The Phoenix Suns and Sacramento Kings walked out as winners from the 2018 NBA draft lottery, but the pingpong balls weren't as kind to other teams.
The order for the 2018 NBA draft is now set following Tuesday's lottery drawing at the Palmer Hilton House in Chicago. The Phoenix Suns were the big winners of the night, having landed the No. 1 pick and the right to choose whoever they want (likely) between Arizona center Deandre Ayton and Real Madrid sensation Luka Doncic), while the Sacramento Kings figure to swoop in at No. 2 and grab whichever player the Suns do not.
Not every member of the lottery dais will leave Chicago with a smile on their face, though. The Cleveland Cavaliers' last-ditch effort to retain LeBron James took another hit Tuesday when their unprotected first-rounder from the Brooklyn Nets did not jump into the top three, and the Memphis Grizzlies slid down to No. 4 despite entering the night with the second-best odds for the No. 1 pick.
Which NBA teams emerged as the biggest winners and losers from the draft lottery? Let's dive in.
Winner: Phoenix Suns
The Suns entered Tuesday's lottery drawing with a 25% chance to walk out with the first overall pick, the best odds of any team. They left the lottery with the No. 1 pick for the first time in franchise history.
After scuffling through a miserable 21-61 campaign in 2017-18, the Suns' trajectory suddenly looks far brighter. They already have one budding star in Devin Booker, an electric scorer who went off for a career-high 24.9 points per game in just his third NBA season. They'll now have a chance to add Ayton, Doncic or a wild card who gains steam over the coming weeks.
Both Ayton and Doncic would fill a glaring need for Phoenix, which sorely lacks a dependable point guard and center. Pairing Doncic with Booker would give the Suns an electric, versatile backcourt, as both players could thrive in both on- and off-ball roles on any given play. Ayton, meanwhile, could be an offensive fulcrum down low, one who commands double-teams and draws defensive attention away from Booker.
Throw in a complementary supporting cast that includes recent lottery talent such as T.J. Warren, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss, and the Suns appear poised to shoot up the Western Conference standings in the coming years, regardless of who they select at No. 1.
Loser: Memphis Grizzlies
While the odds played in the Suns' favor, the same did not hold true for the Grizzlies on Tuesday.
Memphis entered the lottery with the second-best chance of landing the No. 1 pick and a 55.8% likelihood of snagging a top-three selection. Instead, the Sacramento Kings and Atlanta Hawks jumped over the Grizzlies, causing them to tumble to No. 4.
If Memphis had its heart set on either Doncic or Ayton, it will have to root for an unexpected draft-day slide. Otherwise, the Grizzlies figure to select from the likes of Michigan State center Jaren Jackson Jr., Duke big man Marvin Bagley III, Texas center Mohamed Bamba, Missouri forward Michael Porter Jr. and Oklahoma guard Trae Young.
This year's draft class is top-heavy with point guards and centers, but Memphis is set (for now) at those two positions. Unless the Grizzlies are ready to move on from Marc Gasol or Mike Conley, they may feel forced to deviate from the "best player available" strategy to instead target a prospect who can complement their two cornerstones.
After a 60-loss season, the No. 4 pick is not much of a consolation prize for a Memphis team stuck in the last stages of its Grit 'n' Grind era.
Winner: Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have made 12 straight trips to the lottery dais, but they hadn't held a top-three pick since 1991. They also hadn't moved up in the lottery since 1989.
Until Tuesday night, that is.
Sacramento, which entered the night with the seventh-best odds of winning the No. 1 pick, jumped five spots in the lottery order to snag the second overall selection. In some ways, its decision appears even easier than Phoenix's: Just choose whichever of Doncic or Ayton are still on the board after the Suns make their pick at No. 1.
For a Sacramento team that has not cracked the 35-win threshold since the 2007-08 season, the chance to add a talent like Doncic or Ayton is a godsend. Whichever player the Kings choose, he will be their highest-upside star since they snagged DeMarcus Cousins at No. 5 overall in 2010.
Loser: Boston Celtics
While the Boston Celtics likely were not sweating the results of the lottery too much - after all, they took a 2-0 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals on Tuesday - the ping pong balls did not bounce their way Tuesday night.
Had the Los Angeles Lakers moved up either to No. 2 or 3, that pick would have conveyed to Boston, potentially giving the Celtics yet another young star talent to build around. Instead, the Lakers stood pat at No. 10, which meant they sent that pick to Boston's divisional rival, the Philadelphia 76ers.
As a result of last year's trade for Markelle Fultz, the Sixers now must send the higher of their own 2019 first-rounder or the Kings' 2019 first-rounder to the Celtics, provided it is not firdt overall. If it is, they will owe the lesser of those two picks to Boston.
Considering Sacramento's lack of recent success, the Celtics may be exuberant about that outcome. The Kings' move up to No. 2 isn't great news for Boston, though.
While it'is unrealistic to expect Ayton, Doncic or another rookie to immediately help Sacramento vault too far up the Western Conference standings, the Kings may not be as much of a tyre fire as they have been in recent years. With De'Aaron Fox, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere, Buddy Hield and the No. 2 pick in the fold - not to mention any free-agent additions -Sacramento could be halfway respectable in 2018-19.
The lottery odds smooth out beginning next season, so if the Kings are even remotely competitive, they will have a higher probability of jumping into the top four than they did under the current system. Either way, that 2019 Sacramento pick looks slightly less valuable than it did heading into Tuesday.
Winner: Los Angeles Clippers
When the Los Angeles Clippers sent Blake Griffin to the Detroit Pistons in January, they received a top-four protected 2018 first-round pick from Detroit as part of their return package. The Pistons only had a 2.5% chance of retaining that pick heading into the lottery, but the Clippers had to sweat it out nevertheless.
Instead, Detroit stood pat at No. 12, which meant the Clippers will be picking back-to-back at Nos. 12 and 13 in June.
The Clippers find themselves at a critical inflection point, but having two late lottery picks could help them safely navigate the storm. If they decide against going all out to re-sign DeAndre Jordan (provided he turns down his $24.1 million player option), someone like Texas A&M center Robert Williams would be a logical target with one of those two picks. Given their dire need for a long-term point guard following Chris Paul's departure to the Houston Rockets last offseason, Alabama's Collin Sexton or Kentucky's Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could be targets for the Clippers as well.
The playoffs may be a stretch for the Clippers in 2018-19, but they have restocked their cupboard of youth talent surprisingly quickly after trading Paul and Griffin. Lou Williams, Patrick Beverley and Danilo Gallinari can be their veteran anchors, while their pair of 2018 first-rounders will join Tobias Harris, Austin Rivers, Sam Dekker, Jawun Evans, Sindarius Thornwell and C.J. Williams to give the Clippers a well-rounded core.
Loser: Cleveland Cavaliers
If the Celtics' come-from-behind 107-94 victory in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals did not already shut the door on LeBron James's return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in July, the team's lack of lottery luck effectively may have.
When the Cavs shipped Kyrie Irving to their conference rival in August, the unprotected 2018 Brooklyn Nets first-rounder they received in return appeared to be the crown jewel of their haul. Instead, more than a half-dozen teams out-tanked the Nets - who had no incentive to follow suit - which left Brooklyn with only the eighth-best odds heading into the lottery. This time around, no lucky charm was enough for the Cavaliers to land their fourth No. 1 overall pick since 2011.
The Nets stood pat at No. 8, which complicates Cleveland's offseason outlook. Had Brooklyn moved into the top three, the Cavs could have dangled that pick on the trade market as a last-ditch effort to entice James to re-sign with them in July. Instead, they would likely need to package the No. 8 pick with Kevin Love to land a player of import.
Barring a surprise, the Cavaliers also won't be certain of James's free-agent intentions by the time they are on the clock in June 21st's draft. Trading the pick would be an enormous risk if James departs two weeks later, but standing pat and picking a prospect like Trae Young or Michael Porter Jr. may not move the needle on convincing James to stay in Cleveland.
Say a prayer for Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman. He is going to need it over the coming weeks.