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Winners and Losers of the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery

The NBA Draft Lottery concluded on Tuesday night setting the order for the upcoming NBA Draft on June 20th and it definitely did not disappoint. The New Orleans Pelicans took home the first overall selection for this year’s draft despite only having a 6.0% chance of doing so.

Meanwhile, the three teams that shared the best odds at the top pick all landed outside of the top two, with the New York Knicks drawing the third pick, the Cleveland Cavaliers pick falling to fifth. The Phoenix Suns claimed the sixth pick in the upcoming draft, even though there was only a 27.5% shot they would fall out of the top five.

The NBA’s reformed lottery format has now produced its fist year of results, and along with those results were obvious winners and losers from the 2019 NBA Draft Lottery.

Winner: Small Markets

One of the main purposes for the NBA Draft is to ensure that teams in small markets have the same opportunity to acquire talent as big market teams. Typically, smaller markets struggle to sign marquee free agents, leaving trades and the draft as their only options to bring big name talent to their franchise. With the New Orleans Pelicans and Memphis Grizzlies taking the first and second picks in the draft respectively, the 2019 Draft Lottery did just that.

Zion Williamson has been the frontrunner of this year’s draft class and is expected to go first overall to New Orleans. The Pelicans will likely gain a player they can build their franchise around and will be in prime spot to generate success (or at least significant relevancy) in the near future. Memphis seems locked in on Ja Morant as their guy, who has been a dynamic player at the college level and created plenty of buzz late in his lone season at Murray State. The two most talked about college players headed to two of the league’s smallest markets. Chalk that up as a win for small markets.

Loser: New York Knicks Fans

If the blues are all about pain and suffering, then fans of the Knicks may understand the blues even better than Knicks owner/JD & The Straight Shot front man, James Dolan. A dismal season in Madison Square Garden was made palatable by an 82-game prayer of landing the first pick in the NBA Draft and essentially bringing Zion Williamson to the Big Apple.

Sadly, the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” Knicks fell just shy of their tanking dreams and now have to figure out of they can work out a trade or R.J. Barrett is their best bet. Normally, landing the third pick in the draft wouldn’t be so bad, but given the track record of misfortune this franchise has seen (even though some was certainly self-inflicted), this was definitely a tough pill to swallow for New York fans. Don’t worry, though, free agency is just around the corner and there’s still a chance at Khris Middlet- sorry, I mean Kevin Durant.

Winner: David Griffin

With just about seven years’ experience as a top executive for the Cleveland Cavaliers, many more in other roles in the league, and a 2016 NBA Championship, David Griffin’s resume is no joke. Now, however, he can add to it “winner of four NBA Draft Lotteries”. Whether a product of pure chance, a lucky tie, or that Griffin himself is a good luck charm, this is still a great way to start your tenure with a new franchise.

Loser: Phoenix Suns

A few teams defied the odds on Draft Lottery night and landed picks way ahead of where they were projected. Phoenix, however, did so in the opposite direction. Despite being tied for the second worst record in the league at the end of the 2018-19 season, the Suns fell all the way to sixth in the draft in a very statistically unlikely move.

Over the last few seasons the Suns have amassed a decent array of young talent but have yet to be able to use that to evolve as a team and find any success. A top pick in this year’s draft would have hopefully helped solidify their core moving forward. Instead, they will be picking in an awkward spot in a draft that is expected to be top heavy with high value in the late lottery and back end picks.

Winner: Adam Silver

There is no way to tell if it will remain this way moving forward, but the adjustments made to the NBA Draft Lottery definitely worked for at least its fist year. When it was announced that the Draft Lottery would undergo structural changes in how the odds for top picks were dispersed, the goal was to prevent, or at least minimize, tanking efforts.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has been outspoken about his stance against NBA teams tanking in order to secure a high position in the NBA Draft. The outcome of the 2019 Lottery surely put a smile on his face as only two teams out of the top five spots were engaged in tanking efforts throughout the 2018-19 season. The Los Angeles Lakers, previously expected to receive a pick around the 11th spot, slid all the way up to 4th after spending their season actively trying to make the playoffs.

Loser: Danny Ainge

Heading into the draft lottery, there was a shot that the Boston Celtics could wind up with four picks in the first round of the 2019 Draft. Those picks were expected to be packaged in some way that would inhibit the Celtics to make a blockbuster trade for Anthony Davis.

Instead, the Celtics will have to wait until next year to receive compensation for the Memphis pick and will enter the draft with only three picks, and their only lottery pick being slotted at 14th. To make it even more difficult, both the Knicks and Lakers have top five picks and will likely be competing with Boston to make a deal happen with New Orleans. This will make Danny Ainge’s job much tougher as he tries to figure out how to outbid other teams with a smaller (though still impressive) toolbox of assets in the race for Anthony Davis.