The NBA’s annual draft lottery, where ping pong balls (lol, billion dollar company) decide the league’s draft selection order, gave few surprises on Tuesday night.
Three of the top four picks finished where we expected them to as the Magic claimed the No. 1 selection, the Thunder earned No. 2, and the Rockets took No. 3. The lone climber was the Kings, who unexpectedly will pick No. 4 despite having the seventh-best odds.
That means the mediocre teams — hey Knicks, Wizards, Blazers and others — will have to study up and try to land a star in the late lottery… again. I’m sure their fans are super pumped about that.
Most critics think any team who landed in the top-3 should consider themselves big winners as three guys are expected to be franchise players: 7-foot Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren, 6’10 Auburn two-way forward Jabari Smith, and 6’10 Duke scoring phenom Paolo Banchero.
Because Smith and Banchero are positionally similar and there’s debate on Holmgren’s impact as the best player on a team, it’s really tricky to nail how each team may select. Especially since the Magic, Thunder and Rockets shouldn’t be choosy here. They should pick whoever they think has the most potential to be the face of their franchise. And that’s subjective.
Holmgren is an incredible shooter for his size and an elite rim protector. Smith rose up the ranks as a still 19-year-old who sank 42 percent of his 3-pointers. And Banchero led Duke to the Final Four scoring 17 points per game.
After the lottery, ESPN’s Jonathon Givony chose Smith as his No. 1 choice with Holmgren and Banchero finishing in that order. That’s likely influenced the sportsbooks, too, as FanDuel has Smith as the favorite to go No. 1 at -130 (bet $130 to win $100). The better value is on Holmgren at +155 (bet $100 to win $155), and the longer shot is Banchero at +550.
For now, we’ll have to rumor-chase online to pick up any tips on what each franchise is thinking. Though the NBA’s draft combine begins this week, none of those top projected picks are likely to participate.