As a group, the Suns, Knicks, Cavaliers, and Bulls have established themselves in recent weeks and months as the NBA’s bottom tier for 2018/19. Lengthy losing streaks by the Suns (11-50) and the Knicks (12-48) have put them at the “top” of our reverse standings, and even after a little recent success, the Cavaliers (14-46) and Bulls (16-44) are right there with them.
Given how much separation those four teams have had from the NBA’s other 26 clubs for much of the season, speculation about the No. 1 overall pick for 2019 has centered mostly on them. It’s easy to imagine top prospect Zion Williamson ending up in Phoenix, New York, Cleveland, or Chicago.
However, the NBA’s new lottery system could shake things up this spring for the 2019 draft. In past seasons, the league’s worst team had a 25% shot at the No. 1 overall pick, and there was a 72.4% chance that one of those bottom four clubs would end up in the top slot. Under the new system, the odds for the worst team have been reduced just to 14%, and there’s only a 54.5% chance that a bottom-four club gets the first overall pick.
In other words, some scenarios that would have previously been considered long shots are a little more realistic this season. Could the Grizzlies jumpstart their rebuild and put together one of them most athletic young frontcourts in the NBA by pairing Williamson with Jaren Jackson? Could the Mavericks add Williamson to a core that already features Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis? How about the Wizards salvaging an otherwise lost season by landing the top pick and giving Bradley Beal and John Wall the frontcourt star they’ve long sought?
Whichever teams lose the playoff races in each conference won’t have a great chance to secure the No. 1 pick, but those odds will still be more favorable than in the past. Maybe the Heat could get lucky and land a young star after failing to secure any in free agency in recent years. If the Hornets lucked into the top pick, that could cement Kemba Walker‘s decision to stay in Charlotte.
If the Lakers were to miss the postseason and somehow scored the No. 1 selection, it could be the key to finally getting the Pelicans to accept their offer for Anthony Davis — assuming they wouldn’t want to keep Williamson themselves.
And then there’s the nightmare scenario for every Eastern Conference team outside of Philadelphia: What if the Kings miss the postseason and land the first overall pick? In that scenario, the pick would go to the Sixers (if it’s not No. 1, the Celtics will get it).
The lottery is still a few months away, but Williamson looks like the kind of prospect who could transform a franchise, so it’s not too early to speculate about which landing spot would represent the most fun outcome. What do you think? Putting aside your fandom, what draft lottery scenario would be the most enjoyable, or would make the best story?
Head to the comment section below to weigh in!