Kurt Helin

Your NBA Draft Lottery Primer: Everything you need to know before lottery balls drawn


Before the two best teams in the Eastern Conference show us what good basketball looks like (or, at least we can hope the Raptors are up to that task), the NBA’s worst teams get to watch fate play a hand in their fortunes.

The NBA’s Draft lottery is Tuesday night in Brooklyn.

The 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs — well, except the Brooklyn Nets, New York Knicks, both of whom traded away their picks — will have representatives on hand hoping to land a spot to draft Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram in the top two spots (because there is a drop off after those two). Below is everything you need to know for the evening.

• What are the lottery odds? Here you go:

Team, odds of No. 1 pick, odds of Top 3 pick
1. Philadelphia 76ers, 25%, 64.3%
2. Los Angeles Lakers, 19.9%, 55.8%
3. Boston Celtics (via Nets), 15.6%, 46.9%
4. Phoenix Suns, 11.9%, 37.8%
5. Minnesota Timberwolves, 8.8%, 29.1%
6. New Orleans Pelicans, 6.3%, 21.5%
7. Denver Nuggets (via Knicks), 4.3%, 15.0%
8. Sacramento Kings, 1.9%, 6.8%
9. Toronto Raptors (via Nuggets), 1.9%, 6.8%
10. Milwaukee Bucks, 1.8%, 6.5%
11. Orlando Magic, 0.8%, 2.9%
12. Utah Jazz, 0.7%, 2.5 percent
13. Phoenix Suns (via Wizards), 0.6%, 2.2%
14. Chicago Bulls 0.5%, 1.8%

• If the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick falls out of the Top 3 — and there’s a 44% chance that happens — the pick goes to the Philadelphia 76ers to close out the Steve Nash trade.

• The Brooklyn Nets traded their pick unprotected to the Celtics as part of the Kevin Garnett deal.

• The Denver Nuggets traded the rights to swap picks with the Knicks. Denver gets to keep their own pick or take New York’s whichever is better (combined that gives then a 21 percent chance to jump into the top three). Then the Nuggets traded the rights to the lesser of those picks to the Raptors. So the Knicks are frozen out, and it all stems back to the Andrea Bargnani trade. Yes, Andrea Bargnani is once again haunting Knicks fans.

• The Wizards’ pick is Top 9 protected, so if it does jump to the Top 3 (2.2 percent chance) then the Wizards get it back from the Suns.

• If the Sacramento Kings’ pick jumps to No. 1 (a 1.9 percent chance), it goes to the Sixers as part of the Nik Stauskas deal. If three teams below the Kings jump them into the top three (the odds of this are infinitesimal) it falls out of the Top 10 and the Bulls get the pick.

• There will be three players from the 2015 Kentucky Wildcats on the NBA Draft Lottery Stage.

• Who is representing the teams on the stage? No owners’ sons this year, the league tightened those rules (hallelujah!). Here is the list of representiatives:

1) Brett Brown, coach, Philadelphia 76ers
2) Mitch Kupchak, GM, Los Angeles Lakers
3) Isaiah Thomas, player, Boston Celtics
4) Devin Booker, player, Phoenix Suns.
5) Karl-Anthony Towns, player, Minnesota Timberwolves
6) Alvin Gentry, coach, New Orleans Pelicans
7) Michael Malone, coach, Denver Nuggets
8) Willie Cauley-Stein, player, Sacramento Kings
9) Masai Ujiri, GM, Toronto Raptors
10) Jason Kidd, coach, Milwaukee Bucks
11) Rob Hennigan, GM, Orlando Magic
12) Steve Starks, president, Utah Jazz
13) Jimmy Butler, player, Chicago Bulls
14) Zach Leonsis, vice president, Washington Wizards (in case the pick jumps to the top three and they get to keep it)

Did Russell Westbrook travel in final minute?


The Oklahoma City Thunder once again caught a break on a call in the final minute of a close game.

Up three with :21 seconds left after an Andre Iguodala bucket, Russell Westbrook ultimately ends up with the inbounds pass and brought the ball up with Klay Thompson on him, then just as he got over halfcourt Westbrook stopped to call a timeout.

As he does, he drags his pivot foot. It’s clear from the video.

Is that a travel? Yes.

Have NBA officials called that particular travel all season long? No. Not even close.

The NBA will once again issue a ruling in its two-minute report, and once again that will be moot because it changes nothing. Steve Kerr can play the role Gregg Popovich did last series and frustratedly shrug off the report.

Warriors fans, this call is not why you lost. Rushed shots, Stephen Curry‘s off-balance game and seven turnovers, struggling with the Thunder’s bigger lineups, there were plenty of reasons Golden State dropped this game. This travel call wasn’t a key one. But once again, a Thunder opponent was robbed of a chance to even the game late because of a call.


When Thunder stayed big, defended better, Warriors lost composure, Game 1

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With 4:04 left in the first half, Billy Donovan’s Thunder team was down six and he decided to experiment against the Warriors: He would go small. Serge Ibaka moved to center, Kevin Durant was at the four. Warriors coach Steve Kerr quickly responded with his small ball “death lineup” where Draymond Green is the center.

By the half, the Warriors were up 13. Donovan learned he couldn’t out Warriors the Warriors.

So in the second half he stayed big — including playing Steven Adams and Enes Kanter together for 7:45, in which time the Thunder were +14. Yes, they had a rebounding advantage and that mattered, but the real change was that the Thunder defended better in the second half. All that size protected the rim — the Warriors were 8-of-19 shooting inside eight feet of the rim in the second half. The Thunder were smarter about switching and playing the pick-and-roll. The size slowed the game down. The Thunder were more disciplined about chasing the Warriors off the arc, but Golden State didn’t make the Thunder pay when they drove.

“A lot of quick shots, too many quick shots,” Kerr said of his team, which shot 26 percent in the fourth quarter.” Five minutes to go in the game, we’re down four, and we were acting like we had 20 seconds left.”

Size mattered and the Thunder came back to take Game 1 108-102. Game 2 is Wednesday.

The length of the Thunder defenders seemed to bother the Warriors. So did the quickness of Russell Westbrook.

“He’s probably the quickest guard in the league in terms of getting his hands on loose balls, long rebounds, getting his hands in on a steal, whatever,” Kerr said. “There were several key ones in the second half when we kind of lost our momentum. Careless passes, when we didn’t have the flow to whatever set we were running. I thought when we lost our momentum a lot of it had to do with his speed and aggressiveness.”

Westbrook was on Stephen Curry much of the night (although with switches and cross matches in transition Curry had a number of guys guard him.) That didn’t make Curry’s life easy,

“They didn’t make many mistakes on the defensive end,” Curry said

Oklahoma City can play better, too — Durant and Westbrook shot a combined 17-of-51. And their defense has been improving over the course of the season if you ask Donovan.

“One of them was to my fault early in the year… more trying to have guys make reads in pick-and-roll coverages — where the ball gets to, when we should late switch it, when we should trap it. At times, to be honest with you, I think it was a little too confusing for them, and it was too much,” Donovan said. “Then we simplified some things, made things very clear and a little more concrete.”

Donovan has become more comfortable making adjustments, and the one he made to stay big and when to switch the pick-and-roll worked in Game 1. The challenge is that Kerr and the Warriors have been fantastic at adjusting the past couple seasons, and they have the versatility to do it.

But the first statement of the series goes to the Thunder defense.

NBA VP Kiki Vandeweghe doesn’t see “anything imminent” in change of lottery system

Associated Press

Tuesday night, the lottery balls will fly around in the back room at the Barclays’ Center, while out on stage players/coaches/GMs will sit and awkwardly wait for their franchise’s fortunes to be pulled out of oversized envelopes.

The lottery was put in place to prevent tanking, teams intentionally racing to the worst record so they would get the top pick in the draft. With the lottery, the Philadephia 76ers — the worst team in the NBA this past season — has just a 25 percent chance of the top slot. They can’t fall any farther than fourth.

Sam Hinkie is gone, but his unapologetic effort to take his team to the bottom to draft elite players still lingers over the NBA, with people still throwing around lottery reform ideas.

But don’t expect any soon, NBA senior vice president of basketball operations Kiki Vandeweghe told Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News.

What do you think of the current NBA lottery system?

Vandeweghe: “The first thing is, the lottery is not supposed to incentivize losing. In theory, it’s supposed to help the teams with the worst record. That’s the whole purpose behind it. It’s been constructed in different ways and changed a variety of times over the course and adjusted as needed. But those are the two tenets to keep in mind.”

Have there been any recent league proposals to change it?

Vandeweghe:: “Nothing recently. I don’t think see anything imminent. A year and a half ago, there was a lot of momentum for change. We brought some thoughts to the Board of Governors. The majority of the owners were in favor of change. But a change really takes a super majority (two/thirds of owners, or 23). So we barely missed that. I don’t know what has happened in between that. We’ve focused on different areas. I would assume it hasn’t really changed that much.”

It was small and middle market owners that balked at change, mostly because they feared they would be screwed when some day in the future they were going to try to rebuild through the draft. They saw the system tilting to potentially favor larger markets, which already have some recruiting advantages.

With Hinkie gone and every team around the league about to be flush with cash, team building is taking on different forms. The momentum for change is gone. At least for now.

After long overseas career, Nets coach Kenny Atkinson back in New York

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NEW YORK (AP) Long before playing in Europe or coaching in Mexico, Kenny Atkinson was a ballplayer from New York.

And when he looked into a crowd of familiar faces Monday that included his family and high school coach, it finally hit him.

He’s home.

Atkinson was introduced as the Brooklyn Nets’ coach, his newest address on a lengthy basketball journey bringing him not far from his original one of Huntington, New York.

The sixth Nets’ coach since they moved to Brooklyn in 2012, Atkinson had to pause to regain his composure in his opening remarks as he talked about his connection to the area and the people who helped him get back here.

“This press conference was like, wow, and I think that’s why I got a little emotional,” Atkinson said. “Just seeing all the familiar faces and family, that was like, wow.”

Atkinson was hired nearly a month ago, but said Monday was his first time in the gym with the Nets. He was an assistant with the Atlanta Hawks and remained with them until their season ended following a second-round loss to Cleveland, then accompanied the Nets to the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago last week.

On Monday, he was in their new training center that looks out over New York, thinking about listening to Nets games on the radio as a kid, or playing ball in the city at a time when Chris Mullin and Pearl Washington were the schoolboy stars.

“So all that stuff comes into play, like my family being here, so it means more than if I was to be a coach of another team in the NBA,” Atkinson said.

General manager Sean Marks, who was hired in February, picked Atkinson as his first coaching hire. He said they knew each other for about five years, both with ties to the San Antonio Spurs, and said Atkinson quickly emerged as the one he wanted as his partner in rebuilding the organization.

“I sat with at least half a dozen and out of those guys it was pretty clear that Kenny was my No. 1 choice,” Marks said. “Going into it there was a familiarity with Kenny. I loved everything he stood for, what he was all about, his grit, his determination, his work ethic, but above all is just the person he is.”

Atkinson spent four seasons as an assistant with the Hawks and four with the New York Knicks, and before that was the Houston Rockets’ director of player development for a year.

His pro career until then was almost entirely overseas. He played in Italy, France, Germany and Spain, and was on the coaching staffs of the Republic of George and Ukraine. He also coached the Dominican Republic last summer in the FIBA Americas tournament in Mexico City.

That sometimes made it hard even for his family to keep tabs, but that won’t be a problem now. His seven brothers and his mother were at the news conference, as was Gus Alfieri, his coach at St. Anthony’s High School.

The Nets could face a slow building process after going 21-61 last season, but Atkinson said he is prepared for whatever criticism comes if the winning doesn’t right away.

“It’s part of the job,” he said. “It’s New York and I get that and I accept it and I embrace it. I embrace the pressure and I know that comes with the territory, especially here.”

Former Orlando coach Jacque Vaughn will be on his staff, and Marks said the remainder of it will be announced soon.

The Nets don’t have a first-round pick but Marks believes Atkinson, with a strong reputation for developing players, could be an asset in free agency. They’d like to eventually build an organization somewhat like the Spurs, where Marks worked his way up from player to assistant general manager, and where Mike Budenholzer was a longtime assistant before hiring Atkinson when he got the Hawks coaching job.

“This isn’t San Antonio, this isn’t Atlanta,” Marks said. “This is Brooklyn and we’ll do our best to make it our own.”

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