The NBA draft lottery could have an effect on UCLA guard Lonzo Ball’s off-court business.
‘s annual parade of losers will take place on Tuesday night, when representatives from the 14 teams holding picks from teams that missed the playoffs this season will sit on a dais in New York and hope to hear the league’s deputy commissioner, Mark Tatum, announce them as the winners of its annual draft lottery. It’s a night full of optimism for the teams involved, and a chance for fans of teams that missed the playoffs to focus on something else: who their favorite team may select in the NBA draft next month.
The intrigue that comes with this night each year always makes for compelling television, but this year’s lottery promises to be the most compelling and consequential in NBA history. The combination of a draft loaded with top talent – led by point guards Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball – combined with big-market teams like the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks all near the top of the lottery odds gives this year’s event an even higher level of excitement than usual.
Here’s a breakdown for what’s at stake for several of the significant actors in Tuesday’s proceedings:
Los Angeles Lakers
There is no team more dependent on a favorable bounce of the ping-pong balls Tuesday night than the Lakers, who are entering their first draft under the new leadership team of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka. If the Lakers have their combination of ping-pong balls come up for a third straight year, they will hang on to a top-three protected pick from the Steve Nash trade in 2012 for the third straight year – arguably the greatest run of luck in draft history. But not only would the Lakers hang on to their 2017 pick if that happens, but they’d also keep their 2019 pick. If the Lakers give up their pick this year, that pick will go to Orlando as part of the Dwight Howard trade from that same summer. That’s a lot riding on the bounces of a few ping-pong balls.
Since former general manager Sam Hinkie took control of the franchise in 2013, the Sixers have employed his motto: "Trust the Process." The result has been the foundation of a potential future championship contender anchored by Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons – assuming both players can stay healthy. Now, Philadelphia will be hoping to land a second straight No. 1 overall pick, after selecting Simmons last year. It will also be hoping to finally get its hands on the first-round pick the Lakers owe after watching Los Angeles keep it each of the past two seasons. Philadelphia also is able to execute a pick swap with Sacramento if the Kings leap past them in the lottery.
The Celtics advanced to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference finals beginning Wednesday. Yet they also will enter the draft lottery with the best odds of winning the No. 1 pick, thanks to the trade they made with the Brooklyn Nets in 2013. Boston is able to swap picks with Brooklyn this season, and while the Nets finished with the worst record in the league, the Celtics finished with the fourth-best – a potential 26-spot swing, depending on how lucky Boston gets on Tuesday night. The Celtics have resisted trading any of the Brooklyn picks, waiting to see how their long-term future plays out, and will be banking on getting some luck to prove they were right to hang on to them.
New York Knicks
After finishing fourth in the lottery and drafting Kristaps Porzingis in 2015, the Knicks would love to leap into the top three from their current seventh spot in the pecking order to get another young guard to pair with their 7-foot-3 Latvian star. A city that’s been crying out for quality point-guard play for years (outside of the brief reign of Linsanity) would go bonkers over having Fultz or Ball running the show for the next decade. There’s little doubt Knicks fans – as downtrodden a group of fans as there is – are due to have some luck go their way.
Yes, Ball qualifies as one of the entities with the most to gain or lose with how the lottery shakes out. Why? Well, it’s as simple as this: the Big Baller Brand. If Ball is going to make his own shoe and apparel line work, his chances increase dramatically if he winds up in a major market like Boston, Los Angeles, New York or Philadelphia, one where there would be an immediate and massive demand for fans to represent their new starting point guard and face of the franchise.
But he if winds up somewhere like Sacramento, Orlando, Phoenix or Minnesota? Well, his chances of becoming a shoe mogul on his own – already a difficult proposition – become that much harder. Plus, given how much Ball’s father, LaVar, has inserted himself into the public eye over the past several months, there’s little doubt he’d prefer his son to go to a big market (preferably Los Angeles) than to some out-of-the-way small town on the NBA circuit.