The Boston Celtics could have one of the best 24-hour stretches in franchise history if they can win Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Monday (they did) and then the NBA Draft lottery on Tuesday.
The 2017 NBA Draft lottery is Tuesday night before Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals between the San Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. The actual draft takes place on June 22. The Boston Celtics already are a very good team after finishing with the best record in the Eastern Conference and in the East Finals, but they could become true NBA title contenders as early as next season if they win the lottery.
Boston is the only playoff team in it thanks to the Brooklyn Nets’ disastrous 2013 trade in which the Nets acquired Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett from Boston for a boatload of future draft picks. That includes the right to swap this year, and the Nets finished with the NBA’s worst record. So Boston has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery for the first time in franchise history and is a +290 NBA betting favorite to do so at BetOnline.
The team with the most ping-pong balls rarely does win the lottery. In 2004, the Orlando Magic did and took an Atlanta high school big man named Dwight Howard. The club with the highest percentage of winning the lottery didn’t again until 2015 when Minnesota did and selected Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns. The Philadelphia 76ers won it last year with the best chance and took LSU rookie Ben Simmons, who will be a Rookie of the Year favorite in 2017-18 because he didn’t play at all last season due to injury. The team with the NBA’s worst record has never won the lottery three years in a row.
It’s widely expected that University of Washington freshman guard Markelle Fultz will be the top pick this year, and he’s the -300 favorite. Some have compared him to Penny Hardaway and James Harden. Although as good as he was in his one season at UW, the team was an ugly 9-22. If Boston wins the lottery, it could also trade the top pick for an established star like Chicago’s Jimmy Butler or Indiana’s Paul George. Scarily, Boston also gets Brooklyn’s 2018 first-round pick. That trade just keeps getting worse for the Nets.
The other big story line for the draft involves the Los Angeles Lakers. They have a 15.6 percent chance of winning the lottery and 46.9 percent shot of a Top 3 pick. On the NBA odds, the Lakers are +500 to win the lottery and +100 to not get a Top 3 pick. That latter part is crucial because the Lakers must surrender not only this year’s first-round pick to the 76ers if they are outside the Top 3 but also the team’s 2019 first-rounder to the Orlando Magic. If the Lakers do win the lottery, I could see them take UCLA freshman point guard Lonzo Ball at No. 1 overall as the L.A. native would help but fannies in the seats. Ball is +300 to go first to whichever team.
The 76ers could really be something very soon if they can win the lottery and get the Lakers’ pick – so in an ideal world, Philly would pick No. 1 & No. 4 on June 22. That the Sixers get two Top 5 picks is +140. They own the right to swap first-rounders with the Kings if Sacramento were to jump ahead of Philly in the lottery. Sacramento has a 2.3 percent chance at winning the lottery and 8.2 percent at a Top 3 picks.
Lottery Odds (percent chance of winning the top pick in parentheses)
1. Boston (via Brooklyn), (25%)
2. Phoenix (19.9%)
3. L.A. Lakers (15.6%)
4. Philadelphia (11.9%)
5. Orlando (8.8%)
6. Minnesota (5.3%)
7. New York (5.3%)
8. Sacramento (2.8%)
9. Dallas (1.7%)
10. Sacramento (via New Orleans, top-three protected), (1.1%)
11. Charlotte (0.8%)
12. Detroit (0.7%)
13. Denver (0.6%)
14. Miami (0.5%)
If the L.A. Lakers fall outside the top three, their pick is conveyed to Philadelphia. Philadelphia holds swap rights on Sacramento’s pick. If Sacramento’s pick falls outside the Top 10, it goes to Chicago and the Kings keep pick No. 38 instead.