The 2017 NBA Draft lottery is less than 24 hours away, the fate of several teams hanging in the balance of ping pong balls and a little luck.
The top 14 positions of the NBA Draft will be decided on Tuesday, May 16. ESPN will air the special beginning at 8 p.m. ET, an annual stress-fest for fans of teams that are waiting to find out what their future holds.
There are plenty of tantalizing lottery talents in what’s widely considered a very strong draft class. It’s headlined by point guards like Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De’Aaron Fox, but there’s plenty of talent at several positions.
With the lottery being held in just one day, we figured it’d be the perfect time to go over some of the lead stories, along with some information, heading into one of the biggest day of the NBA season every year.
How the lottery works
ESPN airs the lottery special every year, revealing the final order for the June draft. The catch? The order is known and decided before those cameras ever start rolling. The ping pong balls are all sorted through and officials in attendance know the situation ahead of time.
Each team is awarded a number of winning combinations. The higher up the lottery odds a team is, the more combinations they are given. The Boston Celtics have the most possible combinations this year because they own the rights to the Brooklyn Nets’ pick.
The NBA draws three combinations – one for the No. 1 pick, one for the No. 2 pick, one for the No. 3 pick – which is then matched to the team they belong to. The remainder of the order is determined by record.
The Nets had the worst record in the NBA but traded the rights to their pick in the deal that landed Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in Brooklyn years ago. Boston has the rare opportunity of drafting a top-tier prospect while already having a contending roster.
The Celtics arguably have the most to gain, on track to add one of the best young players of a stacked class to a core of Isaiah Thomas, Al Horford and well-rounded roster of role players.
Lakers have everything to lose
Boston may have everything to gain, but the Los Angeles Lakers have everything to lose Tuesday afternoon. The Lakers only keep their pick if it holds in the top-three, otherwise they must defer it to the Philadelphia 76ers.
There’s a 46.9 percent chance that pick stays in the top-three, slightly less than a coin flip.
The Lakers won just 26 games despite adding another lottery talent in Brandon Ingram and handing the keys to head coach Luke Walton. They look far from ready to compete any time soon, but this pick could help turn their fortunes around even sooner.
The young core of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Brandon Ingram is a talented trio, while young players like Larry Nance, Jr. and Jordan Clarkson add more depth. Adding one of the top prospects would give Magic Johnson a huge boost in his first year running basketball operations.
If they lose the pick it’s going to be a devastating day in Laker Land.
76ers hoping for a huge night
The 76ers are hoping that Lakers fans are left weeping Tuesday. Philadelphia could be in position to draft two lottery talents.
Joel Embiid showed flashes of how dominant he can be before going down with injury, Dario Saric had a late-season surge and Ben Simmons has yet to debut for Philadelphia. Getting possibly two of the top young players in the nation would be huge.
The 76ers have the fourth-best odds, a 37.8 percent chance of landing in the top-three after going 28-54 last season. If they happen to jump up, they could be the team that bumps the Lakers out of the top-three making it an even bigger night.
Philadelphia should be looking at a solid pick no matter what, but landing two lottery picks in a single swoop would be something special for their franchise.
There’s also the surprise factor on lottery night. You never know when a team like the Minnesota Timberwolves might just jump up into the top of the pack to add to their core of Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
Teams like the Cleveland Cavaliers winning the lottery four times in 12 years, including jumping from No. 9 to No. 1 to draft Andrew Wiggins in 2014, adds a surprise factor every time the slow unveiling of envelopes goes down.
You just never know what crazy thing will happen. Imagine if the 76ers wind up with the No. 1 and 4 pick! Someone check on former general manager Sam Hinkie if they do.
The lottery is fun and all, but it wouldn’t matter if the talent didn’t make it matter. There’s a lot of talent at the top this year. Fultz is the consensus No. 1 pick and could be a franchise point guard for the lucky team that drafts him.
Lonzo Ball has superstar written all over him, and even with his father LaVar Ball making controversial headlines to market their Big Baller Brand, teams will happily draft Lonzo to watch him work magic on the floor.
Josh Jackson is arguably the most complete two-way wing entering the draft. He has a great physical profile, fantastic defensive instincts and the kind of versatile game teams seek in point forwards.
De’Aaron Fox, Malik Monk and Jayson Tatum round out the top of the draft board.
Here’s a full breakdown of the odds heading into the lottery, courtesy of Tankathon.com:
It’s a great draft class that will very soon have a better idea as to which jersey they could be putting on next season.