The NBA Draft Lottery worked exactly as it was designed to work, which was to disincent teams from tanking for a high pick.
Three of the league’s four worst teams — all with fewer than 20 wins on the season — will pick 5th, 6th and 7th in the NBA Draft next month, while three teams that won 33-plus games will pick among the top four, including the top two overall. Even the Knicks dropped to 3rd overall despite winning the tankathon by finishing with the league’s worst record.
The carnage from the flattened odds, in detail here:
For the Knicks, the 3rd overall pick gives them trade leverage to acquire a superstar (like Anthony Davis) to a team ready to rebuild. Reports have Davis still wanting a trade despite New Orleans pure luck into getting Zion Williamson.
In other words, the new lottery odds worked as planned. Team are now incentivized to get better, because a 33-win season still gets you a 6% at the top overall pick while a 17-win season only gets you a 14% chance.
For new Suns GM James Jones, this outcome could be welcome news — except for the fact that he will get less trade value than he might have at say No. 3 overall.
Jones has said all season that he does not want any more 19-year old players, that he’d rather spend the summer acquiring mid-career veteran starters who can win games right away. The Suns want to win a lot more games next year, and more non-Zion rookies won’t help them do that.
For Suns fans, this anything-below-Zion outcome is welcome news because now Jones and his front office won’t be as tempted to keep the pick use it on someone like Ja Morant.
Rumors have the Suns front office in love with Morant’s upside, almost enough to consider putting him next to Booker next year. But that would just mean the Suns are punting on at least two more years of Booker’s prime to groom a 19-year old point guard?
Jones can now start planning how to trade their No. 6 pick to a team wanting to add to their rebuilding cache of young talent.
Who could the Suns target? A veteran point guard.
New Pelicans GM David Griffin has already said he won’t trade Holiday, but that was before he got the No. 1 overall pick in Zion Williamson, which was followed quickly by reports that AD still wants a trade.
With Zion as the new centerpiece, it’s possible Griffin will now trade AD and Holiday for a complete rebuild. And if he does want to trade Holiday, maybe a package including that No. 6 pick could entice Griffin.
Holiday is mid-career (age 28) and has a reasonable three more years on his contract. He plays both ends of the court at near-All-Star level.
Holiday would be the best possible solution to the Suns’ point guard problem because he can play with these guys for several more years of his prime.
It’s now time for the Grizzlies to enjoy their stroke of great fortune and take Morant at No. 2 overall, to pair with Jaren Jackson Jr. and the Suns’ No. 6 pick, while giving Conley a new home.
Conley is late in his career (32), but still playing at a near-All-Star level. He carried Memphis on his back to 33 wins and has just two (expensive) years left, which includes an early termination option, on a bloated contract.
Conley would be the perfect floor general for Booker, Bridges, Oubre and Ayton for the next year or two.
Who knows what the crazy Lakers are going to do. They’ve got to get better fast, so as not to waste LeBron’s career twilight. Ball seems too under-developed for the Lakers playoff hopes, and appears to have soured relationships with the front office.
Might they trade Ball this summer? Could the Suns trade them T.J. Warren for him, as well as the No. 6 pick so they rebuild their bench for post-LeBron years?
Ball would be a great passer and play solid defense for Phoenix, which is much needed, but would potentially hold the Suns back with his awful shooting. Still, I can see a Ben-Simmons-lite future for Ball, and he’d fill holes Phoenix needs to address.
Or... Ja Morant
Of course, I say all this and it’s still possible the Suns will want Morant anyway. Because Suns.
If the Knicks approach the draft deciding they don’t need to use the No. 2 pick in a trade for a star (because they already have verbal commitments from Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant, for example), they might want to trade down from No. 3.
And it’s possible they might want to add a Josh Jackson or T.J. Warren for the cost to swapping No. 3 for No. 6 if Morant is still on the board. The Knicks already acquired Dennis Smith Jr. for Kristaps Porzingis, so they might be okay dropping back three spots and still getting someone good.
However, the most likely scenarios are that Morant ends up in Memphis or New York anyways.
These are just a few ideas, Suns fans. Who knows what’s going to happen moving forward.