Draft Lead

2019 NBA Draft Lottery Karma Rankings

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A whole season of tanking for Zion. But who deserves him? What team will make the most of him? What fanbase deserves happiness and which organizations are so incompetent that they could somehow ruin Zion?

This is the idea of deciding which team and organization deserves a high lottery pick. The factors of deciding who deserves this are as follows:

  1. Does the organization have a plan to improve their team?
  2. Has the team had recent success?
  3. How long has the team been tanking?
  4. Is the owner, management, team, etc. making competent decisions and is their stability?
  5. What are their current assets and are they positives or negatives?
  6. Do they really deserve nice things?

#15 Philadelphia 76ers

(rights to the Kings pick if #1)
1.0% of top pick

The Process needs to be over. They tanked for seven years and got so many lottery picks. The results is Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and pieces they have traded for. Seven years of tanking is enough. They were the three seed in the playoffs. They have done enough losing and now have a good enough team where they don’t deserve Zion.

#14 Boston Celtics

(Rights to the Kings pick if it isn’t #1 and have several other picks that are protected.)
Top 4 pick 4.8%

Boston as a city has enough winning with the Red Sox, Patriots and Bruins that they don’t need even more talent on their Boston Celtics. With the great Nets trade in addition to other trades, they have several high draft picks and a great coach. Even if Kyrie leaves, they have Al Horford, Gordon Hayward, Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, Marcus Smart, etc.

#13 Cleveland Cavaliers

Top pick 14.0% chance
Top 4 pick 52.1% chance

The Cleveland Cavaliers have had LeBron James twice and went to four straight finals and have one championship. After winning one, you can’t really complain for five years or so. On top of that they have Dan Gilbert as an owner. Only Dan Gilbert and 3rd grade teachers use comic sans.

They have won the lottery four times that have led to LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. All they have to show for those lottery picks is Collin Sexton and Kevin Love. We could dive deep into all of their poor decision making, but Cleveland fans seem pretty content with their trophy and the current Cleveland Browns.

#12 Los Angeles Lakers

Top pick 2.0% chance
Top 4 pick 9.4% chance

The most drama-filled basketball team is fittingly over in La La land. The Anthony Davis trade fiasco; getting LeBron James this off-season and the city not embracing him; Magic Johnson quitting; Luke Walton and management mutually agreeing to part ways, etc. This season is so much of a dumpster fire that the Karma gods can’t possibly reward the incompetence and back-stabbing. They’ve had so many lottery picks in recent years and all seem like they might not be all-star caliber players. They traded away D’Angelo Russell to get off the Mozgov contract and lucked out (maybe they’re smart) in the Kuzma pick. They let Julius Randle walk and sign with New Orleans so they could afford Kentavious Caldwell Pope. Now Brandon Ingram has blood clot problems, Lonzo Ball doesn’t appear to want to stay in LA, and Kyle Kuzma thinks he’ll be traded to New Orleans.

Now they have hired Frank Vogel as head coach and Jason Kidd as assistant. Ask any Bucks fan about Jason Kidd’s coaching and you might be afraid all of the Lakers young talent will decline and somehow he’ll ruin LeBron.

The last five years of Laker drama could fill multiple books.

#11 New York Knicks

Top pick 14% chance
Top 4 pick 52.1% chance

Where to begin with this team? Every year they talk about who they will get in free agency and sign a former all-star on the downside of their career. Jim Dolan is throwing out fans and playing concerts. The team hasn’t re-signed a 1st round draft pick since Charlie Ward, who was drafted in 1994. Phil Jackson did a terrible job for several years with his Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose signings. He also re-signed Melo even though it would clearly handicap the team for years to come. The best thing they have going for them is their loyal fanbase and…. yeah it might just be their draft picks and their fans. So next year they will probably be rooting for R.J. Barrett and max-contract Jimmy Butler.

#10 Washington Wizards

Top pick 9.0% chance
Top 4 pick 37.2% chance

Maybe now that Ernie Grunfeld is gone someone can explain what is exactly the Wizards’ plan is. The John Wall contract looks like the worst contract in the league after his injury coinciding with his age. They have Dwight Howard and his injured butt for another year.

The positives for the Wizards are the Jabari Parker team option contract. This could be an expiring to trade away or just reject the option and free the cap space. Bobby Portis is a restricted free agent. They have Bradley Beal locked up for several years. Ian Mahinmi might have value as an expiring contract in what was the back-up plan when Horford chose Boston over DC. With all this being said, there isn’t much direction or talent in Washington. A few years of tanking might put together a decent team when Wall’s contract comes to an end.

#9 Phoenix Suns

Top pick 14.0% chance
Top 4 pick 52.1% chance

The Suns had the top pick last year and picked Deandre Ayton. Although most agree they should have picked Luka Doncic, Ayton isn’t a bust. In the last six drafts they’ve had 12 picks in the 1st round. They also bought out Tyson Chandler this season in what seemed to be a nice friendship move by James Jones. Additionally, they dealt Trevor Ariza for Austin Rivers in a roster-clearing move.

Just recently, they hired another new head coach in Monty Williams. Ownership is dysfunctional and it’s too bad for fans of Phoenix.

#8 Chicago Bulls

Top pick 12.5% chance
Top 4 pick 48.0% chance

The Bulls have gone from tanking, to going for it, to tanking, to firing their coach, to extending the interim coach after players rebelled against him. One could stop there, but they do have some positives in Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr.. Otto Porter Jr. is a decent piece in a place where most free agents won’t be coming to. Management is often laughed at by other front offices and their long term plan is mind boggling even to people in the industry. This might be the one team that would trade the Zion pick to move down to Ja Morant for a better “ideal fit”.

#7 Minnesota Timberwolves

Top pick 3.0% chance
Top 4 pick 13.9% chance

Minnesota’s management seems to be more competent in today’s NBA than Thibs’ signing of the 2012 Bulls. They had the dysfunction caused by Jimmy Butler, but got a decent package back in Dario Saric and Robert Covington. The Dieng contract is still a hindrance, but nothing compared to Andrew Wiggins– one of the most inefficient players in the league who is on the books for the next four years.

Despite having Karl-Anthony Towns and some new blood in management, this might not be the best deserving franchise. They haven’t proved they can build a championship contender or a positive culture since Kevin Garnett won MVP. Josh Okogie was a good pick last season, but the T-Wolves have been a place where prospects go only to never develop with the exception of Towns.

#6 New Orleans Pelicans

Top pick 6.0% chance
Top 4 pick 26.3% chance

Anthony Davis is consistent in his stance that he wants out of New Orleans. A highly talented draft pick might help him change his mind in a team that has fellow talents in Jrue Holiday and Julius Randle. Hiring David Griffin seems to be a move in the right direction. They have lots of cap flexibility for this off-season. Unfortunately the biggest shadow is still AD wanting to be traded.

Hopefully they can figure things out with AD or make a blockbuster trade to build for the future. Otherwise, this franchise will continue to be a New Orleans Saints afterthought before moving to Seattle.

#5 Charlotte Hornets

Top pick 1.0% chance
Top 4 pick 4.8% chance

The Charlotte Hornets have never intentionally tanked, which is both admirable but detrimental. In the last five years, their highest draft pick was 9th. It is difficult to add high-caliber talent next to Kemba Walker when drafting that low. Unfortunately, they have made poor contract decisions and might have to max-out Kemba to keep him. Kemba is a fringe all-NBA player, but can they ever improve their team with that cap situation? A high-profile draft pick would make huge differences on their future and ability to build a team. Right now they struggle to gain free agents without overpaying. This could be a destination that immediately jumps to a contender for years to come if they get Zion.

#4 Memphis Grizzlies

Top pick 6.0% chance
Top 4 pick 26.3% chance
Top 8 protected pick and 55.6% chance of keeping it

After years of trying to contend, the Memphis Grizzlies have finally committed to a rebuild, trading away franchise cornerstone Marc Gasol. Mike Conley remains for now, but that could change at any time. With two years left on his deal, Conley could be a value to any team that feels they are a player away from contending. Unfortunately, they waited a little too long to rebuild, as their first round pick is top 6 protected next year and unprotected in 2021. So ideally they either get a top pick in this draft or tank for another year before making a playoff push.

This year they drafted Jaren Jackson Jr., a stand out rookie and a great foundation to keep building on. Players like Zion or Morant would make this team a future delight to watch. The stability of this organization and intent to be competitive hopefully helps them with the Karma gods.

#3 Miami Heat

Top pick 1.0% chance
Top 4 pick 4.8% chance

#HeatCulture

The Heat have made some bad contracts in an attempt to stay contenders after LeBron’s departure. Unfortunately with Chris Bosh’s blood clots, their plan blew up immediately. Hassan Whiteside’s contract has been a failure and after finishing the second half of last season 31-10, they brought everyone back only to post disappointing results. The team is playing for the 2020 offseason and they have built an environment that shows they can rehabilitate players a la Dion Waiters.

With Dwyane Wade’s retirement, the entire city of Miami is desperate for a star. Putting someone like Zion in Miami would immediately reboot the franchise and make Miami a free agent destination. Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley would make Miami contenders in short time.

#2 Dallas Mavericks

Top pick 6.0% chance
Top 4 pick 26.3% chance
Top 5 protected pick 26.2% of keeping it

The Mavericks are going all in on tanking this year. They tried to compete for years, but Mark Cuban is incredibly transparent in that the Mavericks are tanking. It all seems to have worked out and they are getting aggressive on the rebuild. Getting Luka Doncic from last years draft has been a steal and brings a guy many believe to be a future MVP candidate. They then went out and traded for Kristaps Porzingis in a salary dump for New York. Dallas was able to shed Harrison Barnes’ contract, DeAndre Jordan, and Dennis Smith Jr., who fell out of Rick Carlisle’s rotation following the arrival of Doncic.

The Mavericks have mortgaged some of the future in that they will eventually lose three 1st round draft picks between the trades for Luka and KP. If they add another young stud this year, this could end up being the next dynasty in five or six years.

#1 Atlanta Hawks

Top pick 10.5% chance
Top 4 pick 42.1% chance

The Hawks are notably trying to build the “Warriors East” while embracing the tank and letting their rookies have their run. Despite the initial poor decision to trade away the Luka pick, the end-of-year success of Trae Young is adding hope that with time, he will become the three-point shooter everyone saw for a few weeks in college. They also have many solid draft picks that are built to be contributors in Kevin Huerter and John Collins. Lastly, they possess many future assets in Dallas’ top 5 protected pick and Cleveland’s top 10 protected pick. The best reason for the Hawks is that this team not only has a plan, but they are fun to watch.

No matter who ends up drafting these players — particularly Zion — the hope is always that they end up being great players. But let’s also hope that some of the more struggling organizations get their stuff together and start being teams their fans are proud of.

The 2019 NBA Draft Lottery commences at 8:30 PM ET tonight on ESPN.

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