Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

Drilling Down on Thursday's NBA Draft Lottery

The NBA Draft Lottery takes place on Thursday night, with three teams having the best odds of landing the #1 pick.
The NBA Draft Lottery takes place on Thursday night, with three teams having the best odds of landing the #1 pick.
Image: (AP)

The moment seemed it would never come because of COVID-19, but the 2020 NBA Draft lottery is here. We’ll finally get this year’s draft order.

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Fourteen teams will have virtual representation for the draft lottery Thursday in a night that will determine their chances for LaMelo Ball, who is projected by many NBA Draft analysts to go first overall. The Minnesota Timberwolves, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Golden State Warriors will have the best odds at Ball. All three teams will have a shared 14 percent chance of winning the lottery, but if this year’s lottery plays out like last year, things could be exciting. The Pelicans got the No.1 overall pick selecting Zion Williamson, but they had less than a 7.5 percent chance of doing so.

So let’s get into a handful of numerical needs and things to watch for on Thursday:

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1. The Draft is a comfy couch for Cleveland

As much as my guilty conscience crumbles inside, a LeBron-less Cleveland team can’t stay out of the lottery. The Cavaliers have won the lottery more than any other team over the last two decades.

Cleveland has a nice young backcourt with Collin Sexton and Darius Garland, whom they picked up over the past two years in the Draft, so naturally, the Cavaliers wouldn’t be looking for a LaMelo Ball or Anthony Edwards. Still, I think those guys have a higher upside than Sexton and Garland.

If they get the top pick, they could build off of the unit they have and go and get Memphis’ James Wiseman or USC’s Onyeka Okongwu, or they could trade back a few spots and get Vanderbilt’s Aaron Nesmith or Auburn Isaac Okoro.

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There are many directions they could go with a top pick this year.


2. The New York Knicks will cling to hope for better lottery luck:  

We all remember last year and the anticipation Knicks fans had of getting Zion. At one point, there was a campaign of “Tank for Zion.” On a serious note, the Knicks have not had much lottery luck since their Patrick Ewing era. R.J. Barrett is doing what he can.

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The Knicks hired Tom Thibodeau as their head coach, ushering in a new era of Knicks basketball. I could see them taking USC’s Onyeka Okongwu. Okongwu, if they break the top five will bring back that Ewing-era style big man while also fitting perfectly in Thibodeau’s grit-like play.


3. The Warriors are in this thing by default

Golden State finished the season with one of the worst records in the league, which means they could end up with Ball, but they don’t need him. If the Warriors end up with the first or second pick, there will be a trading frenzy for it. They don’t need a point guard or shooting guard, and the two selections at the top of many big boards are Ball and Anthony Edward.

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I could see them lingering around for the Memphis center James Wiseman. Bob Myers, Warriors general manager, will have a lot to play with: do you want an agile center who can space the floor or want to get rid of the pick and use it as leverage for future assets?

During the building of the Warriors dynasty, Myers never had a top-three pick in grasp, so maybe he takes advantage. We’ll have to see what the post-Kevin Durant era Warriors will truly shape up to be.

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4. The Timberwolves will trade this pick if they land in the top three

Wherever the Timberwolves fall in this lottery, I think they will trade the pick. You see the recent moves they have made to boost their roster with D’Angelo Russell, who went second in the 2015 Draft. That’s the same draft in which the Timberwolves took Karl Anthony-Towns with the No.1 pick; it feels like the franchise is trying to elevate the pieces they already have.

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Towns, who was drafted in 2015, is entering his prime and the window to make sure Minnesota gets the most out of his career is over the next four to five years.

Russell is a point guard they traded for this season and, as enticing as Ball might be for the franchise, I see them wanting to get more immediate help for the No.1 pick if they get it.

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5. There isn’t much depth in this year’s draft

Some might know this, but the 2020 NBA Draft is a tier down on the ladder from years 2017 and 2015, talent-wise. I wouldn’t be surprised if a few lottery teams either trade a top pick for a few second-rounders or just traded out of this year’s draft altogether to build up assets for a trade later down the line.

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All in all, Thursday should be an exciting night for several reasons outside of the colorful Foose balls floating up and down a plastic tank. 

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