NBA

What each ping-pong ball will mean during the NBA Lottery

The dreaded ping-pong balls of fate and injustice will come to set the 2018 NBA Draft order for the teams in the lottery tonight, providing heartbreak and exaltation around the league.

The odds for the No. 1 overall pick overwhelmingly favor the Phoenix Suns (64.2 percent at the top pick), while Memphis (55.8 percent) isn’t too far behind and Dallas and Atlanta (42.6 percent) also have good chances at getting franchise-altering players.  

Those odds are fair considering the dreadful play in the tank-a-thon from half the league that plagued the second half of the season. Still, both Eastern Conference Finalists and the 76ers have a chance at taking the top spot as well.

Meanwhile, teams like Sacramento, Orlando and Chicago sit in limbo, having to hope for the right kind of bounce from those coveted ping-pong balls with lower chances at getting a top-three pick. Here’s to hoping Dikembe Mutombo accidentally tweets a reveal hours before the definitely-not-rigged/staged lottery show.

As for what these ping-pong balls actually mean for the rest of the NBA landscape, only a select few teams really matter in this. I do agree with The Ringer’s Paolo Ugetti’s take of how cool it would be to see a Luka Doncic-Kristaps Porzingis partnership, especially considering the already confirmed tank job in New York next season, while Doncic could hone his skills at Real Madrid for another season. Still, the Knicks aren’t the main figures at play.

Although it would be nice to see teams like Sacramento or Phoenix finally get a chance to manage a superstar-level talent like Doncic or DeAndre Ayton, it’s just impossible to think they won’t squander the chance to mismanage the rest of the roster. These generational talents deserve better.

In a league where it really only matters if you have three or four All-NBA players to inevitably matchup against Golden State in the Finals, rigging the lottery doesn’t seem like such an awful idea after all.

To do so, the Cleveland Cavaliers (via the laughable Brooklyn Nets) and Boston Celtics (via Markelle Fultz’s shoulder) will have chances to nab top-three picks. If the Cavs do get out of the hole against the C’s and advance to the Finals, securing a No. 1 overall pick will be huge in the massive fight to get LeBron to stay this summer.

For the Celtics, the continued praise of angry-Danny Ainge could grow tonight as  their rebuild has been far more successful than anyone imagined less than 10 years ago. Lucking into Kyrie Irving and wooing Gordon Hayward this offseason is one thing, but having the time to develop really talented prospects like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum deep in the postseason is downright scary.

Now, imagine adding another top pick to that roster. No thanks.

For Sixers fans, however, the Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcast Lottery Party provides an outlet to allow the thinking that everything might be okay after all. Just look how happy they all are when the picks actually swapped from the Nik Stauskas trade with the Kings.

On the other hand, getting the more likely No. 10 pick and drafting Mikal Bridges from Villanova sounds like an awesome deal. A two-way player who can come help the Sixers seek revenge over the Cus Crise would be a step in the right direction of the process.

Fultz comes back, both he and Simmons can suddenly shoot, Embiid gets conditioned and Brett Brown doesn’t get LeBron and all’s right with the world. I just really want to stick it to the guys in Boston next year. Trust the Process.

To be honest, if the Suns or Kings get the No. 1 pick and select Ayton over Doncic, they should be forced to sell and relocate immediately. That being said, if the Mavs get a shot at him, let Dirk teach him how to shoot the NBA’s best-ever shot: the one-legged fadeaway jumper from the post up.

Wow, I’m getting too excited even thinking about it.

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