The NBA lottery is a place of hopes and wishes. Every team is at mercy to this random selection. Some teams rise, while others fall. The futures of franchises can be decided by the lottery.
The 2021 draft is loaded with a unanimous number 1, Cade Cunnigham, and future star potential throughout the top five. The team that won the rights to the first overall selection was the Detroit Pistons who will presumably pick Cade. Now that the lottery is over we can make initial assumptions about which team won or lost the lottery, but it is truly down to the player picked on draft night that determines how well a team did.
Just look at the excitement of Pistons legend Ben Wallace, representing Detroit at the lottery, after winning the number one pick. Clapping his hands signifying number one with his hands, you can hear “Let’s roll” in the background. This pick is a game changer, Detroit has a young squad with a few talented players but no one who has legit star potential. Cunningham has star potential, a lot of it, providing the Pistons with playmaking, passing, and scoring. Jerami Grant has been a good contributor, but entering his prime at 27 it is difficult seeing him fit with the timeline of the Pistons. Cunningham has the ability to become the number one option, and a star in this league. If he can fulfill his potential then the Pistons could be looking at a very bright future.
One of the biggest storylines surrounding the draft was the possibility of the Houston Rockets selection transferring to the OKC Thunder if it was outside the top 4. The Rockets had the worst record in the league maximizing their chances of a top 4 selection, but there was still a 47.9% chance that their selection would transfer to the Thunder. Getting inside the top 4 was the biggest relief for the Rockets, but at number 2 they now have their pick Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs. In a post-lottery press conference Rockets GM Rafael Stone said, “ We are really excited about the draft, we feel like we are going to exit with a really improved team.” Houston has a chance to add a star caliber player to a roster full of young talent and future draft picks. Getting a star-through draft, free agency, or trade- is important to every team’s rebuilding process and if the Rockets can hit on this pick they will be ahead of schedule on their rebuild.
One of the biggest and probably most unexpected winners of this NBA draft was the Raptors. With a measly 8.5% chance at the fourth overall pick, that is exactly what they got. The number two team in the East in 2019, the Raptors have been ravaged by injuries and inconsistent play. With budding stars Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, and OG Anunoby the Raptors should not even have whifs of the lottery. Yet this draft has 5 potential stars, and now the Raptors have a chance to select a young talent. Many analysts have Jalen Suggs projected to go to the Raptors, and that would be a dream come true for the Raptors. Lots of rumors have Kyle Lowry moving on in free agency, and Suggs seems like the perfect fit. A well rounded point guard with high IQ can fit right into the Raptors offense. Every lottery has a surprise, this season it was the Raptors and this young piece should help them in their quest to get back to the Finals.
Oklahoma City Thunder
The OKC Thunder had aspirations of two top-ten picks in this draft. What made the Rockets winners, is part of what makes the Thunder losers. Even if the Houston pick did not convey, the Thunder had the same chances as the Cleveland Cavaliers, who have the third pick, and hoped their own pick would be in the top 5. They were just outside the top 5, landing in the sixth position. They will still get a very talented young player at 6, but not the kind of player with the upside of the players expected to go in the top 5. In a full scale rebuild, this is not a devastating blow to OKC but with the 4th worst record in the league they must have hoped for a top 5 selection. Pairing Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, or any of the other projected top 5 players with a young star in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the rest of the young core would have accelerated the rebuild a lot.
Orlando has two top ten picks in the upcoming draft. That should make them winners, they can add two talented players to their rebuild. Yet this lottery was full of what ifs. Orlando was tied with Houston and Detroit for the highest odds, and ended up with the 5th overall pick. Getting into the top 4 would have guaranteed one of the top tier of players in this draft. Jonathan Kuminga or whoever Orlando picks here will be super talented and could become an impact player in the NBA. Right now it looks like the Magic got some bad luck in this lottery. The 8th selection from the Bulls is great luck, it would have gone to Chicago if it was in the top 4, but if the Magic don’t draft a star it will be a case of what could have been.
Top Image: MediaPlate/2021