MILWAUKEE BUCKS (25% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
The Bucks were an absolute mess this season winning just 15 games a year after making the playoffs. Underperforming "stars" and a lack of leadership put the recently sold Bucks into the tank real early. They flourished in the role averaging 95.5 points per game, second worst only to Utah. Conspiracy theorists will tell you that the Bucks overvaluation in their recent sale makes them a lock to be #1. They will also neglect to inform you that the worst team hasn't won the #1 overall pick in the lottery since Orlando in 2004. I personally think the Bucks won't slip out of the top three which will allow them a crack at their pick of Wiggins, Parker, or Embiid.
PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (19.9% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
I laughed after the first week of the season when I was reading articles with headlines lauding the Sixers not bowing to the pressures to tank. They were 3-0 and people were losing their minds. They would win just 16 more games out of the next 79 including a recording tying 26 game tanking clinic they put on from the end of January until the end of March. It was a symphony of ineffectiveness that put Philly into the running for a top three selection. Somehow even with that putrid stretch they weren't able to catch Milwaukee. It is important to point out though that Philadelphia will also receive New Orleans's pick if it falls outside the first five. They'll be getting quite the haul this year and with Nerlens Noel coming back from an ACL injury it will potentially be as if they had three lottery picks.
ORLANDO MAGIC (15.6% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
The Magic are the most successful team in the history of the lottery. OK, that is technically a lie since their three wins are less than the Clippers five but soon to be ousted owner Donald Sterling had shipped off two of those five golden eggs before they hatched so essentially they are tied. Orlando has run the gamut of ways to win the lottery. They've won it as the worst team (2004), the second worst team (1992), and as the least likely team (1993). They've hit on all three of those picks too which makes Orlando at the top of this draft a scary proposition for the rest of the Eastern Conference. They already have a young but promising starting lineup around last year's second overall pick, Victor Oladipo, and if the ping pong balls bounce in Orlando's favor a fourth time and net them a new superstar; they could be a contender within a couple years in the East.
UTAH JAZZ (10.4% CHANCE OF WINNING OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
Utah needs this bad. Long gone are the days of Jerry Sloan and Stockton to Malone. Though the Jazz haven't been miserable under the reign of Tyrone Corbin, they haven't been bad enough to properly rebuild. They took a team that won 43 games in the Western Conference last year and nuked it. Richard Jefferson and Marvin Williams got big minutes for this team in 2013-14. Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors were handled with kid gloves. Any time Alec Burks or Gordon Hayward looked to be building momentum they were given some time on the pine. For this lost season as the West's worst to have meant something, Utah needs to get an impact player in the draft and convince some decent free agents to head to the Great Salt Lake. If the first half of that plan goes south at 8 PM tonight, they'll have a much tougher time getting the second half accomplished.
BOSTON CELTICS (10.3% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
When the tombstone of the new Big Three was finally carved this past off-season, Celtics fans began to look forward to this very day. Danny Ainge has stockpiled a cache of picks but none are more important than the one that could land them on the proverbial medal stand of this year's draft. The thing is since the institution of the lottery system, the Celtics have had rotten luck in breaking through into the upper echelon. In 1997 they had two shots at Tim Duncan and airballed both. In 2006 they were dealt a worst case scenario hand with the fifth pick missing out on Greg Oden (Phew!) and Kevin Durant (Doh!). Don't cry for Beantown though as these misfortunes led them to the eventual drafting of Paul Pierce and the formation of the so-called "New Big Three" and the 2008 NBA Championship. Can Boston reverse their past lottery fortunes and leap the competition to #1 or will Ainge once again spin the wheel and make a deal to usher in a third incarnation of "The Big Three"?
LOS ANGELES LAKERS (6.3% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
I am sure if Marty McFly got into his Delorean and hit 88 MPH to May 20th, 2014 he would be shellshocked to see both the Celtics and Lakers picking in the lottery. The NBA's second most successful franchise endured their second worst season ever in 2013-14. Unlike Boston, they did not plan this calamity. Kobe Bryant's lack of health, Mike D'Antoni's lack of leadership, and an overall lack of roster depth doomed Hollywood to a laughable status. The Lakers have picked #1 three times in their history: 1958 (Elgin Baylor), 1979 (Magic Johnson), and 1982 (James Worthy). Since the implementation of the lottery however, the Lakers have only been eligible twice. Those two trips netted Eddie Jones and Andrew Bynum, both picks made in the double digits. The Lakers are hoping this past year will get them into Jabari Parker territory instead of the teens. With Kobe Bryant's monster deal in tow for the next few years, the Lakers need some luck in the lottery to turn around their storied franchise.
SACRAMENTO KINGS (4.3% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
Sacramento has been the laughingstock of the Western Conference since the glory days of C-Webb, Peja, and Bibby faded away. Since then they have been regulars in the lottery and have done a halfway decent job of drafting. They haven't picked higher than three since drafting Billy Owens in 1991, a year after winning the lottery for Pervis Ellison. The Kings have a lot of work to do this off-season to contend again and the draft is where they can do the most damage. Boogie Cousins is there for the long haul as is Rudy Gay. If the Kings return to the top 3 it gives them a way out of paying Isaiah Thomas a crazy contract in Dante Exum. Wiggins wouldn't make much sense unless they aren't sold on Ben McLemore, even though he played all 82 games in 2013-14. If they are going to keep their nucleus, Parker is the best pick. After almost losing the team to Seattle, the Kings really need a high pick so ownership and the fan base can catch their breath.
DETROIT PISTONS (2.8% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
The Pistons were on the fringe of the playoff picture for the majority of the season before a late case of tankamania ran wild over the team. Coach Mo Cheeks was fired mid-season and team president and GM Joe Dumars stepped down at season's end. This is a team in flux with very little cap flexibility after signing Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings to big free agent deals before last season. They don't seem to know what they have yet in Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, last year's first rounder. They also don't know if they'll have Greg Monroe for the 2014-15 season as the big man could leave via free agency. They DO know that even if they don't luck out into the top three they cannot fall below eight in the lottery. If that was to happen that pick would be transferred to the newly re-christened Charlotte Hornets to complete the otherwise forgettable Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette swap from 2012. Detroit is a storied basketball town but Pistons fans are hoping they can keep the pick in this deep draft and not lose it. They had the fortune of being on the other side of the coin when they got the #2 pick from the Grizzlies in 2003, another very deep draft.
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (1.7% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
The Cavaliers have had the number one overall pick four times through the lottery, twice through their own luck and twice through trades with the Clippers. If the Cavs could win again it would certainly make enticing Kyrie Irving and Luol Deng to stay in Cleveland a great deal easier. They are currently coachless so the direction they'd go with a high pick is uncertain. GM David Griffin needs to make a statement pick in this draft as well to prove that he was worthy of having the interim tag taken off his job title. They'd help themselves best with Joel Embiid after the carousel of centers they used unsuccessfully last year in an attempt to make the playoffs.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS (1.1% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
The Pelicans are hoping that last year's trade for point guard Jrue Holiday goes at least one more year before proving consequential. The Pelicans need the pick to fall in the top five to retain it, if not it goes to Philadelphia, a stipulation that holds true until 2019. The Pelicans already have the makings of a really good team but are riddled with injury questions with Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon, and the aforementioned Holiday. If they draw a top three pick would the Pelicans jump at the chance to make a new set of Twin Towers in the Big Easy with Joel Embiid and Anthony Davis? If they did I'd hope for their sake they would end up both being Hakeem Olajuwon and neither would end up as Ralph Sampson.
DENVER NUGGETS (0.8% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
The Nuggets inexplicably regressed in 2013-14 and see themselves in the lottery for the first time since before Carmelo Anthony came to the Mile High city. Ty Lawson leads the powder blue clad Nuggets into the future but the future from this draft is a bit tricky. Via two trades with Orlando and New York, Denver has two picks that they'll have control over. The one from the Knicks was a part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. The one going to Orlando is part of the Dwight Howard mega-swap. Orlando will get the lesser of the two picks. So naturally Denver will win the lottery with New York's pick or Orlando will win again with their own pick and get the Knicks' pick too. Either way Knicks fans like myself are all losers tonight.
NEW YORK KNICKS (0.7% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK....FOR DENVER)
I hate this.
MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (0.6% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
PHOENIX SUNS (0.5% CHANCE OF WINNING THE NUMBER ONE PICK)
Minnesota basically has to hope that Phoenix doesn't get into the lottery without doing so themselves or both these picks will belong to the Suns. Phoenix also have Washington's and Indiana's first round picks. Things are potentially looking sunnier for the Suns.
MAY THE PING PONG BALLS BE EVER IN YOUR FAVOR!!!