Clippers in 2009, Bulls in 2008, Magic in 2004, Cleveland in 2003, Rockets in 2002, San Antonio in 1997, Philadelphia in 1996. The NBA Draft Lottery, a simple game of probability, has held the power of resurrecting the fortunes of franchises, coaches, supporting players, international audiences, and entire cities. The team which wins the number 1 pick holds the exclusive right to the player they choose, who will turn them around from a cellar-dweller to a contender. Of course, there have been a lot of 1st picks that never lived up to their potential (Oden, Bargnani, Bogut, Kwame Brown to name a recent few), but there have been several who have lived up to their name and delivered success to their squads.
From Allen Iverson and Tim Duncan in the mid-90s to Yao Ming, LeBron James, Dwight Howard, Derrick Rose, and Blake Griffin in the 2000s, these number 1 picks, in one way or another, brought back relevancy to their franchise. Duncan stands as one of the greatest ever, and is now aiming for his fifth championship with the team that selected him. Iverson and LeBron served many exciting years to the teams that picked them, before jolting off. Rose and Griffin’s influence for their respective squads is already showing, as other players are now looking forward to playing alongside them and joining a previously weaker franchise.
And just like many of these stellar number ones of the past, there is no doubt in anyone’s mind of who will be the next star to join the list and turn a struggling franchise around. If you love mystery and suspense, tune off now. It won’t exactly make me Nostradamus to predict that on June 28, 2012 – the night of the 2012 NBA Draft – the Hornets will be picking Kentucky’s 6’10” forward Anthony Davis with that pick. Any real suspense on draft night will begin from the second pick onwards.
Congratulations to the Hornets. Conspiracy theorists everywhere have raised an eyebrow about the legitimacy of New Orleans ‘winning’ the lottery. After all, this is the same team that was owned by the NBA last season, the same team which traded away Chris Paul to the Lakers in a fair trade, a trade that was later vetoed by the NBA (for #BasketballReasons); and the same team that ended up with an inferior deal after trading Paul to the Clippers. The Clippers were rejuvenated, the Lakers stayed exactly where they were, and the Hornets, a seventh-seed playoff team last year, plummeted to the worst record in the Western Conference without him. It has been a short-lived sorrow for New Orleans as they won the draft lottery (soon after being sold by the NBA), and winning the rights to Davis, the most sure-shot game-changing player to arrive in the league in several years.
Whether or not you believe the theories, the reality is that the Hornets did win the lottery, and will pick first, and I am happy for them. Just like the Cavaliers were redeemed with the first pick last year a season after losing LeBron James, the Hornets have their chance at quick redemption after losing their All-NBA First Team point guard in Chris Paul.
And yes, barring all Oden-esque curses, Anthony Davis will redeem this franchise. The young forward has already been compared to some of the historical greats of the league – Duncan, Garnett, Russell – not neccassarily in style or form of play, but in the type of influence he can have on a franchise in the long term. He is coming off of a dream college season where he was recruited by college basketball’s most exciting new programme (Kentucky) at 18 to be the anchor for Coach Calipari’s title-contending team. He won the Player of the Year Award, Defensive Player of the Year Award, Freshman of the Year Award, Big Man of the Year Award, Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four Award, and then, won the NCAA National Championship.
Adding a player like that to a struggling NBA squad – someone who will defend hard all game, bring in a winning mentality, has the makings of a future superstar, and sports a mythical unibrow – will definitely have a huge effect on the Hornets’ future. They will be hoping that the luck of the lottery becomes the first step to future greatness.
Meanwhile, everyone who didn’t get the first pick and lost on bringing the talented unibrow to their squad can at least take consolation in the fact that 2012 is set to produce one of the deepest draft classes in history. There is talent oozing out of nearly every top-10 prospect, and what makes this year special is that – unlike in recent history – the talent is sure-shot, well-scouted, and mostly NBA ready, instead of iffy High-School or unknown European projects.
The Bobcats, who finished the season with the worst winning percentage in NBA history, will feel hard done that their ‘losing efforts’ didn’t get them the first pick. But this is exactly the reason why I support the Draft Lottery. A team shouldn’t just be gifted the chance at a top pick by playing badly. The Lottery inserts randomness into the process, and thus teams believe that they won’t necessarily be rewarded for tanking every time.
After Davis goes first to the Hornets, the real draft will begin with the Bobcats and their second pick. Who will they choose? Will they go for tough enforcing power forward Thomas Robinson? Will they pick Davis’ Kentucky teammate and versatile forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist? Will they take a shot at big man Andre Drummond? Or will they go for sharp-shooter Bradley Beal?
Now, here’s the good thing about being an awful team with a high pick: You need help at damn near every position, and thus, especially in a deep draft like this one, you will be happy with any good player, instead of just hoping to find a player that fits your particular system. I have always been a supporter of the belief that one should draft talent first and worry about position requirements later. Luckily, there is a lot of talent on the board and a lot of teams who need an upgrade (Hornets, Bobcats, Wizards, Cavaliers, Kings, Trailblazers, Warriors, etc) at most positions.
Other prospects who have a chance to being picked in the top 10 on June 28th include North Carolina’s potent scorer Harrison Barnes, Jared Sullinger, Jeremy Lamb, Perry Jones, John Henson, Kendall Marshall, Austin Rivers, and Tyler Zeller.
Here are the teams who will be making the lottery (top 14) picks in the NBA Draft:
1. New Orleans Hornets2. Charlotte Bobcats3. Washington Wizards4. Cleveland Cavaliers5. Sacramento Kings6. Portland Trailblazers (via Nets)7. Golden State Warriors8. Toronto Raptors9. Detroit Pistons10. New Orleans Hornets (via Timberwolves)11. Portland Trailblazers12. Milwaukee Bucks13. Phoenix Suns14. Houston Rockets
I’ll check back in again as the big day gets closer to give a full mock draft and preview of what we can expect to happen on Draft Night!