So much of a team’s fate in the NBA is tied to its ability to land superstar talent. So much superstar talent comes through the top end of the draft that many organizations base their rebuilding philosophy around the draft lottery. The success of the Spurs and Hawks largely stands in defiance of that idea.
Every team in the league has at least three former lottery picks on its roster, aside from San Antonio and Atlanta. It’s undeniable that one of those lottery picks on the Spurs, Tim Duncan, is a generational talent and foundational player who helped mold the franchise into what it is today. But Duncan is 39, and while still productive, he’s no longer capable of carrying a team by himself. Offseason free agent signee LaMarcus Aldridge is the other former lottery pick on the Spurs, but the team has compiled its 7-2 record — second best in the Western Conference heading into today — without anyone else with a lottery pedigree.
The Hawks are the same way, thanks in large measure to coach/president of basketball operations Mike Budenholzer and former GM Danny Ferry, both of whom have strong ties to the Spurs. Al Horford has been a mainstay, but while Thabo Sefolosha has been a key part of the team’s success, no one would mistake him for a superstar. Those are the only two former lottery picks on the Hawks, and yet they’re 8-3, and began today in second place in the Eastern Conference, the same position in which the Spurs find themselves in the West.
The assortment of teams with a league-high eight former lottery picks demonstrates the capriciousness of the draft. Three of them make sense, as the Clippers, Thunder and Warriors are all expected to contend, and Golden State is threatening to run away with the regular season’s best record for the second year in a row. The Hornets and Trail Blazers are sub-.500 teams with little expectation of winning this year, especially now that Charlotte has lost former No. 2 overall pick Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to injury.
Indeed, not all former lottery picks are created equal. Injuries keep some from helping their teams, while age hampers others. No. 1 picks have a greater chance of success than No. 14 picks do. Still, it’s telling that two of the most successful organizations in the NBA can rise to that level almost entirely without players from the lottery.
Here’s a look at the former lottery picks on every team, categorized by the volume of them on each roster:
Eight lottery picks
- Clippers (Cole Aldrich, Jamal Crawford, Blake Griffin, Wesley Johnson, Chris Paul, Paul Pierce, J.J. Redick, Austin Rivers)
- Hornets (Tyler Hansbrough, Spencer Hawes, Frank Kaminsky, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeremy Lamb, Kemba Walker, Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller)
- Thunder (Steven Adams, D.J. Augustin, Nick Collison, Kevin Durant, Enes Kanter, Cameron Payne, Dion Waiters, Russell Westbrook)
- Trail Blazers (Al-Farouq Aminu, Ed Davis, Gerald Henderson, Chris Kaman, Meyers Leonard, Damian Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Noah Vonleh)
- Warriors (Harrison Barnes, Andrew Bogut, Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Brandon Rush, Jason Thompson, Klay Thompson)
Seven lottery picks
- Timberwolves (Kevin Garnett, Zach LaVine, Andre Miller, Shabazz Muhammad, Ricky Rubio, Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins)
- Wizards (Bradley Beal, Drew Gooden, Kris Humphries, Nene, Otto Porter, John Wall, Martell Webster)
Six lottery picks
- Bucks (Jerryd Bayless, Michael Carter-Williams, John Henson, O.J. Mayo, Greg Monroe, Jabari Parker)
- Bulls (Mike Dunleavy, Pau Gasol, Kirk Hinrich, Doug McDermott, Joakim Noah, Derrick Rose)
- Jazz (Trey Burke, Alec Burks, Dante Exum, Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, Trey Lyles)
- Raptors (Anthony Bennett, Bismack Biyombo, DeMar DeRozan, Patrick Patterson, Terrence Ross, Jonas Valanciunas)
- Suns (Devin Booker, Tyson Chandler, Brandon Knight, Alex Len, Markieff Morris, T.J. Warren)
Five lottery picks
- Cavaliers (Kyrie Irving, LeBron James, Richard Jefferson, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson)
- Heat (Chris Bosh, Luol Deng, Amar’e Stoudemire, Dwyane Wade, Justise Winslow)
- Kings (Caron Butler, Willie Cauley-Stein, DeMarcus Cousins, Rudy Gay, Ben McLemore)
- Magic (Channing Frye, Aaron Gordon, Mario Hezonja, Victor Oladipo, Elfrid Payton)
- Mavericks (Raymond Felton, Devin Harris, Dirk Nowitzki, Charlie Villanueva, Deron Williams)
- Nets (Andrea Bargnani, Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez, Thomas Robinson, Thaddeus Young)
- Pistons (Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Andre Drummond, Brandon Jennings, Stanley Johnson, Marcus Morris)
- Sixers (Joel Embiid, Kendall Marshall, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, Nik Stauskas)
Four lottery picks
- Grizzlies (Vince Carter, Mike Conley, Jeff Green, Brandan Wright)
- Nuggets (Randy Foye, Danilo Gallinari, Mike Miller, Emmanuel Mudiay)
- Pelicans (Anthony Davis, Tyreke Evans, Jimmer Fredette, Eric Gordon)
- Rockets (Corey Brewer, James Harden, Dwight Howard, Jason Terry)
Three lottery picks
- Celtics (Kelly Olynyk, Marcus Smart, Evan Turner)
- Knicks (Carmelo Anthony, Kristaps Porzingis, Derrick Williams)
- Lakers (Kobe Bryant, Julius Randle, D’Angelo Russell)
- Pacers (Paul George, Jordan Hill, Myles Turner)
Two lottery picks