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

Ramifications of the Ping-Pong Balls (Post Lottery Analysis)
May 16, 2017, 09:55 pm
There was quite a bit of drama on draft night as the ping-pong balls fell in favor of the Lakers and Kings in particular.  As is often the case, the lottery has added yet another layer of intrigue leading up to NBA Draft night on June 22nd. We break down some of the many different scenarios in play.
#1 Boston Celtics (via Brooklyn Nets) 25.0%
Will Look at: Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum
Prediction: Markelle Fultz
 
Finding themselves in the enviable position of having a competitive roster still playing in the Eastern Conference Finals as well as a top draft pick, the Celtics will thoroughly explore every option available to them at this slot, while also taking calls from teams around the league to gauge what this pick might net in a trade.  Boston can afford to go through the workout and pre-draft process with an open mind and pick whichever prospect they feel will be the biggest asset to their franchise in the coming years regardless of position.
 
Markelle Fultz has been the frontrunner to be selected with the first overall pick for the better part of a year, and though the Celtics already feature the likes of Isaiah Thomas, Marcus Smart, and Avery Bradley at the guard spots, Fultz's size, shooting ability, and unselfishness would potentially allow him to play alongside any of the three giving Brad Stevens even great flexibility in an already very talented backcourt.
 
Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, and Jayson Tatum could all conceivably play multiple positions at the next level depending on the players around them, and will certainly receive consideration from the Celtics as they do their due diligence.  After selecting Jaylen Brown with the third overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Celtics once again have a chance to add an elite prospect and allow them to develop slowly in a winning culture.  General Manager Danny Ainge's post-draft trade with the Nets in 2013 continues to pay dividends for the Celtics who also hold Brooklyn's first round draft pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.#2 Los Angeles Lakers 15.6%
Will Look at: Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum
Prediction: Lonzo Ball
 
Sweating out the potential loss of of their lottery pick to Philadelphia for the third consecutive year as part of their obligations from the trade they made for Steve Nash all the way back in July 2012, the Lakers have to be extremely happy with tonight's results.  
 
Point guard is an obvious need for the Lakers, and they lucked into one of the coveted spots in the top two where the elite prospects at that position have long figured to hear their names called in some order.  Jumping into a spot to land the player they covet in Lonzo Ball is a coup for Magic Johnson who absolutely can't get this draft pick wrong with the Lakers required to finally send an unprotected 2018 draft pick to Philadelphia.#3 Philadelphia 76ers 11.9%
Will Look at: Josh JacksonJayson Tatum, De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk
Prediction: Josh Jackson
 
In full-blown win-now mode, Philadelphia would have loved to jump into the top-two giving them the chance to select one of this draft's elite point guards to fill their gaping hole at the position.   Both Fultz and Ball would look great next to Ben Simmons, with their ability to operate both on and off the ball, thanks to their shooting and IQ, but should neither fall to Philadelphia here, Josh Jackson is also an obvious fit, depending on how much they believe in his late season surge as a floor spacer.
 
The word out of Philadelphia's front office for months now has been that Malik Monk is their guy, so jumping into the top-3 complicates things for Philadelphia as Monk could be considered a bit of the reach at this spot.  With a number of movable assets, the 76ers figure to cast a wide net in the draft process and play an active role in the trade market.  If they decide Monk is their guy, do they select him here, or do they try to outplay the market and move down to select him?  Do they instead focus on filling their critical need at point guard with De'Aaron Fox instead?
 
Having two picks would have come in handy for the 76ers given the talent at the top of this draft, but the Lakers lucked out for the third consecutive year and retained yet another high draft pick that could have gone to Philadelphia.  The 76ers could have been big winners tonight, but come out of the lottery with more questions than they had coming in and no additional assets in a stacked draft leaving them in a somewhat strange spot.#4 Phoenix Suns 19.9%
Will Look at: Marklle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, De'Aaron Fox
Prediction: Jayson Tatum
 
After spending two premium draft picks on forwards Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Suns once again find themselves in position to add an impact player to their rebuilding efforts.  With 20-year-old shooting guard Devin Booker taking a major step forward in his second NBA season, the Suns will look to add a point guard or wing who can complement their budding young star.
 
Having won 57 games over the last two years, this pick could come down to how much pressure General Manager Ryan McDonough and the Phoenix front office feels to win right away and what part of of the Suns power structure is pulling the strings this offseason.  With veteran point guard Eric Bledsoe still under contract, the Suns could look to fill their more immediate need at wing, but the allure of drafting their point guard of the future in De'Aaron Fox  is certainly appealing as well.  
 
In a draft that features high-caliber prospects at both positions, the Suns could have their draft decision more or less made for them assuming there are no surprises ahead of their pick as many believe this draft class has a strong and established top-4.  A talented scorer who can create for himself in one-on-one situations, Jayson Tatum seems like an appealing option for a team looking to make some waves in the short-term and set a strong foundation for the future, even if they are already young at the forward spots.  #5 Sacramento Kings 2.8%
Will Look at:
Dennis Smith, Lauri Markkanen, Zach Collins, Frank Ntilikina
Prediction: De'Aaron Fox
 
Even though the 76ers exercised their right to swap picks with the Kings after Sacramento jumped into the third spot, this franchise was the clear-cut winner tonight and will look to fill substantial needs at the point guard and small forward positions with their two lottery picks.  Jumping up from their previous position into the top-5, Sacramento will likely get a shot at one of this draft's top-tier point guard prospects.
 
De'Aaron Fox figures to be the third lead guard selected as it stands today and likely wouldn't have been on the board for Sacramento if the pre-lottery draft order had held up.  With that in mind, the Kentucky product seems like a no-brainer for the Kings as his combination of speed and size gives him immense upside which should mesh well with a Sacramento franchise hitting the reset button and desperate for dynamic guard play.#6 Orlando Magic 8.8%
Will Look at: Malik Monk, De'Aaron Fox, Jonathan Isaac, Lauri Markkanen
Prediction: Malik Monk
 
Perhaps the toughest team at the top of the draft to peg, the Magic have a number of glaring holes, perhaps the most notable of which for the purposes of this draft, is at General Manager.  Given their circumstances, a number of questions still loom large.  When and who will step into the decision-making role?  How much of the prospects pencilled into the top part of the lottery will that person have seen?  Do they stick with the highly respected Matt Lloyd, who has been spearheading their draft process thus far?  What kind of influence will he have on the process if someone else is hired?  How does their new leadership feel about Elfrid Payton, Aaron Gordon, and their wing combo of Terrence Ross and Evan Fournier?
 
With few answers and no shortage of long-term needs, the Magic will have to bring as many guys in as are willing to come.  Some prospects have already shied away from interviewing with them, for example De'Aaron Fox, who reportedly is no fan of their situation.
 
Lauri  Markkanen and Jonathan  Isaac are obvious fits due to their perimeter shooting prowess, but Malik Monk seems like an excellent choice if he falls to this point.  Among the worst offensive teams in the NBA, Orlando would certainly benefit from Monk's shooting ability which made him one of the most explosive offensive players in the NCAA last season.#7 Minnesota Timberwolves 5.3%
Will Look at: Jonathan Isaac, Lauri Markkanen
Prediction: Jonathan Isaac
 
Having just invested a premium draft pick in Kris Dunn, Minnesota is one of the few teams at the top of this draft that seemingly wouldn't take a heavy interest in this standout crop of point guards available.  
 
The Timberwolves' front office has talked about their need for defense and shooting, as well as their desire to find players who complement their existing primary scorers, assumed to be Karl-Anthony Towns, Andrew Wiggins and Zach Lavine. Jonathan Isaac and Lauri Markkanen seem to be the two best candidates to fit that description.
 
This is a team that likely needs to get a lot better in a hurry, so the contrast between Isaac, whose excellent defensive potential and solid offensive versatility are highly appealing even if his game is still maturing, and Markkanen, who provides elite spacing and perimeter efficiency in the short term, but doesn't have quite as high of a ceiling, could be a fascinating storyline to follow till draft day.#8 New York Knicks 5.3%
Will Look at: Dennis Smith, Lauri Markkanen, Frank Ntilikina
Prediction: Dennis Smith
 
One of the obvious losers of this year's draft lottery, the Knicks are a team to watch as there isn't likely to be a clear-cut option for them at this stage in the draft that ideally fits their desired style of play and positional needs.
 
From a basketball perspective, the Knicks have some lingering questions.  How much will they be looking to target a player who fits into the concepts of the Triangle offense and  help Phil Jackson maintain a lasting legacy as a front office decision maker after he inevitably retires? Frank Ntilikina seems to be a perfect Triangle guard, but it's not clear that he's the immediate impact player and go-to scorer the Knicks seemingly need at that position. Dennis Smith is the more obvious fit in that regard, but is not quite as well suited for the Triangle. Markkanen is also an interesting fit depending on how the Knicks view Porzingis' position long term.  
 
It will be interesting to see how agents manage the recent apparent internal dysfunction that has been portrayed in the media with how attractive a market New York City traditionally is for players. Some have already privately expressed concerns with sending a young and raw player with significant development needs into that environment, but others will likely embrace the challenge and significant upside that comes with potentially turning things around with one of the most important franchises in the league historically.#9 Dallas Mavericks 1.7%
Will Look at: Lauri Markkanen, Frank Ntilikina, Zach Collins
Prediction: Lauri Markkanen
 
With gaping holes at the point guard and power forward positions with Dirk Nowitzki's eventual retirement looming large, the Mavericks would love to move up to select a top-tier talent, but given the strength of this draft at those positions, could wind up adding a very valuable piece by simply waiting for the dominoes ahead of them to fall.
 
They'd relish the opportunity to add a player like De'Aaron Fox or Jonathan Isaac, but Lauri Markkanen is a perfectly logical fit as well.  The Finnish 7-footer would draw inevitable comparisons to Nowitzki, and though he lacks the future Hall of Famer's unique one-on-one scoring ability, he is a tremendously versatile jump shooter in his own right who would provide valuable spacing offensively.
 
Zach Collins and Frank Ntilikina would likely receive heavy consideration here as well.  #10 Sacramento Kings (via New Orleans Pelicans) 1.1%
Will Look at: Zach Collins, Frank Ntilikina, Justin Jackson
Prediction: Zach Collins
 
The talent level of the 2017 NBA Draft tends to fall off a bit after the top 10 or 11 prospects depending on whom you talk to, which should make this pick fairly straight-forward depending on how things play out ahead of their pick and who they select with their first lottery pick. Nothing is ever really too straight-forward in Sacramento, though, considering their draft history, and it will be interesting to see how many players they can actually get in for workouts, acquire physicals on, and convince of their long-term plans. If the Kings can snatch up a point guard at 5, then they'll likely target whichever falls to them among Monk, Zach Collins, Isaac or Markkanen.
 
A near 7-footer, Collins was a McDonald's All-American, but was ranked as the 36th best prospect in the class of 2016 by the RSCI.  Rising to prominence with a tremendous year at Gonzaga where he provided invaluable depth during the Bulldogs' National Championship Game run, Collins was the best player on the floor at times on the NCAA's biggest stage despite being hampered with foul trouble all postseason. His versatility and upside would certainly be intriguing for a team getting back to the basics in their rebuilding process.

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