If anything can be learned from Tuesday night’s draft lottery, it’s that tanking doesn’t pay off.
Cleveland got its third No. 1 overall pick in the last four years and while the Cavaliers certainly had their share of issues during the regular season, they didn’t miss the playoffs due to lack of effort, as evidenced by attempting to upgrade their roster last summer and even during the course of the season by trading for starters Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes, both of whom enter free agency this offseason.
Meanwhile, the two clear-cut worst teams in the league, Milwaukee and Philadelphia got the second and third overall picks in the draft, respectively, while Utah, the Western Conference’s worst team picks fifth and two of the NBA’s most storied franchises, the Celtics and Lakers, will pick sixth and seventh, debunking the conspiracy theories surrounding the lottery.
The 76ers are probably the biggest losers, as they are now left at the mercy of the Cavs and Bucks. If Cleveland and Milwaukee pass on Kansas center Joel Embiid, whose medical records could prove hard to acquire due to his history of back issues, the Sixers could be left with a tough decision, as he is a very similar, albeit regarded more highly, to Nerlens Noel, one of their two lottery picks last year, who missed the entire season recovering from an ACL injury suffered in college.
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The Jazz are also in a tough situation, as it widely thought that they desperately wanted a shot at drafting Chicago native Jabari Parker, who is of the Mormon faith, something that would play well with the team’s fan base.
Getting back to the Cavs, their situation is more remarkable because of the long odds they faced in getting the top pick, as Cleveland only had a 1.7 percent chance at the No. 1 spot, the same percentage the Bulls had in 2008, when they selected Derrick Rose with the first choice.
Charlotte also fared well, getting the ninth pick from Detroit through the two teams’ swap of Ben Gordon and Corey Maggette, a selection that was protected through the top eight for the Pistons. As a result, the newly-rechristened Hornets no longer need to lament surrendering the 16th overall pick to the Bulls from the 2010 Tyrus Thomas trade.
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The Sixers also acquired the 10th overall pick from New Orleans, completing last year’s draft-day deal for Noel, which sent point guard Jrue Holiday to the Pelicans. New Orleans would have kept the pick if it landed in the top five of the draft.
Lastly, Orlando was another winner, receiving the 12th pick, in addition to their own fourth overall selection. The lower choice comes from the Dwight Howard trade via Denver, which originally acquired the pick from New York in the Carmelo Anthony deal.