NBA Lottery winners, losers: Celtics, Lakers, Markelle Fultz smiling, Kings bust
On the other hand, this could end up getting sticky for Isaiah Thomas
The 2017 NBA Draft Lottery was ... not surprising. The Celtics, with the best odds, won the lottery, securing the No. 1 pick, while the Lakers landed second and the Sixers, via a pick swap, finished third. Here are your winners and losers from lottery night.
The rich get richer and richer. Already in the conference finals with a bevy of good young talent and players in their prime, the Celtics have a world of options for how to carry the most historic franchise in NBA history back to where it feels it belongs.
Most draft analysts feel projected No.1 overall pick Markelle Fultz can play next to Isaiah Thomas. He shot 41.3 percent from deep at Washington, can make plays and most important has the size that's desperately missing from the Celtics' current back court of Thomas and Avery Bradley. If the Celtics want to build around Fultz, they can trade Thomas, an All-Star and borderline MVP candidate. If they want to play them together, they can likely make that work, paying Fultz rookie scale money while giving Thomas $200 million next year as a free agent. The league has gone small-ball and guard crazy, and the Celtics now have the possibility of having five impact guards on their roster. That's probably too many, which only opens the door for more trades.
If they want to deal the pick, Paul George and Jimmy Butler are both on the table. George isn't ball dominant and could play next to Thomas while giving the Celtics another go-to scorer. Given that the Celtics already have reached the conference finals, adding George just might be enough to pull them at least even with the Cavaliers, especially as Cleveland's aging core struggles to keep its legs after repeated long playoff runs.
Boston has every option, and a great team to start with. Everything this season has come up green.
Assuming Danny Ainge doesn't go for another reach -- something he's pretty good at doing and having them work out anyway -- the Celtics should take Fultz No.1. Fultz gets to play for a great coach in Brad Stevens, in a great team culture fortified by high-character guys who play hard and together, in a city that loves its basketball team, and he gets to learn how to win from the get-go.
No toiling away in 23-win seasons amid veterans just getting a check, no power struggles when he's the best player on the floor at 19 years old. He'll have to earn his minutes, which is a great thing for a young player, and he's talented enough to do so. He'll have veterans to teach him and support him.
It's an ideal situation for Fultz as much as it is for the Celtics.
Los Angeles Lakers
They kept the pick, first of all, and that's a huge get for them. Second, they will likely get the guy they want, Lonzo Ball. They've wanted him from the start. He went to UCLA, he has the kind of up-tempo style that people associate with the Lakers, it's a perfect fit. They managed to not lose their pick in a year they could use it, and acquire a player who could be the kind of superstar their other young players have failed to become.
The other good point guards
Dennis Smith and De'Aaon Fox both have good chance of going high. Philly needs a point guard and landing at No. 3 presents opportunities, even if Fox lacks the shooting the Sixers need. The Kings at No. 5 seem likely, and neither seems likely to fall past the Knicks. It worked out well.
Congrats! If you keep the No. 2 pick, you get to deal with LaVar Ball for the next eight years! Good luck with that, first-time team president!
Oh, Kings. They landed the third overall spot and have to swap with the Sixers. If you're wondering, here's what the Kings got in return for that swap, along with losing Nik Stauskas: Arturas Gudaitis, Luka Mitrovic. That's right, it was a cap space clear. They then used that space to sign ... no one of any importance.
That trade was horrific, but it could be worse. The Kings are still going to get a top-five pick and will have a good chance at drafting an impact player. In fact, they finished with a higher pick than their lottery standing (eighth). But they could have had Josh Jackson, or if the Lakers get frisky, Lonzo Ball, or Jayson Tatum. Now they have to absolutely nail a pick with a lot of guys at the same level.
It could have been worse, but man, that trade was brutal.
If the Suns had landed in the top two, they would be in great position -- draft Fultz or Ball, then trade Eric Bledsoe for good return. Instead, they slip to fourth. That's a rough spot. If Josh Jackson falls, they can take him and slot him in and let T.J. Warren depart. Or they can take De'Aaron Fox and gamble on him being better than Bledsoe. But Devin Booker, Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender legitimately box them in with options. You always have to take best player available, but doing so could complicate things for their rebuild, which they don't need.
It's a tough spot.
You're going to hear a lot about how Thomas is on record saying he wants to play with Fultz, and how he's happy they will get him. That's going to be everywhere.
But look: Thomas is going to be 29 next summer and looking at a $200 million deal. If Fultz comes into camp and looks like a universally top-level player (which is unlikely), the Celtics are going to pump the brakes on handing over a deal that would pay a guy $40 million when he's 34. There's no way not to.
Thomas can get max money elsewhere. He'll still get paid. But for all the love of Thomas from fans and the organization, and for all the ways Thomas has gone out of his way to get out ahead of a controversy, he's a ball-dominant player at 5-feet-9. If Fultz is the real deal, what does that forecast for Thomas' future with the one franchise to actually, finally, believe in him?
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