Ranking the biggest NBA draft lotteries of all-time

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The 2019 NBA draft lottery appears particularly important.

Where does it rank all-time?

Here are the five biggest lotteries, based on what we knew entering the drawing:

1. 1997 (Tim Duncan)

Duncan looked like a ready-made superstar coming out of Wake Forest, where he played for four years. That gave NBA teams plenty of time to salivate over him.

The Celtics tanked their way to a 15-67 record and traded Eric Montross to the Mavericks for another lottery pick. Boston had a 36% chance of getting the No. 1 pick and treated it as a likelihood.

Instead, the Spurs got the top pick and built a dynasty around Duncan. Boston settled for and made little use of the No. 3 pick (Chauncey Billups) and No. 6 pick (Ron Mercer).

2. 1985 (Patrick Ewing)

The NBA’s first lottery came just in time. Ewing looked like a generational prospect at Georgetown. Teams would have tanked hard for him.

At first, every lottery team had an equal chance at each pick in the lottery. So, this was an important experiment for determining how, and how not, to structure the drawing.

The Knicks won the lottery that sparked a thousand conspiracies, and Ewing manned the pivot in New York for a decade and a half. Every team saw the importance of getting a high pick – and just how fickle attempting to land one could be.

Ewing was the clear prize, but the next few picks – Wayman Tisdale, Benoit Benjamin, Xavier McDaniel, Jon Koncak – retroactively made clear the importance of getting No. 1 this year.

3. 2012 (Anthony Davis)

Davis was a special prospect, but at this point, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist also impressive. At least everyone was right about Davis, whom New Orleans got. (Kidd-Gilchrist went No. 2 to Charlotte).

In addition to the big name at the top, a couple protected picks had lasting ramifications.

The Warriors, with the No. 7 lottery seed and a top-seven-protected pick, stayed at No. 7. They used that pick on Harrison Barnes, who became a starter on their 2015 title team and 73-win team the following year.

On the other hand, the Nets stayed at No. 6 and conveyed their top-three-protected pick to the Trail Blazers. Portland took Damian Lillard and have since built a conference finalist around him. Brooklyn soon entered a dark period it’s now just escaping.

2003 (LeBron James)

LeBron was on the cover of Sports Illustrated in high school… as a junior. The hype was palpable, especially with his hometown team – the Cleveland Cavaliers – having the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick.

But by the time of the lottery, Darko Milicic and Carmelo Anthony had emerged as great consolation prizes. Chris Bosh was working his way into an impressive fourth prospect. The draft appeared to remain deep throughout the lottery with a strong group that’d later be headlined by Dwyane Wade. So, as coveted as LeBron was, it was also important just to have a pick in this lottery.

That’s why two protected selections loomed so large.

The Grizzlies kept their own pick only on the 6% chance they got No. 1. So, it was LeBron or bust. Memphis busted, though its conveyed pick – No. 2 to the Pistons, who took Darko – was also the rare bust in this draft.

The Hawks, the No. 8 seed in the lottery, owed the Bucks a top-three-protected first-rounder. Atlanta stayed at No. 8 and gave Milwaukee the pick used on T.J. Ford.

5. 2019 (Zion Williamson)

See here.

Honorable mention:

2007 (Greg Oden and Kevin Durant): With two projected superstars in the draft, it didn’t feel as essential to get the No. 1 pick over the No. 2 pick – slightly lowering the perceived importance of this lottery. Oops.

2009 (Blake Griffin): Griffin stood alone as the top prospect, but Ricky Rubio was a highly rated second prospect – who surprisingly fell to No. 5.

1987 (David Robinson): As great as Robinson was, there was too much uncertainty about when he’d jump to the NBA from Navy, including whether he’d actually join the team that drafted him in 1987.

1992 (Shaquille O’Neal): Shaq looked awesome and became the (correct) No. 1 pick, but eventual Nos. 2 and 3 picks Alonzo Mourning and Christian Laettner softened the blow of not landing the top pick, at least in the theory of the time.

Cavaliers to interview Spurs assistant coach Ettore Messina

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CLEVELAND (AP) A person familiar with Cleveland’s coaching search tells The Associated Press the Cavaliers have scheduled an interview this week with San Antonio assistant Ettore Messina.

The person spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because the team is keeping details of its search confidential.

Messina’s coaching resume includes numerous titles in Europe. He also coached Italy’s national team. The 59-year-old Messina has worked on Spurs coach Gregg Popovich’s staff since 2014.

Messina will be the second San Antonio assistant to meet with Cleveland, which interviewed Ime Udoka on Sunday.

The Cavs had an unsuccessful experience with a prominent European coach when David Blatt was hired in 2014. Blatt didn’t mesh with his players and was fired midway through his second season.

Cleveland has previously interviewed Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosley, Miami assistant Juwan Howard, former Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff and Utah assistant Alex Jensen.

Cavaliers to interview Spurs assistant coach Ime Udoka

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CLEVELAND (AP) The Cavaliers have scheduled another interview in their slow, steady search for a coach.

Cleveland will meet with former NBA player and current San Antonio assistant coach Ime Udoka about its opening, a person familiar with Cleveland’s schedule told The Associated Press on Friday night.

The Cavs, who have been taking a methodical approach in finding their next coach, will meet with Udoka on Sunday, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the team is not revealing any of its plans.

Udoka has worked on Gregg Popovich’s staff since 2012, a year after he retired following stints with the Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks, Portland Trail Blazers, Spurs and Sacramento Kings. The 41-year-old Udoka has been lauded for his work with former Spurs star Kawhi Leonard and others. The Cavs are intent on adding a coach with a strong background in player development, and Udoka fits that profile.

Cleveland continued interviewing candidates on Friday by meeting with Utah assistant Alex Jensen, the person said. Jensen has worked with Cleveland’s organization in the past, holding several roles and coaching the team’s Canton Charge affiliate in the NBA’s G League.

The Cavs have previously interviewed Dallas assistant Jamahl Mosley, Miami’s Juwan Howard and former Memphis coach J.B. Bickerstaff. The club has also received permission to meet with Denver assistants Jordi Fernandez and Wes Unseld Jr., and Portland assistants Nate Tibbetts and David Vanterpool.

The Nuggets and Blazers are still in the playoffs, and the Cavs don’t want to interfere until those teams are done playing.

Cleveland’s search for a new coach began following the season when the Cavs mutually parted ways with Larry Drew after going 19-63.

Report: Gregg Popovich to sign three-year contract with Spurs, remain NBA’s highest-paid coach

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Though Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich avoided a straight answer about his future, signs pointed to him returning.

It appears even the formalities are nearly complete.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Once Gregg Popovich formally commits to return for his 24th season as San Antonio Spurs coach, he’s expected to sign a three-year contract that will keep him as the highest paid coach in the NBA, league sources told ESPN.

A Popovich contract extension has been a foregone conclusion for months, but the deal won’t change the fact that he will continue taking his coaching future on a year-to-year basis, league sources said. Spurs ownership believes he’s entitled to manage his future how he wishes, sources said.

Popovich reportedly earns about $11 million annually. He’s worth it. No team comes close to building around its coach like San Antonio with Popovich. He’s so good at developing players and instilling cohesion. He has kept the Spurs churning past their superstars leaving.

His title of team president also surely increases his salary, though not so much his workload.

San Antonio might not have the highest ceiling with Popovich around. A coach like him demands stocking the roster with capable veterans, not wasting a year tanking. But making the playoffs every year can be satisfying.

Popovich ranks third on the all-time coaching wins list – just 87 behind Lenny Wilkens and 90 behind Don Nelson. If he completes this contract, Popovich should pass both. Even if he coaches just two more years, Popovich has a chance to break the record.

Spurs staffer reportedly says ‘no doubt’ Gregg Popovich will return

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In January, Spurs president-coach Gregg Popovich said he didn’t know whether he’d retire after after this season, the final year of his contract.

Mike Finger of the San Antonio-Express News:

I expect Popovich to come back, and one Spurs staffer said late Saturday night he had “no doubt.”

Jabari Young of The Athletic:

Popovich will coach Team USA in the 2019 World Cup and 2020 Olympics. So, he’s definitely not walking away entirely.

Does the 70-year-old want to continue with his NBA workload? I think so. He strikes a good work-life balance, and he’s one of the greatest coaches of all-time. Far more than any other NBA team with its coach, the Spurs are built around him. If he remains, San Antonio has a fighting chance to make the playoffs. Again.

But it has been a trying couple years. Under his watch, the Spurs alienated and traded their franchise player, Kawhi Leonard. In their last game, Popovich couldn’t reach his team at a crucial moment.

Popovich has earned the right to take as long as he wants to decide on a new contract. I suspect, though, he’ll eventually sign one.