The NBA draft lottery, which will determine the order of the first fourteen picks of the draft next month, is tonight at 8:30 EST. The Nets -- who have not picked inside the lottery since 2010 -- will once again sit on the sidelines for this event, with their clinching of a playoff spot and a subsequent coin toss guaranteeing them the 17th pick in the upcoming draft. And though it would be nice to hold a top 14 selection and try our luck at the likes of Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, Nets fans can remain calm knowing their future is not entirely based on how the ping pong balls land tonight. However, if the Nets do hope to lure a star to Brooklyn this summer and achieve sustained success -- and possibly a championship -- in the coming seasons, tonight's results will play some role in their ability to accomplish those feats. With that being said, here is what you should be rooting for as 8:30 rolls around:
DISCLAIMER: For the sake of accuracy, I have decided to not consider any pick result that has a less than 5% chance of occurring.
1. Memphis Grizzlies, 6.0% chance
Zion Williamson's status as the consensus number one pick feels as if it exceeds the definition of the word consensus. Most scouts expect Williamson to be a surefire all star. The Nets should be interested in putting Zion as far away as possible on a team with a relatively bleak future and no free agency potential. Memphis has two strong pieces in Mike Conley and Jaren Jackson Jr., but a Conley trade this offseason feels inevitable and Jackson Jr. -- despite a stellar rookie season -- has not shown the offensive punching ability to be the second best player on a championship team. On top of this, Memphis owes a future pick to Boston protected 1-6 next year and unprotected after that, which will make it even more difficult to build around Williamson. Memphis will not be a player in this year's free agency as they are already 10 million dollars over the salary cap.
This pick will immediately deflate the value of the pick Memphis owes to Boston, as Williamson is not seen as the type of player to lead his team to bottom five finishes in his first two years. Boston is not only one of the Nets' division rivals, but also a rival in potential trades for disgruntled starts (in which draft picks are of great importance) and in Kyrie Irving's upcoming free agency decision. This outcome is perhaps most important because of where Williamson will not be.
2. Phoenix Suns, 13.4% chance
The choice of the Phoenix Suns here is to again stash top talent as far away from the Nets as possible. Having to face Ja Morant or RJ Barrett in the Eastern Conference every year could significantly hamper the Nets path to a playoff berth. However, there is an added element to Phoenix getting this pick. Phoenix, a team that has tripped over itself drafting wings the last few years, will undoubtedly take sophomore point guard Ja Morant with this pick. Having Morant on the roster will takeaway any thought they might have to throwing D'Angelo Russell a max offer sheet this summer, and with the Suns being one of the presumed top teams interested in Russell, might allow the Nets to keep Russell on a below market deal. Depending on your view of Morant, this pick will also impact Phoenix's ability to retain Devin Booker long term, whom the Nets might have some future interest in.
3. New Orleans Pelicans, 6.7% chance
If the New Orleans Pelicans get the third pick and Morant is off the board, they will likely select RJ Barrett. I see three outcomes coming from this pick: New Orleans attempts to revive their team around Davis, Holiday, and Barrett; New Orleans uses Barrett's trade value to convince Davis to stay; New Orleans views Barrett as a future building block and is more willing to trade Davis (and Holiday). The latter possibility seems much more likely than the two former, but in any case, the Nets should benefit. In all three possibilities, the "building a good team in the West is better than building it in the East" reason applies. Additionally, the promise of Barrett might lessen the Pelicans' interest in a Davis for Williamson trade, decreasing the likelihood Davis ends up on the Knicks. If the Pelicans feel confident they can convince Davis to stay or he does stay, there is very little chance he choses to go to New York or Boston in his 2020 free agency. A Davis trade to Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) will certainly increase their ability to lure free agents away from the Nets, but not if that occurs after free agency.
4. Cleveland Cavaliers, 11.9% chance
The Nets should hope the Cleveland Cavaliers get the fourth pick. The main reason for this choice is that the Cavs are probably the furthest of any Eastern Conference team from competing for a playoff spot and thus, the best landing spot for the fourth best player in the draft. The Cavs have no cap space, Colin Sexton, and an overpaid Kevin Love; adding a fourth overall pick to that list should not make them anything worth being afraid of for the next couple years. This pick also concludes the "lottery" portion of the lottery and thus decides who will get the remaining selections -- positions that are critical for the Nets in their own ways.
5. New York Knicks, 47.9% chance
By default, the New York Knicks will receive the fifth overall pick. The Knicks, along with being a consensus Nets rival, are the Nets' main competitor for top tier free agents this offseason. Part of their promise to free agents is a to 5 pick, however, that promise becomes a lot less interesting when the pick ends up being number 5. The Knicks will have no where near the ability to exchange this pick for support for their max signees this summer as they would with a higher selection and might rule a Davis trade out of question all together. Suddenly, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant will be joining the Knicks to join Kevin Knox, Mitchell Robinson, Alonzo Trier, Denis Smith Jr., and ... Jarrett Culver? De'Andre Hunter? This outcome will surely help the Nets poach away free agents this summer and decrease the Knicks' ability to compete with us in the future.
6. Chicago Bulls, 25.7% chance
Again, Chicago receives this pick by default (the same as every remaining team on this list). The Bulls are a young promising team that is a few pieces a way from a playoff berth. They won't rival the Nets for free agents this summer, but the two teams have a similar timeline and are poised to compete in the future. A sixth overall pick-- as opposed to one through five -- this year will only decrease Chicago's ability to win these battles in the future.
7. Atlanta Hawks, 26.7% chance
This one is similar to Chicago as Atlanta is also a young team that will be ready to compete in the next couple years. Atlanta also holds striking similarity to the Nets in roster and organizational structure, and thus it is in the Nets' interest to keep them as far behind us as possible. Also relevant for Atlanta and Chicago: Sean Marks will likely give both teams a call when he tires to dump Allen Crabbe's contract to open up cap space. A whiff at the lottery might increase the chance that either team sees the assets Marks' dangles as more valuable than the 20 mil in cap space Crabbe will take up.
8. Washington Wizards, 20.6% chance
Washington is a dysfunctional team capped out until the end of time with a mediocre roster. They hold little relevancy to the Nets' future other than that the Nets might compete with them for a low playoff seed next year and the Nets might try to trade for Bradley Beal. An 8th overall pick, aka a player that will have little impact on the team next year, will help the Nets in both situations.
9. Atlanta Hawks (via Dallas), 46.4% chance
It's not ideal that Atlanta gets two picks in the top 9, but it was probably going to happen -- unless Dallas landed within the top 5 and retained their pick. Dallas will likely compete with the Nets for top free agents this offseason and a top 5 pick would only sweeten their sales pitch. Additionally, adding a top pick to Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis, as well as room for a max player, might create a dynasty that the Nets and greater NBA community doesn't want to see. Yes Atlanta will get another asset, but their free agency appeal will be nowhere near that of Dallas armed with RJ or Zion.
10. Minnesota Timberwolves, 65.9% chance
The only reason the Nets care that Minnesota not shoot up into the top four is because of the potential of a Karl-Anthony Towns trade in the future. Town seems set up for the exact same disgruntlement as Davis in a few years (or even next season) and he would be a perfect match for the Nets. The only thing that might halt Minnesota's track of mediocrity is some lottery luck.
11. Los Angeles Lakers, 77.6% chance
The Lakers will be another team competing for free agents this offseason, and though they might be a Nets fans' preferred Anthony Davis landing spot as opposed to the Celtics and Knicks, it is in our interest that they are as unattractive as possible. The 11th pick will also limit the Lakers' ability to compete with the Nets and other teams in potential trades for Bradley Beal or Anthony Davis or (insert disgruntled star here).
12. Charlotte Hornets, 86.1% chance
The Hornets will suck next year if Kemba leaves and be below average if Kemba stays. At this point, they are basically in the Nets rearview mirror regardless, but the last thing we want is for them to get a top pick that will help them over the hump.
13. Miami Heat, 90.6% chance
The Heat are in a similar boat as the Hornets: destined for 35 win seasons in the next couple years, but could rise up the standings with a tier one rookie or trade asset. Again, it is in the interest of the Nets that these teams remain bad and easy to beat.
14. Boston Celtics (via Sacramento) 95.2% chance
This pick will convey to Boston if 2-14 and Philadelphia if it lands first overall. Both teams could really benefit from another piece of young talent to achieve their NBA championship dreams. But both teams will also be central competition for the Nets in the next couple years, and the last thing we would want is for either of them to get lucky. As with Memphis, the Celtics will also compete with the Nets for free agent Kyrie Irving (and maybe Al Horford or Marcus Morris) and the Sixers have two free agents to whom the Nets might have interest, Tobias Harris and Jimmy Butler. The best outcome is the one most likely to happen, Boston gets the 14th pick and hopes that another team will give them someone good for it.