The 2018 NBA draft lottery didn’t offer too much in the way of surprises.
A handful of teams in dire need of star talent remained atop the draft and will get the chance to land a franchise building block. Here are the final results:
To the relief of fans of Eastern conference teams, the Boston Celtics, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Philadelphia 76ers did not land a top-three pick, and projected top prospects like DeAndre Ayton and Luka Doncic will have the chance to take the reigns of a franchise as early as their rookie year.
Here are winners and losers from the NBA’s draft lottery:
Phoenix Suns: Let’s begin with the obvious. This will be the Suns’ first ever number-one overall selection — and the timing couldn’t be better. Phoenix posted the NBA’s worst record last season and feature a young roster in need of potential cornerstone talent.
Twenty-one-year-old Devin Booker is already one of the most lethal scorers in the NBA, and last year’s top pick, Josh Jackson, was great down the stretch during his rookie year. But early returns suggest the team really struck out on recent lottery selections like Alex Len, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss. With top-ranked prospect Ayton, who attended Arizona in his lone college year, available the Suns have an opportunity to finally land a future star in the front court. Doncic is an intriguing fit here too, and could form one of the most exciting young duos alongside Booker.
Jaren Jackson Jr.: If Doncic, who is the type of franchise player Atlanta desperately needs to kick start their rebuild, is off the board by the time the Hawks select at number three, it could open the door for Jackson Jr. to go third overall.
Doncic aside, Jackson Jr. appears to be the best fit alongside the Hawks’ current most promising prospect — last year’s first-round pick forward John Collins — and his versatile game would form a dynamic front court tandem to build around. Jackson’s draft stock rose as the NCAA season wore on, but few pegged him to go as high as third — now a scenario that makes sense.
The rest of the East: If Philadelphia and Boston don’t add anymore players, they’re already well-positioned to remain Eastern Conference contenders for the foreseeable future. But what makes the situation for both those clubs so scary for the rest of the East is that both still have a bevy of projected top-tier draft picks headed their way over the next few seasons.
But for one year at least neither will own a pick near the top of the draft. Philadelphia stood pat and will select 10th overall, having acquired the rights to the Lakers’ first-round pick around this time last year. The 76ers had a shot at jumping to first overall, which would have just been unfair for a team already starring young stars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
If the pick had landed between second and sixth, then it would have been conveyed to the Celtics. Whew, that was a close call.
Sacramento Kings: They leap-frogged from seventh to second, and will now get a crack at Ayton or Doncic (or, you know, virtually anybody else they want). The Kings have made unfathomable whiffs at the draft over the years and, as a result, have a number of needs to fill. But none stand out more than the need for a front-court star. In Ayton and Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, to name two options, they’ll now have a shot to land one.
Orlando Magic: It seems like the Magic have been terrible for over a decade. In reality, it’s been just six seasons since their last playoff appearance. Still, the Magic have among the dimmest futures of any club. That’s in large part a result of poor decisions in the front office of over the years, including many draft blunders, but also because they have had terrible luck at the lottery.
Yes, they landed the second-overall pick in 2013, choosing Victor Oladipo, but traded him before he could reach his potential. Since then, they’ve never drafted higher than fourth and fell back one spot in this year’s lottery to sixth. There will still be talent there, but the Magic desperately need to hit a home run on draft night to, eventually, get back to winning.
Boston Celtics: Well, sort of. As mentioned, the Celtics had a shot to draft anywhere between second and sixth, but will now be out of the lottery entirely. A pretty nice consolation prize: they’re expected to own the Kings’ first-rounder next season, another projected lottery pick.
Chicago Bulls: The Bulls have solid pieces in place and a potential star in Lauri Markkanen, last year’s seventh-overall pick. But the team engineered a fairly obvious tank job this season in the hopes of getting a top pick. Instead they’ll draft seventh once again. The odds of hitting it out of the park two years in a row at that draft spot are slim.
Memphis Grizzlies: Landing the top pick and the opportunity to draft a player like Doncic is exactly what Memphis needed to force their hand and engineer a legitimate rebuild that closed the Marc Gasol/Mike Conley era and put them on the right track for the future.
Detroit Pistons: Fairly simple scenario here — the Pistons sent a top-three protected first-rounder to the Clippers as part of the Blake Griffin blockbuster last season. Because the pick did not land in the top three, the Clippers will now keep it. So the Pistons don’t have their first-rounder and have to pay Griffin roughly $600 billion over the next four years.