Next Tuesday is potentially a franchise-changing day for the teams that didn't make the NBA playoffs as the NBA draft lottery will be staged from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Raptors, Celtics Rare Playoff Participants
Of course 16 teams make the NBA playoffs every season, meaning 14 miss out. However, there are two playoff teams in the lottery: the Boston Celtics (eliminated in the first round by the Atlanta Hawks) and Toronto Raptors (still playing Miami Heat in East semifinals).
That's because the Celtics own the first-round pick of the Brooklyn Nets, thanks to the absolutely atrocious Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce trade a few years back for Brooklyn. No one gives up unprotected first-round picks these days, but the former Nets GM did then. Absolute thievery by Celtics GM Danny Ainge. The Nets finished with the third-worst record in the NBA and thus have the third-best odds to win the lottery at 15.6 percent. Boston is +500 to win the lottery. The Nets/Celtics have a 46.9 percent chance of getting a Top-3 pick, but this is in many ways a two-person draft. More on that shortly.
The Raptors and Denver Nuggets are both tied to the New York Knicks' pick. In July 2013, the Raptors traded Andrea Bargnani to New York Knicks for Steve Novak, Marcus Camby, Quentin Richardson and a 2016 first-round pick (steal!). But on February 2011 as part of the Carmelo Anthony deal, the Knicks traded to Denver the right to swap first-round picks in 2016. So Denver will basically get the better of its pick or New York's in this draft. Thus Toronto can't win the lottery because then the Nuggets would claim it. The Raptors are +4000 on NBA odds to win the lottery and then hand it over. Denver is +2000 to win it with its own selection.
Is This Finally Philly's Year?
The Philadelphia 76ers have been full-blown tanking for a few years but have remained terrible in part because they haven't been able to win the lottery. The 76ers were an atrocious 10-72 this season -- just avoiding the NBA record of 73 losses -- and thus have the best chance of winning the lottery at 25 percent (250 ping-pong balls out of 1,000).
Philadelphia also has the right to switch picks with the Sacramento Kings as a condition of last July's trade that got the 76ers Nik Stauskas and Carl Landry in a Sacramento salary dump. The Kings finished with the NBA's eighth-worst record and have a 1.9 percent chance of winning the lottery. But obviously they can't win it as the 76ers would take it. So including the Kings' odds, the 76ers have a 26.9 percent chance to pick first and 49.5 percent chance to land either the first or second slot. Coach Brett Brown will represent the 76ers at the lottery.
Philadelphia is the +275 favorite on NBA picks to win the lottery with its own pick. The team with the worst record last year, Minnesota, did win the lottery and hit a home run with Kentucky big man Karl-Anthony Towns. The previous time the team with the best lottery chance won it was Orlando in 2004 when the Magic took Dwight Howard.
The Sixers are +250 to get the No. 1 pick, +275 for the No. 2 pick, +300 for the third pick and +225 to pick outside the Top 3.
The Los Angeles Lakers finished with the second-worst record and have the second-best shot at winning the lottery at 19.9 percent. The 76ers own the right to the Lakers' pick, without qualification, if it's outside the top three. The Lakers are +375 to win lottery. They are -150 to pick in the Top 3 and +120 not to. Los Angeles has a 55.8 percent chance of keeping its selection: that 19.9 percent for No 1, 18.8 percent for No. 2 and 17.1 percent for third.
I say this is a two-man draft because by most accounts two players stand above the rest, both freshmen this past college season: LSU's Ben Simmons and Duke's Brandon Ingram.
Simmons, from Australia, has been compared to Magic Johnson after averaging 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists for the Tigers at 6-foot-10. There is one major knock on Simmons: He can't shoot a lick. No jumper at all. But then Magic didn't have much of one, either, when he entered the NBA. Ingram, a 6-foot-9 swingman, averaged 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds for the Blue Devils. He's not as well-rounded as Simmons but is a very good shooter. BetOnline lists Simmons as the No. 1 overall pick at -240 and Ingram at +190.
There aren't many teams that would pass on Simmons. But Minnesota (+950 to win the lottery) could be one. He would fit great as a small forward/stretch 4 with the Wolves. The Wolves already have an elite passer in Ricky Rubio. The 76ers have plenty of big men and badly need shooting and could consider Ingram, but Simmons has so much upside.
NBA Free Picks: Simmons goes first and the 76ers pick there -- maybe that extra 1.9 percent is the difference. The Lakers stay in the Top 3 but probably trade the pick for a younger established star in the NBA.