NBA Draft Lottery Preview: Who’ll Land The Top Pick?

It’s like a normal state lottery. The ping-pong balls bounce around carrying the hopes of many, and the ending resulting in someone hitting the jackpot. Except tonight, the jackpot is the top overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The 15 teams in the lottery will make their way to New York City tonight for the yearly lottery, each with varying likelihood’s of landing the top pick. For some, such as the Miami Heat and the Denver Nuggets, they won’t have to do much waiting as they have the lowest odds of landing the top pick. For others, like Boston and Phoenix, it’s bound to be a night full of anxious waiting as they have the highest odds in the lottery.

Here’s a quick preview of the three teams with the highest odds of landing the No. 1 overall pick:

Boston Celtics – 25%

Talk about having the best of both worlds. The Celtics are the top seed in the East, just clinched a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals, and somehow have the highest chance to land the top pick in the 2017 draft.

That’s due to the fact this pick comes via Brooklyn from the trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to the Nets back in 2013. Boston received three first round picks in the trade (2014, 2016, 2018) as well as the right to swap first round picks in 2017. Since Brooklyn finished with the worst record in the league at 20-62, Boston now sits atop the draft lottery while Brooklyn will have to pick in the late stages of the first round.

Boston will have an interesting decision on their hands depending on where they’re slotted. Their biggest area of need is an athletic wing scorer who can defend in Brad Steven’s system, and there are guys on the board who could fill that need such as Kansas’ Josh Jackson or Duke’s Jayson Tatum.

However, the top two players in most mock drafts have consistently been Markelle Fultz from Washington, and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, both point guards. The only problem? Boston’s best player, Isaiah Thomas, plays that position, and at an All-Star level at that. Depending on where they land in the draft order, the decision might be made for them, but their front office will have some thinking to do if they land the top pick.

Phoenix Suns – 19.9%

Don’t look too deep into the Suns finishing with the second worst record in the league (24-58). This is a team packed with young talent.

So young in fact, they featured the youngest starting lineup in NBA history this season in a loss to the Nets. They started Tyler Ulis (21), Devin Booker (20), Derrick Jones Jr. (20), Marquese Chriss (19), and Alex Len (23), combining for an average age of just over 21 years old. And that lineup includes talented guys like guard Eric Bledsoe, who usually is a starter, along with Dragan Bender.

Essentially, Phoenix is an emerging team who’s young enough to probably take the best player on the board as they’re in it for the long haul. Considering the presence of Bledsoe at point guard, mock drafts like the one from USA Today and SEC Country have them taking Josh Jackson. Jackson would probably slide in at the 3-spot, giving Phoenix a super-athletic trio of Booker, Jackson, and Chriss.

Los Angeles Lakers – 15.6%

While owning the third best odds at the top pick, there’s also a high chance things may go very wrong for Los Angeles on the night.

As part of the Steve Nash trade in 2012, among the four draft picks they gave up was a protected first round pick, now owned by Philadelphia. The Lakers have avoided losing their draft picks the past two years, but this year, it is a top-three protected pick. If the ping-pong balls bounce the wrong way for the Lakers, they could end up with a pick outside the top three, say at four, and then the pick would go the Sixers.

But if the Lakers are able in fact to keep their pick, it could go along way to sending them back to the playoffs for the first time since Kobe Bryant’s heyday. The top projection to the Lakers has consistently been the local kid who played his college ball in Westwood, point guard Lonzo Ball. At 6’6″ with good perimeter shooting and a high basketball IQ, Ball would slip right into the starting point guard role and bump D’Angelo Russell to a more natural off the ball role at shooting guard. With other young guys like Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram, it would be an intriguing young nucleus for Los Angeles.

The Ball family seems to think that’s the ideal fit too, as Lavar Ball, Lonzo’s outspoken dad, has repeatedly said his son will end up playing for his hometown team.

Time/ Info

The NBA Draft Lottery is scheduled for 8:30 and can be watched on ESPN. The 2017 NBA Draft is June 22 at 7 p.m. and can also be watched on ESPN.


About Jonathan Acosta

Native New Englander. Follow me on Twitter: @jonacosta_10

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