NEW YORK - Every draft, even a draft lottery, has winners and losers.
Coming out of the 2012 NBA draft lottery the battle for biggest loser, though, is a tight one.
Would you rather be the team that won all of seven games to ensure the best possible odds to draft a franchise-changer like Anthony Davis, only to be leapfrogged by the only recently league-operated team in the draft that came from three spots back to claim the No. 1 spot?
Sure it’s a tough pill to swallow, but is it the worst?
There’s that other team that went into the draft knowing its only chance at holding onto its lottery pick thanks to a mid-season trade was if it jumped into the top three from No. 6, and then didn’t.
On the surface the former, which is the Charlotte Bobcats’ scenario, would seem the worse of the two.
But the Bobcats aren’t going home empty handed. No, they won’t get the chance to draft Davis, assuming the Hornets don’t suddenly fall on their collective heads and opt for a lesser player.
But they will get No. 2 and with that pick will get a player like Thomas Robinson or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, each of whom should go on to a long, productive NBA career.
Brooklyn, the team that lost its protected pick outright to Portland when it didn’t move up from sixth in the draft into the top three, would appear to have much bigger problems.
One, the player they got in that trade, Gerald Wallace, can opt out this summer and go into free agency. That would leave the Nets having lost the pick for a half-season rental. Wallace is without question a better NBA player today than anybody the Nets might have landed in the draft not named Davis. But that’s little solace if they can’t re-sign him.
But Wallace now has the Nets over a barrel. He can ask for whatever he wants and the Nets have little choice but to agree. If they don’t, all the pick got them was a half season of Wallace.
Above and beyond that, the Nets are looking at the very real possibility of losing another one of their gambles in Deron Williams, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer if he does not re-sign with the Nets and has been campaigning for some A-list help. The hope was the Nets would somehow lure Dwight Howard to New Jersey with a package of players and possibly a high draft pick this summer. The chances of that happening now have gone down exponentially.
Add in that this is a team that is moving locales from Newark to Brooklyn next season and opening a new arena and you start asking yourself if they’re going to be able to sell tickets.
GM Billy King put on a brave face after the lottery, saying he may yet trade his way back into the draft as he has done in the past, but with few assets to begin with, that is not going to be easy.
As for winners, look no further than the New Orleans Hornets, who get the roundly acknowledged one sure-fire franchise player in the draft thanks to that move from No. 4 to No. 1 on draft lottery night.
Were Davis the only thing coming to New Orleans from this draft, the Hornets might still be the overall winners. That’s how large the gap is between Davis and the rest of the field. But the Hornets also have the No. 10 pick which they picked up from the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade.
And with No. 10 they could set themselves up for Paul’s eventual long-term replacement. As it stands now, unless the Raptors go with a point guard at No. 8,
the thinking is the No. 1 point guard in the draft will still be there nine picks after Davis goes off the board.
And that will leave New Orleans with the option of going with either Weber State’s Damian Lillard or North Carolina’s Kendall Marshall to pair with their incoming franchise player.
Not a bad haul at all for a single draft year.
After the Hornets, the winners in no particular order would have to be Portland, which picks up a key sixth overall pick by virtue of Brooklyn’s inability to move into the top three. The semi-protected pick, which was dealt to the Trail Blazers in exchange for Wallace, will give the Blazers a sixth and their own 11th pick. In a draft as deep as this one, that combination could be franchise changing and let’s face it, the Blazers franchise could use a little change after the tough year they just got through.
The Golden State Warriors went into the draft terrified that they would come out of it with nothing. A coin flip got them the seventh spot heading into the lottery, ahead of the Raptors who shared an identical year-end record. That done, the Warriors were still on pins and needles until seven teams in the draft lottery behind them all remained in their pre-lottery spots, meaning the Warriors could fall no lower than the seventh pick. If even one team had moved ahead of them and dropped them to eighth, that draft pick would have gone to Utah and the Warriors would have been left without a lottery selection (they still own San Antonio’s pick at the bottom of the first round).