The Phoenix Suns are now on the clock for the first pick in the 2018 N.B.A. draft after winning the league’s annual draft lottery, and have a tough call in choosing among Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Duke’s Marvin Bagley and the international star Luka Doncic.
The Suns came into the event with the best chance of acquiring the No. 1 pick (25 percent) and then waited things out as the Sacramento Kings and the Atlanta Hawks both snuck into the top three slots. Phoenix will look to add another star to fit with Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson (Jackson, last year’s No. 4 pick, was present on Tuesday to represent the team), while the Kings and Hawks will both continue rebuilding projects with a much loftier pick than they had likely planned for.
There was little drama to the event, with the Philadelphia 76ers and the Boston Celtics finding out almost immediately which of those two teams would receive the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick — it went, at No. 10, to the 76ers. And the Los Angeles Clippers held onto both of their picks.
While the Suns, Kings and Hawks are the obvious winners of the event, the losers are the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks. Both teams were awful last season, with the Grizzlies playing lineups of questionable N.B.A. players and the Mavericks having their owner, Mark Cuban, receive a $600,000 fine for openly admitting that they were not attempting to win. While the teams did not exactly tumble in the picking order, they had the second- and third-best odds to receive the No. 1 pick, and ended up in the No. 4 (Memphis) and No. 5 (Dallas) positions in the draft.
The draft will take place on June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Phoenix Suns won the draft lottery, attaining the No. 1 pick, which was at least somewhat expected considering their 25 percent chance of picking first. The other two top-three picks were fairly high upsets. The Sacramento Kings had just an 18.3 percent chance of being a top-3 pick and the Atlanta Hawks had just a 42.4 percent chance of being top-3.
1. Phoenix Suns
2. Sacramento Kings
3. Atlanta Hawks
Nick Gilbert’s magic appears to have run out for Cleveland and there was no magic for Scott Perry and the Knicks, but the Atlanta Hawks and the Sacramento Kings jumped into the top 3 along with the Phoenix Suns after the Memphis Grizzlies and the Dallas Mavericks fell in the lottery. As both of those teams were openly tanking this season, it is unlikely either franchise will garner much sympathy.
4. Memphis Grizzlies
5. Dallas Mavericks
6. Orlando Magic
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Cleveland Cavaliers
9. New York Knicks
There were no surprises in picks 10 to 14, with them all going in the order of finish. The Philadelphia 76ers kept the Lakers’ pick (if it had been No. 2 or No. 3 the Celtics would have gotten it) and the teams in the bottom nine positions will get the first nine picks in the draft.
10. Philadelphia 76ers
11. Charlotte Hornets
12. Los Angeles Clippers
13. Los Angeles Clippers
14. Denver Nuggets
By far the strangest aspect of the setup at this year’s lottery is the shared desk between Elton Brand, who is representing the Philadelphia 76ers, and Rich Gotham, who is representing the Boston Celtics. The teams both have a shot of owning the Los Angeles Lakers’ pick, which means one of them will leave the stage tonight empty-handed. The 76ers will get it if the pick is No. 1 or if it falls to picks 10-13. The Celtics will get it if it is No. 2 or 3.
Unlike last year, when Magic Johnson and Joel Embiid added some serious entertainment to the event with a playful exchange of over-the-top reactions, this year’s crowd of team representatives at the draft lottery is a little less camera-friendly. Nick Gilbert, who has been a good-luck charm for Cleveland in the past, is there, as is the actress Jami Gertz in her role as owner of the Atlanta Hawks, but it is not seeming likely that Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox or Phoenix’s Josh Jackson is likely to replicate the antics of Embiid, and the executives in attendance like Charlotte’s Mitch Kupchak and Chicago’s Michael Reinsdorf do not seem likely to fill Johnson’s shoes.
In an interview broadcast on ESPN before the lottery, Adam Silver acknowledged that teams are feeling heat from fans to tank rather than win if they aren’t a true contender, but he is hoping the league has sufficiently addressed the issue with rule changes that go into effect next year. As for this year, the rules have yet to go into effect, and a team that openly tanked like Memphis has the second-best chance at the No. 1 pick and a team that actually admitted to tanking like Dallas has the third-best chance.
Who’s in? The 14 teams that did not make the playoffs are normally eligible. But one of those teams, the Brooklyn Nets, traded its pick away to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Another, the Los Angeles Lakers, will send its pick to either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Boston Celtics.
How does it work? A random, weighted draw will be held to determine the top three draft picks. Picks 4 to 14 will then be allotted in reverse order of the teams’ records.
Who are the team representatives? Teams can send whoever they like to represent them at the lottery: a player, an executive, somebody’s relative. This year’s choices:
Four are players. De’Aaron Fox of the Kings, Jamal Murray of the Nuggets, Luke Kennard of the Pistons and Josh Jackson of the Suns.
Other teams will be represented by executives; the Clippers will be represented by special consultant (and Lakers legend) Jerry West.
The Hawks will be represented by Jami Gertz.
Jami Gertz? The star of ’80s movies like “The Lost Boys” and “Less Than Zero”? Yes, she is an owner of the Hawks and married to the principal owner, Tony Ressler.
Who has the best chance at the No. 1 pick? The Phoenix Suns, who at 21-61 had the league’s worst record. Their chance is 25 percent.
Who else has a good chance at No. 1? The next most likely teams are the Memphis Grizzlies (20 percent), the Dallas Mavericks (14 percent) and the Atlanta Hawks (14 percent).
Who does not have such a good chance? The Orlando Magic at 9 percent, the Chicago Bulls and Sacramento Kings (5 percent), the Cavaliers (3 percent), the Knicks (2 percent) and the 76ers, Charlotte Hornets, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Clippers and Denver Nuggets (1 percent each).
What’s going on with that Lakers’ pick? Because of a trade with the Suns back in 2012 that brought them Steve Nash, the Lakers no longer have their No. 1 pick. The Suns eventually sent the pick to the Sixers, who used it as part of a trade with the Celtics last year. But many of the deals involved conditions. As a result of all these complex machinations, if the pick winds up in the 1 spot, or between 10 and 13, the 76ers will get it (a 97 percent chance). In the less likely event that it winds up at 2 or 3, the Celtics will get it. (It can’t land in any other positions; if the Lakers are not pulled for a top three lottery place, their record was strong enough that they will get a lower pick.)
What is the single most likely result? That the Nuggets wind up with the 14th pick. They have a 98.2 percent chance of doing so.
What about picks 15-30? Those are all set, starting with the playoff team with the worst record, the Wizards, at 15, and moving down pick by pick to the better teams
Isn’t the N.B.A. planning some changes to the lottery? Yes, but they don’t begin until next year. In short, the chance of getting a top pick will be spread out a little more, giving the worst team only a 14 percent chance of winning (down from 25) and giving stronger teams a bit more of a chance. The 14 non-playoff teams will remain the only ones in the lottery.
Is what I see on TV the actual lottery? Not really. What you see is more of a ceremonial unveiling of the draft order. The actual lottery is held just before in front of a handful of league, team and news media witnesses sequestered in another room. In 2015, The Times was there to witness the curious process.
Is it fixed? As with many big events, conspiracy theorists come out for the draft lottery. Most often, they claim the league fixes the draw to benefit teams in big markets. When the Knicks won the lottery in 1985, the suggestion was made that the envelope with their name was bent or even refrigerated to tip off then-Commissioner David Stern. There has never been any credible evidence that a draft lottery has indeed been fixed.
When and where is the actual draft? June 21 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Who will be picked? The top pick may come down to a choice between Arizona freshman center Deandre Ayton and Luka Doncic, a swingman from Slovenia. Among the players who could follow are freshmen Jaren Jackson of Michigan State, Marvin Bagley of Duke, Michael Porter of Missouri, Trae Young of Oklahoma and Mohamed Bamba of Texas.
Any upperclassmen? Mikal Bridges of national champion Villanova, a junior, may go 7-9ish.