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Ramifications of the Ping-Pong Balls (Post-Lottery Analysis)

Ramifications of the Ping-Pong Balls (Post-Lottery Analysis)
May 18, 2016, 12:16 am
There wasn't a great deal of drama on NBA Draft lottery night, as for the first time ever not a single team moved up or down in their drafting order compared with the original odds. But that doesn't mean that there won't be plenty of intrigue leading up to NBA Draft night on June 23th. We break down some of the many different scenarios in play.

#1. Philadelphia
Will Look At: Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons
Prediction: Brandon Ingram

The 76ers will thoroughly explore every option available to them at this slot, including drafting Ingram or Simmons, while also taking calls from teams around the league to gauge what this pick might net in a trade. General Manager Bryan Colangelo was fairly emphatic in stating after the lottery that “it's highly unlikely that anything is done with the number one pick except selecting the player,“ and also outlined pretty clearly that Ingram and Simmons are the two players that are most heavily in the mix at this pick.

Simmons and his agent Rich Paul are unlikely to make things easy on Philadelphia, though, as reports have already emerged that “it's the Lakers or bust” from their standpoint. Simmons has been a bystander in this process thus far, passing up invitations to the NBA Combine and NBA Draft Lottery, and it wouldn't surprise anyone if he elected to refuse to visit the 76ers as well.

Considering how easily Simmons quit mid-season on the head coach (and his own godfather assistant coach) that he handpicked when selecting to play at LSU, the Sixers certainly have to be leery of taking a player who already has question marks about his competitive streak. The last thing they will want is a disgruntled player who has a well-known “off switch” completely shut down even before arriving in Philadelphia.

The fact that Ingram's shooting and character make him by far the better fit on the team's roster (on and off the court) has to be taken into consideration as well. There are question marks about how two non-shooters like Simmons and Jahlil Okafor can coexist on the same roster, especially when the team is already committing to bringing in another power forward in Dario Saric who has struggled from beyond the arc for most of his career as well.

As Bryan Colangelo himself said after the lottery “We may decide before [the draft], but we're certainly not going to announce It [the pick].” In other words, quite a bit is still left to be played out in Philadelphia, and the horse-race for the #1 draft pick should be a continual conversation leading up to June 23rd.

#2. Los Angeles Lakers
Will Look At: Brandon Ingram, Ben Simmons
Prediction: Ben Simmons

In many ways, the Lakers will have a very easy choice on draft night, as they will simply select whichever one of the two “sure-fire” top two picks that Philadelphia decides to leave on the board. The word leading up to tonight was that they were very much on “#TeamIngram” and were leaning in that direction early on had they gotten the #1 pick.

Should Philadelphia elect to draft Ingram, like Rich Paul and Simmons' camp reportedly are hoping, then it will be interesting to see how much reshuffling will need to be done with the Lakers roster. Do they decide to fully embrace the small-ball movement and slide the non-shooting Julius Randle (career 16/89 3P in 5500 minutes) to the center position and play Simmons as a ball-handling power forward surrounded by shooters? Or do they try and embrace the lack of space, and play Simmons at small forward? Does Randle get traded? How happy will D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson (both 35% 3-point shooters) be with the keys to the offense being handed to the rookie Simmons? Will the Lakers be any better next year? Or will they be forced to start thinking about their 2017 top-3 protected pick at some point early on in the season?

As happy as the Lakers have to be with keeping the pick, and being slated in the top two, they still have an incredible amount of question marks left to be answered in the short and long term.

#3. Boston (From Brooklyn)
Will Look At: Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere
Prediction: Dragan Bender

Celtics fans have to feel somewhat disappointed, having survived until the commercial break of the NBA Draft Lottery, only to be left with the #3 pick in what is widely considered a two-player draft. On the plus side, they can be encouraged by the fact that they had much better odds of sliding to #4, #5 or #6 than moving into the top two, and that historically, there always excellent players in every draft class at #3 and beyond.

The only issue here is Boston's timeline. Their best player is only under contract for two more years, and they are desperately trying to take the next step from “solid young nucleus with tons of great assets” to “championship contender.” Every one of the five players mentioned as candidates for this pick are freshmen in college (or are 18 years old) besides Kris Dunn, who plays the same position as their best player and two other point guards they just drafted in Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier. It's tough to see how Jamal Murray fits into that backcourt as well, especially when you throw Avery Bradley into that mix.

Picking Dragan Bender wouldn't really be a very Danny Ainge move judging by his track record, as he's traditionally shied away from European prospects, not to mention that Bender is the youngest player in the draft. Jaylen Brown and Skal Labissiere both have to be considered for that reason, as they both fit positions of need, while also undoubtedly possessing significant upside as former top-five high school recruits (who didn't really produce in college).

When it's all said and done, trading this pick (possibly packed with their stockpile of young players and future picks) might make the most sense. But it takes two to tango in the NBA, and there doesn't seem to be a great deal of excitement at the moment surrounding this spot in the draft. That could definitely change in the next 40 days, though.

#4. Phoenix
Will Look At: Dragan Bender, Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere
Prediction: Jaylen Brown

Perimeter shooting, a power forward, and a big wing who can complement Devin Booker all seem to be major needs for Phoenix at the moment.

It's hard to consider Jamal Murray too seriously for that reason, even if some may wonder if his 1/1 assist to turnover ratio can be forgotten in hopes of converting him (back?) to the point guard position. Kris Dunn's camp on the other hand is unlikely to be overly enthusiastic about the chances of coming off the bench behind Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight.

Bender could be an interesting choice, if he's still on the board, which he isn't in this scenario. Jaylen Brown makes all kinds of sense at small forward next to Booker, as his ability to create his own shot and guard multiple positions could fit in well here.

#5. Minnesota
Will Look At: Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Skal Labissiere
Prediction: Kris Dunn

This might be a tough call between Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn actually, as a major role in this pick will come down to the feelings of Minnesota's brand new front office, led by Head Coach Tom Thibodeau and General Manager Scott Layden, about incumbent point guard Ricky Rubio.

Dunn would likely relish the chance of joining the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns and Zach Lavine. He's older than all three of them (but not by much) and thus is likely on the right timeline to grow alongside them.

Murray could also be an intriguing option, as he can likely play alongside both Rubio and Lavine in different lineups. His defense isn't up to snuff with what Thibodeau usually looks for, but few rookies are, and Murray is as hard a worker as you'll find in this draft.

#6. New Orleans
Will Look At: Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield
Prediction: Jamal Murray

The Pelicans have all kinds of holes to fill in their backcourt at the moment, having started 13 different players at guard or wing over the course of the season (in no small part due to injury). With virtually none of them under contract long term, the team will have to address their backcourt play and quickly, both in the draft, as well as free agency.

Of the players still available in this scenario, Jamal Murray makes perfect sense for the team, as he could provide plenty of scoring punch at either guard position. He can play alongside their holdovers Jrue Holiday and Tyreke Evans, operating off the ball if needed as he did frequently at Kentucky, while bringing a great deal of firepower with his 3-point shooting prowess. This has to be considered Kris Dunn's floor if he's not already off the board well before. Buddy Hield could also be an intriguing option with his shooting range and NBA readiness.

#7. Denver (From New York)
Will Look At: Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Marquese Chriss
Prediction: Buddy Hield

The Nuggets could go in a few different directions here, as the team already has a number of promising young prospects on their roster. The wing position is one of them, where Jaylen Brown and Buddy Hield provide two very different types of options, one a physically imposing small forward, and one a prolific sharp-shooter. Power forward is another place they might look, as it's unclear what the future might hold for incumbent starter Kenneth Faried. Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere and Marquese Chriss are three intriguing freshman prospects that will begin to separate themselves most likely as the pre-draft process evolves.

Hield's scoring prowess and shooting range may win out, as the senior certainly fits the team's timetable.

#8. Sacramento
Will Look At: Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Marquese Chriss, Henry Ellenson
Prediction: Skal Labissiere

The Kings would probably love to add a senior like Buddy Hield who can come in and light up the scoring board immediately, as they have a massive hole at the shooting guard position that former lottery pick Ben McLemore has been unable to fill successfully. He may not be on the board, though, which could compel them to study the crop of power forwards, which is another position they could use some help at long term. Henry Ellenson, Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere and local product Marquese Chriss all have intriguing characteristics that will be studied closely by the front office. Labissiere's ability to stretch the floor, and play alongside both DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein in different lineups, could help him end up winning out.

#9. Toronto (From Denver via New York)
Will Look At: Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Marquese Chriss, Henry Ellenson, Jakob Poeltl
Prediction: Deyonta Davis

The Raptors are pretty loaded at every position save for the big men spots, especially if backup center Bismack Biyombo (who has been excellent all season long) proves to be too expensive to keep. Toronto started Luis Scola at power forward for most of the year. He will be a free agent this summer and at age 36, is unlikely to be deemed part of the long-term future. Enter what is a fairly intriguing crop of big men, headlined by Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Marquese Chriss, Henry Ellenson and Jakob Poeltl. The pre-draft process will help these players separate themselves from each other, but for now, we've slated Davis here, as his shot-blocking, rim-running and finishing ability could make him an excellent fit on this roster, especially if he can continue to extend his shooting range.

#10. Milwaukee
Will Look At: Deyonta Davis, Skal Labissiere, Marquese Chriss, Henry Ellenson, Jakob Poeltl
Prediction: Jakob Poeltl

Milwaukee could study the point guard crop, made up primarily of Wade Baldwin and Demetrius Jackson, but may decide that it's a tad early to select either of those two here. They have some needs in the frontcourt as well, where Greg Monroe hasn't been a great fit as a free agent signing, and has just one more guaranteed year under contract. Jakob Poeltl could be a nice fit at center long term, as he's agile enough to aggressively guard the pick and roll, and also can provide some finishing ability inside the paint offensively. If the team elects to pursue a more perimeter oriented big man, then the likes of Marquese Chriss, Henry Ellenson and Skal Labissiere could all still be here.

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