For years upon years, the Atlanta Hawks were a fixture in the room during the NBA’s annual draft lottery. From 2000 to 2007, the Hawks missed the playoffs 8 consecutive times, and as a result, drafted in the top 5 on three separate occasions, selecting Marvin Williams (sigh), Shelden Williams (oh, come on), and Al Horford (much better). Fortunately for both the organization and the fan base, the Hawks have made the playoffs in every season since then (6 straight trips), and the night of the draft lottery has fallen off of the organizational calendar. On Tuesday night, 14 teams will gather to view the results of ping-pong balls (literally) bouncing around to potentially decide the fate of each organization, but this syear, Danny Ferry has the night off.
When the teams convene, the Orlando Magic have the best chance to win the lottery after putting up the league’s worst record (20-62), and they have a 25.0% chance of securing the #1 overall selection. They are followed by the lowly Charlotte Bobcats (19.9%), the cursed Cleveland Cavaliers (15.6%), and the disaster that is the Phoenix Suns (11.9%) as the foursome of teams with greater than a 10% chance.
The big “prize” of this year’s NBA draft is former Kentucky center Nerlens Noel. Noel tore his ACL in February after a solid freshman season in Lexington, which gave a hit to his draft stock, but in recent days, his prospects have risen again, and he’s now considered to be the “default” number one choice. He is a defense-first asset (having averaged 4.4 blocks per game), but he shot 59% in his limited college action, and his elite athleticism projects big-time upside.
After Noel, the consensus number two prospect is Kansas guard Ben McLemore, who is a pure scorer with flashes of inconsistency. There are some mock drafts that have McLemore edging out Noel for the top pick, but it would be tough to justify that selection unless there is an extended medical concern around Noel’s knee.
From a Hawks perspective, the results of Tuesday’s lottery are largely inconsequential. There are certainly players that I would love to see in a Hawks uniform (Victor Oladipo chief among them), but until the order is set, Danny Ferry cannot begin to work the phones even if just as a preliminary discussion. The Hawks hold the #17 and #18 overall picks and in a draft like this that is deep with talent but lacks high-end “studs”, those picks could be valuable for a team looking to rebuild at multiple spots.
The Atlanta Hawks franchise has come a long way from their lottery-bound days, but the organization is at a bit of a crossroads. With only four players under contract for next year and no assurance of top-flight talent landing in Atlanta, there is a real possibility that the Hawks could strike out in free agency, and end up sitting in one of the 14 lottery seats for 2014. For the time being, Hawks fans can sit back and enjoy the festivities as unbiased observers, but as the wheels spin into the summer, the heat will turn up on Ferry and the front-office.
Best of luck to the fourteen teams on Tuesday night, but remember, “winning” the lottery only matters if you make the right selection in June’s draft. Just ask any Hawks fan from the Billy Knight era.