Why 2019 NBA Draft Lottery is so important

Getty Images
4 Comments

The lottery is the NBA’s silliest event. High-ranking team personnel travel across the country to sit on stage as the results are announced. They don’t even watch the actual drawing (though others do that). They just sit and grin or grimace for the cameras based on how ping-pong balls bounced in another room earlier in the night.

The silliest part: How darn important it is.

Dynasties are built in the lottery. Rebuilds are upended in the lottery. Jobs are saved and lost in the lottery.

Few lotteries have been as important as this year’s. The future of the NBA’s competitive balance could swing tonight, and highly touted Zion Williamson is only the start of the significance.

The big three reasons this lottery is particularly critical:

Prospect tiers

Zion Williamson is the quality of prospect who comes along only once every few years. He’s huge, athletic and skilled. Few college players, especially freshmen, have ever affected the game like he did at Duke.

WHOOSH!

That was the steep drop to Murray State point guard Ja Morant, who’s nearing consensus as the No. 2 prospect. Then there’s another drop to Duke forward R.J. Barrett, probably the probably the popular pick as No. 3 prospect. Then, there’s yet another drop to whomever you fancy as the fourth-best prospect in this draft.

These divisions between tiers aren’t solidified. There’s still time for movement as players work out and interview.

But, as it stacks up now, the reward for getting the No. 1 pick is far greater than the reward for getting the No. 2 pick, which is far greater than the reward for getting the No. 3 pick, which is far greater than landing somewhere in the middle of the lottery. Those clear delineations only add to the stakes tonight.

Protected picks

The drama doesn’t end with the high picks. A few trades involving protected picks will have major ramifications.

The Grizzlies owe the Celtics a first-round pick, which is top-eight-protected this year. Neither team wants a middling lottery pick in this weak-looking draft. If not moving into the top four, Memphis would rather convey its selection this year. Boston would rather wait, as the protections drop in subsequent years. The Grizzlies have a 26% chance of getting a top-four pick and a 31% chance they get the undesired No. 8 pick. So, that leaves the Celtics with a 43% chance of getting a pick in the 9-12 range.

Will Boston leave this lottery with an uninspiring pick from Memphis or a tempting long-term asset that could be used to, say, trade for Anthony Davis? Will Memphis enter a rebuild with the threat of losing an even higher first-round pick in a better draft, or will it get this obligation out of the way?

The Mavericks have a 24% chance of landing a top-four pick. If they get one, it’d increase the odds they send the Knicks only one of a possible two first-rounders in the Kristaps Porzingis trade. What a double whammy. In the 76% scenario, Dallas will send the Hawks a pick in the 9-13 range.

The Mavericks will eventually send the Hawks a first-rounder from the Luka DoncicTrae Young trade. But this lottery will determine whether that pick gets conveyed this year and could dictate how these promising teams rise from the basement.

The Kings owe their first-round pick to the Celtics or 76ers. Philadelphia gets it only if it lands No. 1. Otherwise, it goes to Boston. There’s a 95% chance Boston is the first team revealed tonight, getting the No. 14 pick. But if another team shows up first, that means Sacramento’s pick landed in the top four. Though the odds still favor picks 2-4 with the Celtics getting it, the 1% chance of the 76ers getting the No. 1 pick would send this lottery’s excitement level into overdrive until the top selections are revealed.

System expectations

The NBA changed its lottery setup this year – reducing benefits for the very worst teams with flattened odds and a drawing for the top four, rather than top three, picks.

I can see the new odds. You can see the new odds. Every team can see the new odds. They’re not changing next season or for the foreseeable future. The odds will remain what the odds are.

But people running teams can be irrational. How many times have you heard someone decry tanking because of how rarely the worst team has gotten the No. 1 pick? No matter how many or few times that has happened previously, the chances of it happening are unaffected.

So, this lottery could go a long way in setting a tone. If the worst teams get high picks, teams might convince themselves lottery reform didn’t go far enough and there’s still value in tanking. If the lottery features a huge shakeup, teams could be dissuaded from tanking hard.

It’s silly that it comes to that. But, again, all of this is silly.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
Morgan Engel/Getty Images
0 Comments

Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

Pregame of Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.

 

Warriors GM Myers reiterates he would like to extend Green, Poole, Wiggins

Golden State Warriors v Sacramento Kings
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
0 Comments

Andrew Wiggins is entering the final year of his contract and the Warriors want to extend him. Jordan Poole is up for a contract extension and if it isn’t worked out by the start of the season he becomes a restricted free agent next summer. Draymond Green is eligible — and wants — a four years, $138.4 million extension (the max they can give him).

Bob Myers said again this week that he wants to keep all three of those players — all critical parts of the Warriors run to a title last season — but financial reality could intrude upon that dream. Here’s what Myers said Thursday, via Kendra Andrews of ESPN:

“We want all of those guys,” Warriors general manager Bob Myers said at a news conference Thursday. “Can we get all of them? I don’t know.

“It depends on what the money ends up being. What the ask is what we can end up doing. We’re not at a point to make those decisions yet. Some of these decisions may be made in the next two weeks, some might be made in the next seven, eight months.”

The Warriors turned heads around the league paying more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax last season — and this season they will be in the same ballpark. Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob has said even with the cash cow that is the new Chase Center, this is not a team that can spend $400 million. Some expenses are locked in, such as Stephen Curry and his $215.4 max contract extension. Klay Thompson is at the max for a couple of more years.

Poole is part of the future in Golden State — along with Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody, and maybe Jonathan Wiseman — and they can’t let him go. Wiggins was the Warriors’ second-best player in the postseason last year. That has led to some speculation Green could be the odd man out — something Myers has denied. Green will make $25.8 million this season but is  expected to opt out of the $27.6 million player option he has next season. It leaves the Warriors and Green with a choice.

Something’s got to give, but the Myers and the Warriors seem ready to kick that financial can down the road until next summer, and for this season get the band back together and chase another ring.

Poole would be the first up (there is an Oct. 17 deadline to extend him). Whatever happens, this will be an undercurrent of a story all season long in the Bay Area.

C.J. McCollum inks two-year, $64 million extension with Pelicans

Orlando Magic v New Orleans Pelicans
Getty Photo
0 Comments

After helping New Orleans return to the playoffs for the first time since Anthony Davis was traded to the Lakers, C.J. McCollum earned a two-year, $64 million extension with the Pelicans. He will remain under contract with the team through the 2025-26 season, and there isn’t a player or team option in the deal. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news Saturday afternoon.

New Orleans traded Josh Hart, Tomas Satoransky, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Didi Louzada, a 2022 protected first-round pick (turns into 2025 first-round pick that is top-4 protected), and two future second-round picks for McCollum, Larry Nance Jr., and Tony Snell.

New Orleans now has their core of McCollum, Zion Williamson, and Brandon Ingram under contract for the next three seasons.

The expectations will be high for the Pelicans for the next few years. After starting last season 1-12, first-year head coach Willie Green helped turn the team around, and they finished 36-46 before beating the Spurs and Clippers in the play-in tournament. Their season ended after losing to the Suns 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs.

McCollum averaged 24.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 1.3 steals, and 2.7 triples per game after the trade to New Orleans.

The return of Zion this season, along with the success of last year’s team, has the team expecting a return to the playoffs. Locking up their star guard in McCollum emphasizes that their rebuild is over. After missing the playoffs during their first three seasons in the post-AD era, they don’t expect to return to the lottery for a long time. The big question surrounding their potential success will be Zion’s health.