NBA Draft Lottery Storylines To Watch

The NBA’s 2016 draft lottery will take place tonight before the Eastern Conference Finals get underway, and with so many picks having changed hands – or at risk of changing hands – there will be plenty of storylines to watch tonight. Depending on how the ping-pong balls fall, multiple teams could face franchise-altering outcomes.

We previously broke down the entire draft order for 2016, along with the odds each team has at landing the first overall pick, but with the lottery looming, let’s take a closer look at some key questions that will be answered tonight.

Will the Lakers keep their pick?

Some of the Lakers’ young players showed positive signs of development this past season, and Kobe Bryant‘s farewell tour provided some memorable moments, but those were the only real silver linings in what was a dismal 2015/16 campaign for the Lakers. The team currently has the second-highest odds at landing the first overall pick, which could help heal a lot of the pain endured over the last 12 months. However, the Lakers only keep their selection if it falls within the top three — otherwise, it’s shipped to Philadelphia.

The Lakers’ likelihood of remaining in the top three is virtually a coin flip, but the odds are slightly in their favor. There’s a 55.83% chance that Los Angeles will keep its pick, with a 44.17% chance it falls to fourth or fifth and is acquired by the 76ers.

Will the 76ers finally land a first overall pick?

Despite several consecutive seasons at or near the bottom of the NBA standings, the 76ers have yet to land that elusive first overall pick. Could 2016 be the year? No team is more likely than Philadelphia to grab that No. 1 selection, but even the Sixers only have about a one-in-four chance (26.9%).

Whether or not they pick first overall though, the 76ers are in a good position to have a strong night. Since Philadelphia also has the opportunity to swap picks with the Kings or possibly land the Lakers’ pick, there’s a 49.52% chance the team will end up either first or second, and there’s even a 13.4% chance that the club strikes gold and nabs both the first and fourth picks.

How high will the Celtics’ pick from the Nets land?

Throughout the 2015/16 season, many Celtics fans were following the Nets’ place in the standings just as closely as they followed their own team’s results, knowing that Boston is set to cash in on one of the unprotected first-rounders sent to the C’s in 2013’s blockbuster deal with Brooklyn.

There’s only a 15.6% chance that the Nets end up sending the first overall pick to the Celtics, but the odds of it landing in the top three are nearly 50/50 (46.92%). The higher that selection ends up, the more doors open for Boston this offseason — Danny Ainge is no stranger to making big trades, and the value of that Nets pick would increase significantly if the ping-pong balls fall in Boston’s favor tonight.

Where will the Nuggets and Raptors end up?

When the Knicks acquired Carmelo Anthony from the Nuggets over five years ago, a 2016 pick swap was part of the deal. That swap alone may not have hurt New York too much — the most likely outcome for tonight would have seen the Knicks landing in the seventh spot and the Nuggets ending up in the ninth spot, so New York would have only slipped a couple places in the draft order in that scenario.

However, a second trade made with the Raptors – for Andrea Bargnani – ensured that Toronto will get the lesser of the Denver and New York picks, so the Knicks are no longer involved in the lottery at all. That means the Nuggets and the division-rival Raptors are both now in prime position to land top-10 picks, thanks to the Knicks. The odds of both teams jumping into the top three are slim (0.6%), but Denver has a 21.24% chance at a top-three selection, and Toronto has an 85.2% chance of remaining in the top nine.

Will the Timberwolves get back into the top three?

The Timberwolves traded for the first overall pick after the fact two years ago, then won the No. 1 pick outright a year ago. The result? Consecutive Rookie of the Year honors for Wolves players, as Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns both earned the award.

Currently sitting at fifth in the projected draft order, the Wolves only have about a one-in-five chance (18.45%) of landing a top-two pick in a draft that has two consensus prospects – Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram – at the top. Still, we’ve seen teams defy the odds multiple times before, like the Cavaliers landing the first overall pick three times in four years. Perhaps Minnesota will be the next franchise to go on a lucky run and get the opportunity to add another top young player to its increasingly talented core.

Is there any chance the Kings lose their pick, or the Wizards keep theirs?

The Kings, eighth in the projected draft order, would send their pick to the Bulls if it falls outside the top 10. But three teams in the 9-14 range would have to leapfrog Sacramento into the top three for that to happen, and the odds of that scenario playing out are minuscule. In fact, there’s only about a 1-in-8,345 chance of Chicago getting Sacramento’s pick, so Bulls and Kings fans can probably safely rule out that possibility.

As for the Wizards, they’re 13th in the projected draft order, and will send the Suns their pick if it’s not in the top nine. The odds of Washington moving up into the top three are better than the odds of the Bulls getting Sacramento’s pick, but not by a whole lot — there’s only a 2.18% chance that the Wizards land a top-three selection, meaning the odds of them losing their pick sit at 97.82%. They’ll have to hope for a miracle.

Draft odds from were used in the creation of this post.

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