Like the movie Groundhog Day where Bill Murray wakes up to the same alarm clock song every morning, the league seems to be waking up to the Cavs having the top overall pick every year. Perhaps the Cavs can hum "I’ve Got You Babe" with Joel Embiid in mind, and finally be done with being in the lottery every single year.
It’s possible the only outcome where the team receiving the first pick generated bigger buzz than whom the pick itself would be used on was the outcome that occurred on Tuesday. The Cleveland Cavaliers, winners of two straight lotteries, went into the lottery with 17 out of 1000 ping-pong balls in contention, and walked away with the first overall pick. They beat out unabashed tankers such as the 76ers and the Bucks and created tons of drama in the process. The general population of NBA fans has expressed their discontent at the Cavs having three out of four first overall picks, especially when their front office has made seemingly poor personnel moves. These include the re-hiring of Mike Brown, followed by his firing one year later (after signing him to a 5 year contract) along with drafting of Anthony Bennett in 2013 (who has yet to make much of an impact at all) and Dion Waiters in 2012 (who has been good, but like mercury and water alongside Kyrie Irving in the backcourt), both picks that seemed like reaches where the Cavs front office appeared to be trying to outsmart everyone else.
It now remains to be seen whom the Cavaliers pick, but early reports say that they like Joel Embiid. Then again Vegas has put out odds with Wiggins tabbed as the favorite. Regardless, they are in control of the first pick, which is also an incredibly valuable trade asset. They may shop the pick, they may take Embiid, and they may take Wiggins, but the thought of luring Lebron James back to Cleveland has to be in the back of their minds through all this (which would seem to favor Embiid).
Perhaps dusting off the ‘ole Hornets nickname brought them good luck. Charlotte had little chance of even receiving a lottery pick after the pick they received from the Pistons in the Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette trade was top eight protected. This meant that one team would have to leapfrog the Pistons and get their ping-pong ball drawn to receive a top three selection. But this was unlikely, as all the teams below them had no greater than a 1.7% chance of getting the top pick. But the Cavaliers caught lightning in a bottle, the Pistons selection fell a spot, and therefore was given to the Hornets. After making the playoffs for only the second time ever since they first were reintroduced to the league as the Bobcats, they now have Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker, and two first round picks. For the first time in a long time, things are looking up for this franchise. Another positive, Bismack Biyombo will not be considered with their 8th overall pick.
They came in with the best odds in the lottery after an ugly season of tanking, and though they did not get the top pick, they got the second pick and will have their choice of whichever of the pair of Joel Embiid or Andrew Wiggins (and Jabari Parker) is on the board. A strong nucleus, especially in the frontcourt, is developing in Milwaukee, with Larry Sanders, John Henson, Ersan Ilyasova, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and whoever their pick is used on. For once, the Bucks were getting some publicity and may find themselves back in the national spotlight in the not-so-distant future.
Now that the Cavaliers have the first pick, Embiid’s chances of going #1 are likely improved. Anderson Varejao is injury-prone and his contract expires in 2015, so Embiid is surely tantalizing at that #1 slot. Opting for Wiggins would also make LeBron returning to Cleveland less likely.
Bonus: Mallory Edens
Edens, the 18-year-old daughter of Bucks co-owner Wesley Edens, became an internet sensation after a brief interview during her appearance on the lottery show as the Bucks representative. Within hours, she had gained over 40k followers on Twitter. Edens had her 15 minutes of fame; perhaps the Buck’s draft pick will put the Bucks on the national radar for the first time since Lew Alcindor and Oscar Robertson were lacing it up in the Cheese State.
Poor Detroit. They spent all kinds of money last offseason to bring in Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings, hoping that the combination of those two and Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe, along with rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, would put the Pistons back into the playoffs and maybe even carry them far once they got there. But, Dumars’ additions turned into major flops and it became apparent that they were not playoff bound. To Dumars credit, he put the team in tank mode and had appeared to preserve their top 8 pick. Think again! Because the Cavaliers bumped the pick down to #9, the protection given to that pick in the ill-advised Ben Gordon-Corey Maggette trade is void and the pick was given to Charlotte. The Pistons will have to give up an asset (which might not be a bad thing considering their subpar chemistry on the court last season) to move into the first round of this loaded draft. Otherwise, they will have to be spectators the first round and pick up the pieces and try again next season.
It was widely assumed all season that Andrew Wiggins was the target for both the Milwaukee Bucks and particularly the Philadelphia 76ers and that their Race for Last Place was a race for significantly better odds at landing Wiggins. And when the Cleveland Cavaliers got the first pick out of nowhere, and rumors surfaced that they were partial to Embiid, Wiggins chances at the top pick appeared less likely than before. He will still get selected very high. He will still get paid. But he could very well be the not-first overall pick, playing in Milwaukee, which has never been an ideal destination for superstars, which has no elite players (though Giannis Antetokounmpo certainly has promise) for Wiggins to be paired with, and has made it past the first round of the playoffs once in the past 25 years.
NBA Blue Bloods
So much for the lottery being rigged. The Celtics and Lakers went into the lottery ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, on the odds chart. They had long, though reasonable chances at jumping into the top three, but at the end of the night, they had been bumped down to the sixth and seventh picks. It wasn’t a great night for the historic franchises, as both have been built primarily around veteran talent the past few years, talent that has aged beyond the point of holding much value. Pierce, Garnett, and Allen have been traded or released; Kobe and Nash have struggled with injuries and Pau Gasol hasn’t been able to do it all himself. And now, both franchises find themselves fairly devoid of long-term talent. This lottery did not help. There will likely be no Joel Embiids, Andrew Wiggins’, or Jabari Parkers joining the great ones in the annals of Lakers and Celtics history. Last season was the first time since 1994 (and the second time ever) that both franchises missed the playoffs. The urgency will be there to turn things around, but they’ll have to make their picks count after the ping-pong balls didn’t fall their way.
Probably the biggest level of perceived talent drop-off in this draft class is the gap between the “Big Three” (that is, Wiggins, Embiid, and Parker) and guys like Dante Exum, Julius Randle, Noah Vonleh, and Marcus Smart. The Magic came into the night with the third-best odds and thus, reasonable expectations of being guaranteed one of these three players. But they fell to fourth and will more than likely have to “settle” for one of the four players mentioned. Guys like Exum and Vonleh could very well end up being the best player from this class, but they are certainly not at the very top of the Magic’s (or any team’s) wish list in this historic draft class.