Losing has never felt so good as teams at the bottom of the NBA standings have done all they could (intentionally or unintentionally) to give their team the best chance to secure a top pick. The Suns will have the most ping-pong balls, and a 25 percent chance to get the No. 1 pick. Memphis is next in line at 19.9 percent. All this is based on the odds as the actual NBA Draft Lottery takes place on May 15 in Chicago where the draft order will be determined.
What's at stake in this year's draft? The chance to draft European sensation Luka Doncic or Arizona big man DeAndre Ayton. Both are very different players, but have equally bright futures. Doncic is a point guard playing in Real Madrid, and has the benefit of playing professionally for years. ESPN's Mina Kimes just did an excellent feature piece on Doncic.
"In truth, Doncic isn't just outplaying the other teenagers in Europe -- he's also outplaying most, if not all, of the adults" Kimes writes. "He signed with Real Madrid at age 13 and made his EuroLeague debut at 16. Now, at 19, he is averaging 22 points, 7.6 rebounds and 7 assists per 36 minutes (through April 5), leading the second-best league in the world in player efficiency. Every month, throngs of scouts trek to Spain, hoping to glean new pieces of data that will help them calculate whether Doncic's worth matches his hype. 'Our reports are that he's the kind of guy who's very rare,' one NBA executive says."
In an era when big men seem to be a thing of the past, Ayton is the rare exception who can run the floor like a guard, defend, shoot and has polished moves on the blocks. It is hard to imagine an NBA team going in the wrong direction with either of these players, but history does not always go as expected.
Teams are eyeing the kind of turnaround the Sixers have enjoyed as proof the NBA draft is the surest way to rebuild a franchise. The most important thing is hitting on top picks, which Philadelphia has done with players like Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The Sixers had to exercise patience as injuries hit both players early, but now are reaping the rewards. If a team hits on key picks, the franchise has the benefit of getting these players on rookie deals, well below market value. Despite being a top team in the East, the Sixers are slated to have cap space this summer thanks to a good portion of their roster being on rookie deals.
The downside is there are teams like the Suns and Magic that have consistently been in the lottery, but have not seen any significant improvements. Just having lottery picks does not guarantee that things will turn around.
The following mock draft order is based on the Tankathon standings heading into the final night of NBA games. It will be updated once tonight's games go final, and the lottery odds are officially locked in. Teams in italics have secured their particular spot in the lottery odds. Click next to view profiles of the top 10 picks, or click the player names below.
No. 1 Phoenix Suns: PG Luka Doncic, Real Madrid
No. 2 Memphis Grizzlies: C DeAndre Ayton, Arizona
No. 3 Dallas Mavericks: F/C Marvin Bagley, Duke
No. 4 Atlanta Hawks: C Jaren Jackson Jr., Michigan State
No. 5 Orlando Magic: C Mo Bamba, Texas
No. 6 Chicago Bulls: SF Mikal Bridges, Villanova
No. 7 Sacramento Kings: F Michael Porter Jr., Missouri
No. 8 New York Knicks: PG Trae Young, Oklahoma
No. 9 Cleveland Cavs (via Nets): Collin Sexton, Alabama
No. 10 Philadelphia Sixers (via Lakers): SG Lonnie Walker, Miami
No. 11 Charlotte Hornets: SF Miles Bridges, Michigan State
No. 12 L.A. Clippers (via Pistons): SF Kevin Knox, Kentucky
No. 13 L.A. Clippers: PF Wendell Carter, Duke
No. 14 Denver Nuggets: PG Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
No. 15 Washington Wizards: C Robert Williams, Texas A&M
No. 16 Phoenix Suns (via Bucks): C Mitchell Robinson, N/A
No. 17 Phoenix Suns (via Heat): SF Zhaire Smith, Texas Tech
No. 18 San Antonio Spurs: F Keita Bates-Diop, Ohio State
No. 19 Atlanta Hawks (via T-Wolves): G Anfernee Simons, IMG Academy
No. 20 Indiana Pacers: PG Aaron Holiday, UCLA
No. 21 Utah Jazz: SF Chandler Hutchison, Boise State
No. 22 Minnesota Timberwolves (via Thunder): G De'Anthony Melton, USC
No. 23 Chicago Bulls (via Pelicans): F/C Chimezie Metu, USC
No. 24 Portland Trail Blazers: SF Dzanan Musa, Cedevita
No. 25 L.A. Lakers (via Cavs): SG Troy Brown, Oregon
No. 26 Philadelphia Sixers: SG/SF Jacob Evans, Cincinnati
No. 27 Boston Celtics: PG Jalen Brunson, Villanova
No. 28 Golden State Warriors: SG Khyri Thomas, Creighton
No. 29 Brooklyn Nets: SG Hamidou Diallo, Kentucky
No. 30 Atlanta Hawks (via Rockets): PG Devonte' Graham, Kansas