CHICAGO -- The NBA Draft Lottery will take place, where down-on-their-luck franchises will hope to strike it big -- either by winning the No. 1 pick or making moves into the top end of a top-heavy draft.
A lot can happen. The Knicks can reinvigorate their fanbase by winning the lottery (or they could fall to No. 5). The Lakers could do the unlikely, hitting on their 2% chance to win the lottery. Or the Suns and Cavs -- who tie for the best odds to win the lottery with New York -- could convert their 14% chance of striking it big.
This year is. Because of the NBA's attempt to curb tanking in the NBA, lottery odds have flattened for the first time this year. The teams with the three worst records in the NBA this season -- the Cavs, the Suns and the Knicks -- all enter Tuesday with an equal chance (14%) to win the top pick. Those three teams cannot fall out of the top five, and smart money is on one of them winning it.
From there, odds to win the No. 1 pick -- expected this year to be Duke one-and-done talent Zion Williamson -- slowly decrease as you go down. Here's the top storylines for Tuesday night followed by each team's chances of winning the No. 1 pick and landing in the top four.
1. Can the Cavaliers do it ... again?
The Cavs have won the lottery more than any other team in the NBA since the turn of the millenium. LeBron James. Kyrie Irving. Anthony Bennett. Andrew Wiggins (who was promptly traded for Kevin Love). Are they going to do this thing ... again?
As noted, they have a 14% shot to do exactly that. And they'll be represented by Nick Gilbert, the son of owner Dan Gilbert. Nick has been in attendance at four of the five previous lottery trips for the Cavs, and he's been a good luck charm for the oft-woeful Cavs in the past.
2. Will the Knicks finally get lucky?
The Knicks have made dozens of picks since last they were at the top of the board with the No. 1 overall pick. That was in 1985, when a talent named Patrick Ewing (you may have heard of him) was draft eligible. Ewing was a star in the same way. Might the fit -- and the stars alignment -- be right in 2019?
3. The Suns could replicate Philly, Cleveland's recent paths
Picking No. 1 is a rare gift. Picking No. 1 in consecutive drafts is virtually unheard of. And yet, come Tuesday, Phoenix could wind up with the opportunity to do exactly that. After selecting DeAndre Ayton No. 1 last year, the Suns could again make the first pick and win the lottery -- the same fortune that the Sixers had in 2016 and 2017, and that the Cavaliers had in 2013 and 2014 when they picked No. 1 in consecutive years.
Phoenix is a different beast, though. Phoenix has pieces to build around. Phoenix has Devin Booker and DeAndre Ayton. Phoenix has a tantalizing young core. Phoenix, whether it picks at No. 1 or No. 5, appears set to take a big leap as early as next year regardless of how its fate plays out Tuesday here in Chicago.
4. Will a lucky team with low odds strike it big?
Winning the lottery this year is the golden ticket to the Zion Williamson sweepstakes. It's a potential franchise-changing turn of fortune. Because the teams at the top of the lottery were bad, the process is laid out to benefit them with top talent so they can reverse their fortunes and not continue the trend of being in the top of the lottery (or in the lottery at all).
That's what is likely to happen. But what could happen: chaos. Lots of it. Like, say, if the Lakers' 2% chance of winning hits. Or if, perhaps, the Heat and their 1% chance strikes it big.
The odds ... unlikely. But in the event something wild happens, people are going to be up in arms. And the NBA, well, it'll be its same, old chaotic self all over again.
5. Could The Process be completed?
The Sixers aren't likely to be a lottery team, but one condition -- if the Kings' pick wins the lottery -- would have them picking at No. 1 overall.
No. 1 overall!
The odds are low, yes. Tied for the lowest among lottery teams. But as Lloyd Christmas might say, there's a chance. And with the prize of Zion Williamson waiting, that's enough for every team in the lottery to be extra optimistic that the unthinkable and improbable might ... possibly ... become reality.
Chances in 2019 NBA Draft Lottery
|Team||Regular season record||Top-four pick||No. 1 pick|
* Owed picks:
- The Cavaliers owe the Hawks a first-round pick via the Kyle Korver trade, and it is protected 1-10 this year.
- The Grizzlies owe the Celtics a first-round pick via the Jeff Green trade, and it is protected 1-8 this year.
- The Mavericks owe the Hawks a first-round pick via the Luka Doncic trade, and it is protected 1-5 this year.
- The Kings' first-round pick, which was owed to the Sixers via the Nik Stauskas trade, is now owed to the Celtics via the Markelle Fultz trade, and is protected No. 1 overall.