In a draft lottery that stayed to form — the only shift was New Orleans from fourth to first — there are still winners. And there are still losers. The only difference is it is based more on what you did going into the draft then the luck of the ping-pong balls. If you gambled on a good result, you got snake eyes.
So who won and who lost. Lets take a look.
Winner: New Orleans Hornets. They get the top pick. They get Anthony Davis, the franchise changing big man to go up front. They can market the unibrow. This is a franchise that was in such bad shape a couple years ago that the league had to buy it to keep it in the city. Now they have a new, committed owner in Tom Benson, a great young coach in Monty Williams, and don’t forget they got maybe the best young two-guard in the league in Eric Gordon as part of the Chris Paul trade. There’s a lot of work to do, but the Hornets are now officially a team on the rise.
Loser: Brooklyn Nets. They traded their first round pick in this draft to get Gerald Wallace and the only way they got to keep it is if it was top three. No dice, Portland gets the pick. Wallace, by the way, is a free agent who could leave the Nets this summer. Remember the Nets also gave up a couple lottery picks to get Deron Williams from the Jazz last year. Deron Williams who also is a free agent and could leave the team. And now they don’t have any first round picks this year to throw in for Orlando if they want to try and trade for Dwight Howard.
The Nets could strike out this summer and have nothing to sell when they move into their new Brooklyn arena. Except for Jay-Z.
Winner: Golden State Warriors. They had a deal with Utah — if the pick was in the top 7 Golden State got to keep it, if it was 8 or lower it went to Utah. The Warriors tanked at the end of the season (finished 1-11) to get into that spot, they just couldn’t have anybody leapfrog them at the lottery. There was a 28 percent chance someone could cost the team it’s first round pick. They got lucky.
Loser: Charlotte Bobcats. Not a huge loss, but they go from having the sure-fire Davis at No. 1 to having to make a more difficult choice at No. 2. Do they take Andre Drummond, the talented UConn big man who has a high ceiling but didn’t always show a lot of passion and fire in college? Kentucky’s Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will bring it hard every night and defend, but he doesn’t have the same ceiling. No easy call for them now, no sure thing.
Kevin Durant has been working out on the court before the last couple of Warriors road games, and people watching have taken note — he was moving well, shooting, and generally looking healthy for a guy coming off a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise.
Reports were out that Durant was on target to return before the end of the season.
Wednesday the Warriors confirmed that.
Teams are vague, realistically what is that timeline?
Durant likely would be on a minutes restriction for those game, but just getting to shake the rust off and work on his conditioning in a real game would help Golden State heading into the playoffs.
Not that they need much help, having won eight in a row. The Warriors have a 2.5 game lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the game between the two Wednesday night.
The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.
But that young Lakers core also has its moments.
Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.
After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.
What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.
Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).
That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.
Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.
The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).
Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.
The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.
Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.
It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.