Essentially the bottom line is that if you go out there and do the hard work, you want your reward. And in the NBA, sometimes going out there to lose games, alienate fans, and become a national news laughingstock can be very hard work. A number of teams circled the NBA Draft 2014 and devised a plan to get there with a high pick in hand. Let's go over some of those teams:
- Milwaukee Bucks -- did not expect to be here, but bad luck, plus poor planning eventually led them to the worst record. The front office was actually trying to win games with all their vet signings.
- Philadelphia 76ers -- they were fully invested in the tank, they didn't play one rookie (Nerlens Noel) a single second this year and at one point lost 26 games in a row. And did so with no shame.
- Orlando Magic -- they waived their second best big during the season and sat out their best player during critical parts of winnable games
- Utah Jazz -- our front office tanked in the off-season putting together a team that couldn't sniff 30 wins
- Boston Celtics -- sat out best player for stretches and played silly 5-man lineups during season
- Los Angeles Lakers -- sat out healthy players, started a circus of bad talent, lost a lot of games
- Sacramento Kings -- did Sacramento Kings-like things
- Detroit Pistons -- were in a win-now mode as well like the Bucks, but that just shows you how bad teams in the East are
- Cleveland Cavaliers -- same thing as Bucks and Pistons, were expected to compete for a playoff spot
- New Orleans Pelicans / Denver Nuggets / Minnesota Timberwolves / Phoenix Suns -- didn't tank, just had some bad injuries all season long
You could argue that more than five teams tanked, including the two teams that have the most NBA titles in the history of the sport. The teams that did go for the tank really went for it. And amongst this group there were plenty of 4th quarter collapses.
Well, this is a transformational draft class. Specifically, if you get a high enough pick you could get a player who transforms the fortunes of your team. And in order to do so you need ping pong balls, and lots of 'em.
So what's at stake?
3. Joel Embiid
4. Dante Exum
These are the Top 5 picks by consensus, but there is so much talent in this draft. Sharpshooters? Got 'em in Doug McDermott and Nik Stauskas. Defenders? Got 'em in Thanasis Antetokounmpo and Deonte Burton. Freaks? Go 'em in Zach LaVine and Isaiah Austin. Pure scorers? Got 'em in Glenn Robinson III and T.J. Warren. There are a lot of good players in this draft, but ultimately, it's going to be about the top prizes, the Top 5.
And that's what is at stake today in the NBA Draft Lottery.