The Cleveland Cavaliers will get the top pick in the draft for the third time in four years, which made a lot of people mad on the grounds that Dan Gilbert's team doesn't deserve such largesse. If the first year was karmic payback for losing LeBron James, the second was a celebration of bow ties. But the third ... that's simply too much.
Really though, the Cavs' good fortune isn't proof of anything other than the lottery is incredibly random. Last year they had a 15.6 percent chance of getting the top pick, which is not bad in terms of lottery odds. This year, they only had a 1.7 percent chance, tied with Chicago in 2008 for the second-biggest longshot to win the lottery after the 1993 Magic (who scored back-to-back top picks). Four years ago, the Cavs won with the Clippers pick (2.8 percent chance of winning) -- further evidence that you will never go broke betting against the Clips -- while their own choice with the best lottery odds wound up fourth.
NBA Mock Draft
NBA Mock Draft
Maybe that's not fair, but it is random and that's the whole point of the lottery. The system worked. While teams will always try to game the drawing, they're still at the mercy of fate, no matter how many minimum-salary D-Leaguers they sign.
Owning the first pick this year may not even be all that much of an advantage considering the top of the draft is completely in the eye of the beholder. Ask five different GMs and you'll get five different responses about who should be the top pick, to say nothing of the second or the third and on down the line.
The general consensus is that Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker will go one-through-three in some order, and we will end up debating the selections for years to come. In that sense the Bucks and Sixers also made out well on lottery night by staying within the top three.
But by moving up eight spots, the Cavs were the undisputed winners. This is a very big deal for new GM David Griffin who has a chance to not only add a really good prospect to help Kyrie Irving, but also undo some of the damage inflicted by his predecessor, Chris Grant.
Fear the Sword
Grant thought the Cavs were ready to compete for a playoff spot. He was wrong and it cost him his job. His real failing was reaching for players like Anthony Bennett and Dion Waiters. The jury is still out on Tristan Thompson versus Jonas Valanciunas, but that's not looking real good either. Griffin will have his pick of prospects and a very early defining moment of his tenure.
Here are other winners and losers from lottery night:
The Magic got knocked out of the top three and didn't get much help with the New York pick that's coming their way via Denver, either. They'll be choosing behind Philly in both spots. Not great for a team that's been loading up on first-round picks but doesn't have a defining player to show for it yet.
The Hornets are back, as they're getting Detroit's pick thanks to Cleveland's rise. This was the result of the ill-fated Ben Gordon trade, which made the ill-fated Tyrus Thomas trade with Chicago much easier to stomach. Charlotte made the playoffs and got a lottery pick. Maybe there's hope for Michael Jordan's team yet.
LOSERS: Detroit, New York
Getting rid of Gordon opened up cap space to sign Josh Smith. Whoops. The Knicks pick was the last of the Carmelo Anthony bounty and will be conveyed to Orlando in the aftermath of the Dwight Howard deal. Feels like we may be going through the same exercise in a few years if Kevin Love gets traded. Speaking of ...
Getting the sixth pick wasn't exactly optimal, but it was the most likely scenario for the Celtics who now have the strongest draft position of any of the teams angling to get Love out of Minnesota. They kept the Lakers one spot behind them and didn't get passed by the Suns, which would have been completely disastrous. Not great, but not the end of the world either.
TOO EARLY TO TELL: Philadelphia and New Orleans
The consensus was that the Pelicans screwed up after trading the rights to Nerlens Noel and this year's lottery pick for Jrue Holiday. However, Holiday is a really good player on a solid contract who will be 24 years old when next season starts. Noel hasn't played in over a year and the 10th pick is far from a sure thing. Let's hold off on that assessment for a bit.
WINNER: The Eastern Conference
The balance of power has swung so far to the West that it took 49 wins to even make the playoffs and cost a team like Phoenix a chance at the postseason. If the Wolves had been placed in the Central Division with their midwestern neighbors instead of the Northwest, they would have made the playoffs and Love might be talking about signing on for the long-term.
There was some thought that the loaded West would help depress the records of the also-rans who would then get rewarded in the lottery. Instead, the top four picks will stay in the East, as will five of the first six and seven of the first 10. This draft could be the first domino in the series that pushes the balance of power back the other way.