 1 – after that, it’s anyone’s guess

Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist could end up in Charlotte should the lottery play to form.
Chris Graythen (NBAE/Getty)
With the lottery a week away, there isn’t much we know for certain except this: Anthony Davis will be the No. 1 pick. It doesn’t matter which of the 12 teams draws the lucky combination – both New Orleans and Portland have two lottery picks, unless Brooklyn draws into the top three, in which case the Nets keep their pick instead of sending it to the Trail Blazers – Davis will be first to shake David Stern’s hand on June 28.

After that, the most definitive thing you can say about the lottery is that the next three players off the board in some order are likely to be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Bradley Beal and Thomas Robinson.

The Pistons go into the May 30 lottery more certain than the past two years to stay where they are or slide back one spot. From the No. 7 spot in 2010, they had an 83.1 percent chance to pick seventh or eighth; from the No. 8 spot in 2011, they had an 89.2 percent chance to pick eighth or ninth; and from the No. 9 spot this year, they have a 93.5 percent chance to pick ninth or 10th.

Their odds of pulling a top-three pick are correspondingly worse, going from 15 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2011 to 6.1 percent this year. And their shot to get Davis is a mere 1.7 percent – the same odds Chicago used to land Derrick Rose four years ago.

Here’s a look at how the lottery could unfold, looking at the first nine picks and projecting what each team would do with the No. 2 pick and what they would do if they lottery plays to form.

    1. Charlotte – You could make a case that the Bobcats don’t have a player who would be a sure-fire starter on any of the NBA’s 29 other rosters, which is simultaneously depressing and liberating if you’re Michael Jordan and Rod Higgins. More than any other team, the Bobcats can truly say it comes down to best player available. Should the Bobcats slide down to No. 2, the best value probably would be Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who at 18 draws high marks for character, toughness and work ethic. The Bobcats have to start somewhere.

    2. Washington – The Wizards are flush with athleticism, starting with the 2010 No. 1 overall pick, John Wall. If Washington is wedded to Wall for the long haul, and there’s no reason to think otherwise, then newly re-signed GM Ernie Grunfeld has to start surrounding him with some shooters. The Wizards were 28th in the league in 3-point accuracy despite Wall’s penetration skills. Almost by acclamation, the lottery prospect considered the best shooter is Florida freshman shooting guard Bradley Beal, whose size and athleticism in addition to his shooting make him an ideal long-term backcourt partner for Wall.

    3. Cleveland – The Cavs got their point guard and a foundation interior piece with their two top-four picks a year ago, Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson. They’ll kick the tires hard on Andre Drummond because every team with a shot at him is going to want to make sure Drummond is more Kwame Brown than Dwight Howard before passing on him. Ultimately, the Cavs are probably going to go for a wing player, and whether they pick No. 2 or stay where they are at No. 3, that could well be Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

    4. New Orleans - If the Hornets are set at any position, it’s shooting guard where the prize among the return for sending Chris Paul to the Clippers was Eric Gordon. He’ll be a restricted free agent in July, but the ball is in the Hornets’ court on retaining him. So Beal would be a curious pick at No. 2, should the Hornets move up. They could be zeroed in on Kansas power forward Thomas Robinson in either scenario, at No. 2 or staying put at No. 4.

    5. Sacramento – With DeMarcus Cousins entrenched at center, Tyreke Evans winding up at small forward and shooting guard Marcus Thornton newly signed to a generous contract, the Kings probably will play to the strength of this draft – power forward – if they move into the No. 2 spot, with Thomas Robinson the safest pick. If they stay put at No. 5, the Kings – intent on adding solid citizens to a combustible mix – will take a long look at North Carolina small forward Harrison Barnes.

    6. Portland – If this pick winds up drawing into No. 2, then it stays with Brooklyn. The Nets would probably grab Thomas Robinson at No. 2 considering incumbent power forward Kris Humphries will be a free agent and Robinson’s athleticism and blue-collar grittiness would nicely complement the Brook Lopez-Deron Williams core. Something to consider: If Brooklyn lands the No. 2 pick, perhaps it sweetens the pot enough to entice Orlando to trade Dwight Howard to the Nets. If the lottery plays to form and Portland gets the pick, a team that’s lost Greg Oden could be the landing spot for Andre Drummond, the ultimate boom-or-bust candidate in a draft that’s full of them.

    7. Golden State – The Warriors are undergoing a metamorphosis from the run ’n’ gun Nellie Ball era, furthered by the trade of Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. Mark Jackson would fall hard for a player with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist’s motor if the Warriors draw into the No. 2 slot. If they stay here, they’ll likely be hoping Harrison Barnes slips to their spot. But he’s gone at No. 5 in our scenario, so this could be a sleeper pick: Washington shooting guard Terrence Ross, who some think will boost his stock with his athleticism and shooting ability in workouts.

    8. Toronto – The Raptors finished the season with ex-Michigan State swingman Alan Anderson, signed out of the D-League, as their starting small forward. Not much question which way the Raptors would go if they landed the No. 2 pick. They’d look at Harrison Barnes, but Dwane Casey – another defense-first coach – likely would argue hard for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. If the Raptors stay at No. 8, that could be the spot where the first point guard comes off the board. Again, a North Carolina product, Kendall Marshall, would get heavy consideration. Again, he would probably finish second – this time to Weber State’s Damian Lillard.

    9. Detroit – The Pistons’ challenge going into this draft, where the depth lies in power forwards augmented by a few centers in Andre Drummond and Meyers Leonard, is to figure out which one among them would be the best complement to Greg Monroe. If they like a center best, they have to ask themselves if he’s a center whose skills would allow Monroe to flourish as a power forward; and if they think their best option is a power forward, does he have the skill set to allow Monroe to play to the best of his ability at center. The safest pick if the Pistons land at No. 2: Thomas Robinson. If they stay at No. 9 in our scenario, they will have a choice of no fewer than six potential Monroe frontcourt partners: North Carolina teammates John Henson and Tyler Zeller, Kentucky’s Terrence Jones, Baylor’s Perry Jones III, Leonard and Mississippi State’s Arnett Moultrie. This isn’t a decision the Pistons probably would feel comfortable making today, but it will be in five weeks. For now, we’ll go with Tyler Zeller. But stay tuned.