Commentary

NBA draft lottery preview

Here's what each lottery team might do if it landed one of the top three picks

Updated: May 19, 2009, 5:45 PM ET
By Chad Ford | ESPN.com

Play the Lottery + Mock Draft: Over 2,000 scenarios

SECAUCUS, N.J. -- The 2009 NBA draft lottery is Tuesday night (ESPN, 8:30 p.m. ET). Fourteen teams will vie for the No. 1 pick in the draft based off of the NBA's lottery process, which was developed to help the NBA's worst teams rebuild by having the highest pick in the draft. More often than not, however, the results haven't gone as planned.

Since 1990, only four teams with the worst record have won the lottery: the Magic in 2004, the Cavs in 2003, the Sixers in 1996 and the Nets in 1990.

The team with the second-best probability of winning the lottery has fared even worse, winning the lottery just twice: the Spurs in 1997 and the Magic in 1992.

The lottery can literally change the course of a franchise. In 1992, the big prize was Shaquille O'Neal and the Magic walked away with the prize. That year, it was the Timberwolves who had the best chance of winning. How many championships would the Wolves have won with Shaq anchoring the paint?

In 1997, another amazing center, Tim Duncan, was the favorite to be the first pick in the draft. The Celtics had the best chance of winning the lottery, but the Spurs (with that second-best chance) prevailed. Celtics fans are still mourning the big guy that got away, and the Spurs turned into the top dynasty of this decade.

The 2007 lottery was one of the biggest in memory, with two top-tier prizes available: Greg Oden and Kevin Durant. The Blazers had just a 5.3 percent chance of winning the lottery yet took the top prize. The Sonics had just a 9.3 percent chance of getting the second pick. In fact, none of the three worst teams in the league finished in the top three that year.

Last season, the Bulls had just 17 of the 1,000 ping pong balls (a 1.7 percent chance) and walked away with the No. 1 pick and this year's eventual Rookie of the Year, Derrick Rose.

This year, there is only one big prize -- Oklahoma's Blake Griffin. The other top players include Spain's Ricky Rubio, UConn's Hasheem Thabeet, Arizona State's James Harden and Arizona's Jordan Hill.

Here's a brief look at what each lottery team would do if they were to get one of the top three picks.


Sacramento Kings (25.0 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: There has been speculation in the Sacramento media that the Kings might prefer Rubio over Griffin. The thinking goes that they have a terrible point guard (Beno Udrih) and an up-and-coming big man (Jason Thompson). The problem with that thinking? The Kings aren't stupid. Griffin is the best player in the draft and is a big upgrade over Thompson. They might need Rubio more, but they won't pass on Griffin at No. 1.

Rubio is an obvious choice at No. 2. With the third pick, look for them to tap Thabeet. They have big man Spencer Hawes, but he's a different sort of player and doesn't offer the shot-blocking Thabeet does.



Washington Wizards (17.8 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: With Griffin at No. 1, the Wizards would be free to move Antawn Jamison this summer and get another important piece. There was a lot of interest in Jamison at the trade deadline.

If they land No. 2, Rubio gives them the luxury of moving Gilbert Arenas to his more natural position at the 2.

Thabeet would be an upgrade over the injury-plagued center tandem of Brendan Haywood and Etan Thomas.



Los Angeles Clippers (17.7 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: Landing with the Clippers would be Griffin's worst nightmare. The Clippers spent a lot of money on Zach Randolph and would be in an awkward situation. Griffin is better than Randolph in almost every way, but Randolph's contract is virtually unmovable. Still, they take Griffin if they get the No. 1 pick.

Rubio would be a more popular choice at No. 2. Yes, they have Baron Davis at the point, but they'd immediately try to rekindle trade talks with the Warriors.

Thabeet's shot-blocking could come in handy after Marcus Camby flies the coop in the summer of 2010.



Oklahoma City Thunder (11.9 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: James Harden

Analysis: If the Thunder land Griffin, mark them down as the best young team in the league. A tandem of Durant, Russell Westbrook and Griffin, with Jeff Green coming off the bench, would be amazing.

Things get a little trickier after that. The team loves Westbrook, but Rubio is more of a pure point guard. Oklahoma City could easily play Rubio at the point and move Westbrook off the ball.

Harden is the perfect pick if Griffin and Rubio are gone. He would fit in immediately at the 2 and give the Thunder another scoring threat in the backcourt.



Minnesota Timberwolves (7.6 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: The Wolves will be in the trickiest spot if they land the No. 1 pick. Their two best players -- Al Jefferson and Kevin Love -- are both power forwards. I'm not sure how Griffin would fit into the mix. The Wolves could be a good option to trade the pick if they could land a good young center or point guard in return.

Sebastian Telfair isn't a good NBA starting point guard and Randy Foye looks more comfortable at the 2, so Rubio is an obvious fit.

And Thabeet would give them some much-needed size and shot-blocking ability.



Memphis Grizzlies (7.5 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Jordan Hill

Analysis: It's time for the Grizzlies to finally win the lottery, and it wouldn't come at a more perfect time. They've had a huge hole at the 4 since they gave away Pau Gasol. Griffin would be the perfect fit for them there and could propel them into the playoffs. A starting lineup of Mike Conley, O.J. Mayo, Rudy Gay, Griffin and Marc Gasol just oozes upside.

I think the team still isn't in love with Conley and would take Rubio at No. 2.

At No. 3, Hill would give the Grizzlies some toughness and rebounding at their weakest position.



Golden State Warriors (4.3 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Jordan Hill

Analysis: Don Nelson hates rookies, but I think he would fall in love with Griffin's toughness.

Rubio also would be a great fit. Monta Ellis is more of a 2-guard than a point, and the pair would be one of the most dynamic backcourts in the league.

Hill would give the Warriors some more rebounding and toughness.



New York Knicks (2.8 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: James Harden

Analysis: The Knicks' best player, David Lee, plays the same position as Griffin. But the truth is, with Lee's impending free agency, landing Griffin would be a godsend. They could let Lee walk and have more cap room to make a run at LeBron James in 2010.

If Griffin is gone, Rubio would be the point guard of the future -- D'Antoni's next Steve Nash, without the shooting ability.

Harden would give them a heady scorer in the backcourt … something they haven't had since Allan Houston retired.



Toronto Raptors (1.7 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: James Harden

Analysis: The Raptors are loaded with bigs, but none who exudes the toughness or grit of Griffin. With signs pointing toward Chris Bosh's leaving next summer, Raptors fans could breathe a little easier and GM Bryan Colangelo could see what he could get for Bosh on the open market.

Rubio doesn't fit a need, but you know how much Colangelo loves heady, international players such as Rubio.

With Anthony Parker heading to free agency next summer, Harden would be a better fit.



Milwaukee Bucks (1.0 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Jordan Hill

Analysis: The Bucks would love to have Griffin's toughness to pair alongside Andrew Bogut's more finesse game in the middle. And with Charlie Villanueva threatening to bolt via free agency, he would fit a huge need.

Rubio also could fill a big hole if Ramon Sessions decides to leave.

If neither guy is available, Hill also could fill that junkyard dog role the Bucks need.



New Jersey Nets (0.9 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: James Harden

Analysis: Rod Thorn says he wants a beast, and Griffin would deliver. With him paired with Brook Lopez in the frontcourt, plus Devin Harris and Vince Carter in the backcourt, the Nets potentially would be a terrific team next season.

Point guard isn't a need for the Nets, but with Harris' versatility, Harris and Rubio could play together.

Harden could be a nice long-term replacement for Carter when VC is traded or retires.



Charlotte Bobcats (0.7 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: James Harden

Analysis: Larry Brown loves players like Griffin. He's been looking for another gritty big man.

Rubio also would be a good fit. Yes, the Cats love D.J. Augustin, but given Rubio's size, the two could play together.

As for Harden, he would be a great fit. Raja Bell is getting older and would be a great mentor to Harden.



Indiana Pacers (0.6 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Hasheem Thabeet

Analysis: The Pacers' biggest need is an athletic big man. If they landed Griffin, they would be a serious threat in the playoffs.

Rubio ultimately would be an upgrade over T.J. Ford, and Thabeet would give the Pacers some much-needed shot-blocking.



Phoenix Suns (0.5 percent chance of winning lottery)

Pick 1: Blake Griffin
Pick 2: Ricky Rubio
Pick 3: Jordan Hill

Analysis: If the Suns pull off a miracle, Griffin would give the Suns the confidence to trade Amare Stoudemire this summer.

Rubio would be a nice long-term replacement for Steve Nash.

And Hill would give the Suns a little of that toughness Steve Kerr has been looking for.

Click here for more draft lottery story lines to keep an eye on Insider

Chad Ford covers the NBA for ESPN Insider.

Chad Ford

Senior Writer, NBA Insider