Your Guide To The NBA Draft Lottery

Tonight’s the night of the goofiest event in sports: the NBA Draft lottery. Chance will decide the fates of 14 NBA teams, who all want to have the opportunity to select one unibrowed, game-changing center. Here’s what it means for each team if they win. posted on

SAUL LOEB / Getty Images

See that guy up there, the one hanging out with Barack Obama? You know who that is. That’s the Unibrowed Titan himself, Anthony Davis, a potentially sport-altering center who should evolve whichever team has the privilege of selecting him from a bad-to-mediocre defensive squad into an impregnable NBA fortress.

Everyone knows Anthony Davis will be selected first overall in next month’s NBA Draft. It’s as foregone a conclusion as Andrew Luck’s pole-position in the NFL’s parallel event. But unlike with the NFL, where we knew as soon as the Colts played their last game in December that they would have the first overall pick come April, the identity of the team that will choose Davis is right now a mystery. A mystery that will be decided tonight, at the Draft Lottery.

Since 1990 — prior to 1990, the NBA used win-loss records exclusively and then a random lottery system — draft order has been determined by a weighted lottery in which every non-playoff team has the chance to win the first overall pick, with the likelihood of this changing based on their win-loss record from the previous year. This means that every NBA team who didn’t make a trip to the playoffs this year has a shot at Anthony Davis, ranging from the Bobcats, with a 25% chance of landing the first pick, to the Houston Rockets, who have a 0.5% chance. And every team in the lottery knows how important these ping-pong balls are.

3. Charlotte Bobcats — 25.0%

Chuck Burton / AP

Out of the 14 teams waiting to hear their names called, the Bobcats have both the best shot at the top pick and the second-most on the line. (One team has more at risk; we’ll get to them shortly.)

Coming off the worst winning-percentage season in NBA history, Charlotte is in DESPERATE need of the presence that Anthony Davis would provide immediately upon being picked. Aside from being possibly the best defensive prospect since Bill Russell, Davis is also a fan-favorite and franchise-player candidate, all of which the Bobcats need. He’ll sell tickets; he’ll get people excited. Charlotte requires all of these things.

Of course, the irony of all this is that, despite the Bobcats having a greater chance than any other team of winning the lottery, they still only have a 1-in-4 shot. The Bobcats probably will not win. That’s frightening for anyone with a practical or emotional investment in Charlotte. If the Bobcats don’t hear their name called tonight, expect panic and abject disappointment, followed by the selection of a consolation prize: either Kentucky forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Florida shooting guard Bradley Beal. Both should be solid NBA players, but neither has a ceiling even close to that of Davis’.

In terms of how cool it would be to see Davis on the Bobcats… it wouldn’t be. Even with Davis, Charlotte remains a deeply flawed team, lacking starting-caliber players at basically every position. The only other promising player on the team is Kemba Walker, an undersized, scoring-oriented point guard. They don’t have a coach. Jordan’s an atrocious owner. Hiring Rich Cho as GM was a step in the right direction, but if there’s any team that could botch the seemingly unbotchable Davis, it’s Charoltte. Except, let’s face it, the Wizards or Kings could too. There’s no such thing as a sure bet in professional sports.

Awesomeness factor (of Bobcats getting the pick): 3/10

4. Washington Wizards — 19.9%

Evan Vucci / AP

The Wizards have a 1-in-5 chance of winning the draft lottery for the second time in the last five years. And despite the calamity of a team that Washington has been since Gilbert Arenas’ mind imploded and he dragged the franchise into a tailspin, it would be kind of awesome if they got Davis.

Pairing Davis with Wall would create one of the more promising young point guard/big man tandems in the Association, a University of Kentucky duo that — dare we say it? — could be the only situation alluring enough to pull John Calipari back into the NBA. (Probably not, but it’s fun to consider.) And Davis would be paired in the frontcourt with Nene, who, thanks to the work of the Denver Nuggets management, is under contract with Washington for the next 500 years, or something.

If the Wizards do not get Davis, which they probably won’t, expect them to take the next best guard/forward — again, probably Kidd-Gilchrist or Beal, maybe Thomas Robinson — since their lineup is unsettled aside from Wall and Nene.

Awesomeness factor: 7/10

5. Cleveland Cavaliers — 13.8%

Mark Duncan / AP

Straight talk: it would rule if the Cavs got Davis. Following the breakout season of rookie point guard Kyrie Irving, who, going into his sophomore campaign, already ranks as one of the top 10 floor generals in the league, all it would take would be Davis to make Cleveland into the new proto-Thunder. Aside from Irving, the Cavs also have the promising Tristan Thompson and gutty, hardworking forward Anderson Varejao. If they miss out on Davis, which they probably will — sense a theme here? — it’s the same story as above: Beal, Kidd-Gilchrist, Kansas forward Thomas Robinson, or UConn center Andre Drummond, depending on where they fall.

Awesomeness factor: 9/10

6. New Orleans Hornets — 13.7%

Harry How / Getty Images

Ugh, the Hornets. Who even plays for this team right now? Eric Gordon, presumably, if he ever returns from the injuries that kept him out for basically the entire lockout-shortened season. The rest of the roster is just a list of interchangeable parts; getting excited about this team would be like getting excited about lunch at Hardee’s.

(Also, if the Hornets get the first pick, cue a lot of talk about how the NBA rigged the lottery to send the pick their way, since until only recently the league owned the franchise. Oh, and during their ownership they traded away its franchise point guard. So there’s that whole “the NBA owes New Orleans” thing going around.)

New Orleans will probably opt for a forward or center — Kidd-Gilchrist, Robinson, Drummond, UNC’s Harrison Barnes — if Davis doesn’t land there.

Awesomeness factor: 2/10

7. Sacramento Kings — 7.6%

Rich Pedroncelli / AP

Above: the Kings’ idiot owners, the brothers Maloof.

If there’s a gallery of players in the NBA more roguish than the Sacramento Kings, I dare you to show them to me. Throwing Anthony Davis into this mix could have basically any result: he could be the last piece necessary to turn this haphazard collection of shooting guards (Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, Jimmer Fredette) and DeMarcus Cousins into a real actual team; he could get lost in the shuffle that has so far seen Cousins indulge his bad inclinations more often than one would like; or he could stay for a few middling years and then leave for a team that’s less of a disaster. Whichever result actually came to pass, a Kings team with Davis would be stupid-fun, but without the potential of a Davis-infused Cavs or Wizards.

Awesomeness factor: 6/10

8. Brooklyn Nets — 7.5%

Seth Wenig / AP

I mentioned earlier that there’s one team that has more riding on this draft lottery than the Bobcats. That would be the Brooklyn Nets, whose concerns are twofold:

1. Using Anthony Davis as a trade piece to obtain Dwight Howard would reportedly be the only way to keep Deron Williams in Brooklyn.

2. If the Nets luck into a top-3 spot — with their 7.5% chance at #1, 8.33% chance at #2, and 9.36% chance at #3, that’s a 25.19% possibility — they retain their pick. If not — if this draft is one of the 3 out of 4 that would be expected NOT to go the Nets’ way — they lose the pick to the Blazers, who obtained it in exchange for Gerald Wallace.

Come Thursday morning, Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov’s boys could be headed toward their big-man of the future, whether it’s Davis or Howard. Or they could be without a lottery pick and facing the prospect of starting their first season in Brooklyn with the league’s worst roster. Or, somewhere in the middle, they could be trying to get themselves jazzed about Kidd-Gilchrist/Beal/Robinson slash trying to deal the pick in a desperate attempt to keep D-Will and get Dwight.

Long story short: this is one of the biggest nights in franchise history.

Awesomeness factor: 10/10

9. The Rest of the Hopefuls

Gary Emord-Netzley / AP

After the Nets, the remaining lottery teams have very slim chances of getting lucky. I’ll run through them all real quick.

Utah Jazz — 3.6%. Awesomeness Factor: 1/10. They don’t need another big.

Toronto Raptors — 3.5%. Awesomeness Factor: 2/10. Please, let’s not condemn Davis to relive Chris Bosh’s Raptors career.

New Orleans Hornets — 1.1%. Awesomeness Factor: 9/10. As much as I’d hate it if Davis landed in NOLA, it would be hilarious if they got him with their second lottery pick and not the first. #rare #based

Portland Trail Blazers — 0.8%. Awesomeness Factor: 1/10. Remember what happened the last time the Trail Blazers got a center first overall?

Milwaukee Bucks — 0.7%. Awesomeness Factor: 1,000,000/10. The idea of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, and Anthony Davis all on the same team makes me unreasonably excited.

Phoenix Suns — 0.6%. Awesomeness Factor: 6/10. Congratulations, Phoenix! You have a 0.6% chance of keeping Steve Nash around.

Houston Rockets — 0.5%. Awesomeness Factor: 0/10. There is literally not a single person outside of Houston who wants to see Anthony Davis on the Houston Rockets.

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