NBA Lottery Preview
With the 2010 NBA Draft Lottery scheduled for May 18th on ESPN, WashingtonWizards.com joined forces with writers from participating teams to weigh in on lottery-related questions about their respective squads. Check out what each club thinks about its needs, what would happen if it finished in the top three of the lottery and whether luck has been on its side before (teams also listed who will be representing them on stage in Secaucus, N.J., though in a few cases the choice was TBA at publication time).
NEW JERSEY NETS
Ben Couch, NJNets.com
Lottery slot: 1
Team needs: The Nets are set at center with Brook Lopez and have a former All-Star at the point in Devin Harris. Courtney Lee worked through a tough start to earn a prominent future role in the swingman rotation, with the bulk of his time coming at the 2. That leaves the quickest road to improvement traveling through the two forward spots, though rookie Terrence Williams came on strong at the 3 toward the end of the year and established himself as part of the team’s developing core.
President Rod Thorn has previously mentioned the benefits of bringing a tough-defending, volume-rebounding “moose” to play alongside Brook Lopez, which would certainly complement Yi Jianlian and Kris Humphries in the forward rotation while stiffening a porous D. Athleticism could be a deciding factor, because the key returning players are all impressive in transition.
If the Nets finish in the top three of the lottery... they’ll be in good shape, though the 12-win season has everybody hoping for that first pick. It’s all about options, especially with the talent at the top of this draft: Wall, Turner, Favors, Cousins, Johnson, Aminu … the list of one-name recognition goes on. With no coach (yet), but a solid young core along with a ton of cap space, a top-three pick would make the Nets even more attractive to prospective coaches and free agents.
Lottery luck: The Nets previously won the No. 1 pick in 1990 (Derrick Coleman, when they held the most chances) and 2000 (Kenyon Martin, when they were 7th). Another 10 years have passed, so perhaps we know how this is going to go …
Beyond that, the Nets have done well recently despite not moving up, tabbing Brook Lopez (No. 10) and Terrence Williams (No. 11) the last two years. The last time they were in the lottery before that was back in 2001, when they dropped from No. 6 to No. 7, but parlayed pick Eddie Griffin into Richard Jefferson, Jason Collins and Brandon Armstrong. Other than the two top picks, they’ve scored top-three selections two other times, drafting Kenny Anderson No. 2 (up from No. 4) in 1991 and Dennis Hopson No. 3 in 1987. They moved up from No. 5 to No. 4 in 1988 and snared Chris Morris.
Jonah Ballow, Timberwolves.com
Lottery slot: 2
Team needs: Minnesota would greatly benefit from the addition of a shooting guard/small forward on the wing or a big man to patrol the paint. Last year, the Wolves only shot 44.9 percent from the floor as a team and 34.1 percent behind the arc. A sharpshooter with length will force opposing teams to move out to the perimeter, allowing space for Al Jefferson and Kevin Love to operate in the post. A shot-blocking center is also a necessity for the Wolves to improve on the defensive side of the floor. Minnesota needs size inside the paint after only averaging 3.7 blocked shots per game and allowing the opposition to score 107.8 points per game, second worst in the league.
If the Timberwolves finish in the top three of the lottery... they will cross off one of the top priorities for this offseason by adding a talented prospect to a young squad. This draft is extremely deep with several players that could immediately impact a lottery team. However, the Wolves are hoping for a chance at landing No. 1 or No. 2, considering the franchise also owns two more first-round selections and cap space to drastically improve in 2010-11.
Lottery luck: Wolves fans around the Twin Cities area are desperately searching for a wishbone, a four leaf clover, a rabbit’s foot, or simply staring at the sky to catch a glimpse of a shooting star to help reverse a terrible stretch of bad luck. Minnesota has never moved up in the draft lottery and with a 19.9 percent chance at snagging the No. 1 overall pick, there is a sense that fans are feeling, “this is our year.” Obviously with John Wall and Evan Turner headlining the 2010 Draft, the Wolves would be delighted to add a top flight pick this year and move ahead of their slotted position. It’s not all doom and gloom without No. 1 or No. 2 as the franchise has drafted Kevin Garnett, Wally Szczerbiak, Corey Brewer, Kevin Love, Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn outside of the top three.
Representing the Timberwolves at the lottery … President of basketball operations David Kahn will step behind the Wolves podium on Tuesday night. Paul Allen, also known as PA, is the midday host for 1130 KFAN and he told Kahn that if he correctly picked the winner of the Kentucky Derby, he should head to Secaucus as the good luck charm. PA picked Super Saver and earned a trip to the Draft Lottery.
Andrew Nicholson, Kings.com
Lottery slot: 3
Team needs: Despite having the least experienced roster in the league last season, with an average of 2.3 years, the Kings showed great signs of growth in key areas, including rebounding and point differential among others. Still, Kings head coach Paul Westphal would like to see the team’s young talent develop further heading into the 2010-11 season.
“In general we want to continue to get better defensively, get better at rebounding and we want to keep our competitive level high,” he said. “We want to improve our free throw shooting, cut down on our turnovers, do a better job of guarding the ball and blocking shots if they do get to the basket on us. Anything we can do to improve ourselves in those areas, we’re looking to do that.”
If the Kings finish in the top three of the lottery... Last summer, the Kings produced arguably their greatest draft-class trio ever – Tyreke Evans, Omri Casspi and Jon Brockman. Sacramento has a 46.78 percent chance of landing a top-three pick and is a lock to pick in the top six. Westphal believes there are a lot of “good players” in this draft, but says the strongest six have yet to “emerge.” In 2009, the team had the best chance of landing the first-overall pick (25 percent), but with the fourth pick the Kings chose Evans, whose season came to a close with 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year honors. As Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof says, no matter where the team selects, Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie will land an impact player.
Lottery luck: For just the second time in 16 years, Sacramento will pick in the top six. While Petrie has earned praise with his ability to retool Sacramento’s roster with trades and proven free agents, like Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Mike Bibby, the team has had success with its mid-to-late round picks, too. Former Kings players Gerald Wallace and Kevin Martin along with current Kings players Francisco Garcia, Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi have all made significant contributions. When the team landed the fourth-overall pick last year, Petrie once again proved deft at making the best selection – Evans – amidst a strong class of prospects. As the Roman Stoic philosopher Seneca said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity,” and wherever Sacramento picks, Petrie and his staff will be ready to choose a player who can be a difference-maker for the Kings.
Representing the Kings at the lottery… As Kings fans watch from the NBA’s GREATEST Draft Lottery Party in Midtown Sacramento, ROY award-winner Evans will represent the team and its exciting future in Secaucus, N.J. As he showed in his history-making first season, RekeROY delivers on national TV.
Andrew Rosen, WashingtonWizards.com
Lottery slot: 5
Team needs: Entering the 2010 NBA Draft and free agency, the Wizards’ biggest need is depth. With five players under contract heading into the off-season, the Wizards will look to build on their talented and youthful team by taking the proverbial “best player available.” With a nucleus that includes two young athletic and talented frontcourt players, Andray Blatche and JaVale McGee, two emerging athletic wings, Nick Young and Al Thornton, and the return of three-time All-Star Gilbert Arenas, the Wizards have the ability to bolster a roster through the draft that screams talent and excitement. While most of the focus will be on where the Wizards fall in the lottery (the team has a 10.3 percent chance of receiving the first pick), the Wizards will also be able to strengthen their depth with a late first-round pick and a high second-round selection.
If the Wizards finish in the top three of the lottery… Without a doubt a top-three finish in the lottery would bring even more excitement to a Wizards team that heads into the off-season with three draft picks and lots of cap flexibility. While the Wizards are hopeful for a top-three selection, President Ernie Grunfeld and his staff have shown the ability to pluck great players wherever they wind up in the draft and will be able to add a key piece to the team even if the Wizards end up picking outside the top three.
Lottery luck: The last time the Wizards had lady luck on their side in the Draft Lottery was 2001. Last year, the Wizards looked as though they might get lucky again when they won a lottery tiebreaker vs. the Clippers. However, losing the tiebreaker turned into good luck for the Clippers who despite one less ping pong ball than Washington, won the Draft Lottery and the first overall pick. Washington hopes to take a page out of the Clippers playbook this year, as after finishing tied with the Golden State, the Wizards lost the tiebreaker with the Warriors and enter the lottery in fifth position. The lottery results will have an effect on the Wizards’ second-round pick as well; if the Wizards finish ahead of the Warriors in the lottery, the Wizards will have the 35th pick and if they finish behind Golden State in the lottery they will have the 34th pick.
Keith Langlois, Pistons.com
Lottery slot: 7
Team needs: Ben Wallace was the feel-good story of the season for the Pistons – co-starring with Jonas Jerebko’s rise from 39th pick to All-Rookie second team, at least – but it spoke to the holes in their frontcourt that a 35-year-old signed to be their No. 5 big man became so critical to their success. Joe Dumars will be looking for frontcourt help via every available means – the draft, trades and free agency. The good news? It’s a draft as deep in big men as ’09 was in point guards. Even if the Pistons don’t vault into the top three, they’ll have a decent shot at getting an immediate boost by picking No. 7 or 8. Even if they don’t find the complete package, a big man who can have impact at one end or the other – scoring or wreaking general defensive havoc – is essential.
If the Pistons finish in the top three of the lottery… it’s really going to depend where in the top three. If you buy that John Wall is the clear-cut difference maker in this draft class, then it will be hard for the Pistons to ignore him even given their perimeter glut should they beat 5.3 percent odds to get the No. 1 pick. But if they land at 2 or 3 and have their choice of DeMarcus Cousins and Derrick Favors, then I’d expect a spirited debate about that decision among Joe Dumars and his staff.
Lottery luck: The Pistons don’t have a long track record in the lottery, having visited only five times in 25 years with their own picks. Their most famous lottery pick came in 2003 when they took Darko Milicic at No. 2, but that was Memphis’ pick and would have remained so had the Grizzlies landed at No. 1. Their best lottery experience was 1993, when they got the No. 3 pick and took Grant Hill. Other than that, they’ve picked 11th in 1993, when they also had Miami’s pick at No. 10 and came away with Lindsey Hunter and Allan Houston; traded out of No. 8 with Portland to 18 and 19 in 1995, getting Theo Ratliff at 18 in a weak draft; watched Boston snatch Paul Pierce at No. 10, one spot before them in 1998, taking Bonzi Wells; and picked Rodney White at No. 9 in 2001.
Representing the Pistons at the lottery… Joe Dumars would rather be anywhere else – at The Palace, watching the Pistons compete in a seventh conference finals under his 10-year watch, preferably – but he’ll be on the set hoping not to see a Pistons logo until they get past No. 7.
Conrad Brunner, Pacers.com
Lottery slot: 10
Team needs: Settling the point guard position is the biggest priority of the offseason. The Pacers have had a revolving door at the position for the past few seasons. Earl Watson did a solid job but is a free agent and is not expected to return. T.J. Ford opened the past two seasons as the starter but failed to hold the job. He’s in the final year of his contract. Rookie A.J. Price was a revelation as a second-round pick last year but isn’t ready to take over full-time. The Pacers could also use some length and athleticism in the frontcourt rotation although the returns of Tyler Hansbrough and Jeff Foster would crowd that rotation.
If the Pacers finish in the top three of the lottery… Few teams could use John Wall more than the Pacers so there’s no doubt who they’d take with the top pick. The Kentucky point guard would be the answer to this team’s prayers. Though they’re relatively flush with wing players, they’d be hard-pressed to bypass Ohio State’s Evan Turner with the second pick, given his all-around skill set. If the Pacers wind up third, they’d have a tougher choice between big men DeMarcus Cousins of Kentucky and Derrick Favors of Georgia Tech. Favors probably fits the current roster better but Cousins has greater potential, not to mention risk.
Lottery luck: The Colts finished second in the NFL. The Fever finished second in the WNBA. Butler finished second in the NCAA Tournament. Are the Pacers therefore destined for the second pick? They’re overdue for some luck. This is the team’s third straight trip to the lottery and they've netted Brandon Rush (swapping lottery picks with Portland in 2008) and Hansbrough, both at (lucky?) 13. They’ve never had the No. 1 pick but have had No. 2 three times (Rik Smits 1988, Wayman Tisdale 1985, Steve Stipanovich 1983).
Representing the Pacers at the lottery: The Pacers haven’t moved up with team President Larry Bird on hand, so this year Danny Granger will make the trip to Secaucus in hopes of changing the franchise’s luck.
NEW ORLEANS HORNETS
Jim Eichenhofer, Hornets.com
Lottery slot: 11
Team needs: Adding athleticism and size to the roster would greatly benefit the Hornets on both ends of the floor. New Orleans dropped from ninth to 21st in defensive efficiency in 2009-10, partly due to injuries, but also a result of an inability to contain penetration. The Hornets also ranked last in the NBA in blocked shots, another factor that helped clear the path to the rim for opponents. On offense, New Orleans was 30th in free-throw attempts, signifying a need for players who can create their own shot. Several of the Hornets’ contributing wing players are spot-up shooters who do not get to the basket frequently. If the team can acquire another slasher in the mold of Marcus Thornton who can score off driving layups and dunks, it would noticeably increase the diversity of NOLA’s offense.
If the Hornets finish in the top three of the lottery... it will provide New Orleans with a prime opportunity to add another emerging star, after the Hornets landed two of the NBA’s premier rookies from the 2009 draft, Thornton and Darren Collison (despite not having a pick higher than No. 21). The early mock drafts I’ve seen appear to have a consensus on the top eight or nine picks, so obviously if New Orleans remains in its No. 11 position, it may not get a rookie who has “sold” everyone on his potential impact. On the plus side, there appear to be many top-15 prospects that would be excellent fits based on their strengths.
Lottery luck: Early in the franchise’s 22-year history, the lottery was very beneficial to the Hornets, allowing them to move up several times and land cornerstones including Larry Johnson (“Grandmama”), Alonzo Mourning and Baron Davis. The luck has dried up somewhat in recent years, however. The Hornets have not moved up from their pre-lottery position in any of the previous three trips, though in 2005 that “bad fortune” resulted in picking Chris Paul at No. 4 overall, so no complaints there. This is the Hornets’ third consecutive lottery appearance in which they are slotted between 11 and 13.
Matt Tumbleson, grizzlies.com
Lottery slot: 12
Team needs: The Grizzlies were one of the NBA’s pleasant surprises in 2009-10, finishing with the second best turnaround from the season before. Not satisfied with missing the postseason, the Grizzlies are looking to bolster their bench with versatile players who can back up multiple positions. The team’s starting lineup can hang with the best in the league, but their reserve unit needs help if the franchise hopes to take the next step forward as a team. The team would like to fill these holes on the bench with battle-tested veterans who can help guide the talented young core. If they can’t come up with a veteran who fits the bill through free agency or trade, the team has three shots to find a player who can help their chances with three first-round picks in the draft.
If the Grizzlies finish in the top three of the lottery... it will be quite a stroke of luck, considering the team moved up in the 2009 NBA Draft Lottery into the No. 2 slot. If the Grizzlies do move into the top three for the second straight year they will need to select a player who can help them immediately, after taking Hasheem Thabeet last season, who has shown promise, but is still largely a project. After picking a big last season, the consensus one and two picks in this year’s draft, John Wall and Evan Turner, would certainly fit in to what the Grizzlies are building on Beale Street.
Lottery luck: Last year the Grizzlies got lucky in the lottery and were able to move up to No. 2, but looking back, the top rookies during the 2009-10 season, including Tyreke Evans, Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings, were not surefire stars that they proved to be during the regular season. Many recall that the Grizzlies also missed out on the biggest prize of all during the 2003 NBA Draft Lottery. The Grizzlies were in a position to either win the No. 1 overall pick (and ultimately draft a guy you might have heard of, LeBron James), or get bumped from one of the best drafts in NBA history because of a prior trade for Otis Thorpe. Lottery luck did not smile on the Grizzlies on that day, but if they can slide into the top two slots and have a chance to select either Wall or Turner the sting of the 2003 Draft Lottery will start to go away.
Jason Friedman, Rockets.com
Lottery slot: 14
Team needs: No doubt about it, the Rockets could use an injection of additional size along the frontcourt. In order to compete with the likes of the Lakers, teams need to be able to combat LA’s abundance of size and length, and the Rockets are no exception. Yes, Yao Ming will be back next season and his presence alone will clearly go a long way in helping Houston protect the rim and own the boards – a pair of areas which plagued the Rockets at times this year. That said, it’s still too early to say precisely what Yao’s timetable for return will be and how many minutes he’ll be able to play when he does find himself back on the floor. So finding an athletic big who can both spell Yao to ease him in his transition and play alongside him to help board and block shots, will certainly rank among Daryl Morey’s top priorities this summer.
If the Rockets finish in the top three of the lottery... Look out NBA, because the already ridiculously tough Western Conference just gained yet another superpower. Without an All-Star on their roster, the Rockets still found a way to coax 42 wins out of their squad during the 2009-10 season. In other words, Houston already has a great supporting cast in place – now it’s just looking to add a couple headliners to the marquee. A top-three pick would clearly do exactly that, giving Morey an opportunity to add one of the top talents in the draft, while also potentially sweetening the already-attractive package he’s preparing for what figures to be a rather robust sign-and-trade free agent market.
Lottery luck: The Rockets hit the jackpot in 2002 when the ping pong balls bounced their way and allowed them to select Yao Ming, instantly transforming the team into the club with the league’s largest international fan base. Since then, Houston has only made one appearance in the annual lottery, in 2006 when the club made the bold move of trading the draft rights of No. 8 overall selection Rudy Gay to Memphis for Shane Battier, a player whose myriad “beyond the box score” talents have come to symbolize the value this regime places on the numbers which truly impact winning and losing.
Representing the Rockets at the lottery…will be 2010 Most Improved Player award-winner Aaron Brooks. The 26th overall selection of the 2007 NBA Draft, Brooks is a perfect symbol of the Rockets’ recent ability to unearth hidden gems outside the lottery. This time he’s trying to help the team make a splash with more of a known quantity but he and the Rockets will need a major assist from Lady Luck to do so since there’s a greater than 98 percent chance Houston will end up with pick No. 14.