As anyone who watches moribund franchises like the pre-juggernaut Warriors knows the draft lottery can be significant in rebuilding your roster.
Here are the ten most important draft lottery leaps that have shaped the last decade of the NBA.
(1) Los Angeles Clippers/ Cleveland Cavaliers – 2011
Kyrie Irving – #1
Traded by the Clippers alongside Baron Davis in a salary dump, this pick jumped from 8th best lottery odds (2.8%) all the way to #1. This was gave the Cavaliers another #1 overall pick to attract the services of the King, and ultimately lead to the franchise’s sole NBA championship.
Irving was spectacular in the 2016 Finals against the Golden State Warriors, hitting shots with defenders draped all over him, including the game winning stepback. Cleveland’s fortunes changed as a franchise as a result of this lottery jump, however Irving has since requested a trade to the Cavs Eastern conference opponent in the NBA’s Final Four.
(2) Chicago Bulls ~ 2008
Derrick Rose – #1
Despite 1.7% odds to win the lottery the Chicago Bulls jumped up 8 spots to nab the lightning quick hometown hero Derrick Rose. The young point guard dominated from the outset in the NBA, winning a rookie of the year, MVP, and being named a three time all star in his first four seasons. Despite the best record in the NBA during the regular season the Bulls lost to the Miami Heat during Rose’s 25ppg/22 year old 2011 season.
The Bulls entered the playoffs in 2012 with a stout defense and their promising explosive point guard only to have Rose tear his ACL in Game 1 of the first round and forever change his career. D-Rose has yet to fully return to pre-injury form and the Bulls finally moved on from Rose in July of 2016, wondering what could have been.
(3) Charlotte Hornets ~ 2012
Anthony Davis – #1
The 2012 draft had a clear established #1 overall pick, franchise changing big man Anthony Davis out of Kentucky. During the 2012 lottery, the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) made a small but significant leap three spots to take away the top pick from the Charlotte Bobcats (now Hornets).
New Orleans has struggled to always put the right pieces around the Unibrow, but the team is coming off an encouraging playoff run. Davis was his dominant self during the Pelicans playoff push averaging 30 points, 13 rebounds, and 2.3 blocks per game. The 24 year old is already one of the game’s elite and the Pelicans must do everything in their power to keep AD happy and in New Orleans. After jumping three spots in the lottery to land Davis, losing him would drop them significantly in the standings.
(4) Washington Wizards ~ 2010
John Wall – #1
Washington snagged the top pick in 2010 with a four spot jump and they nabbed five time All Star John Wall. Wall has been the driving force behind Washington’s playoff teams in 4 of the last 5 seasons. The Wizards have underachieved despite their core of lottery picks but the speedy Wall will be in DC long term after inking the super-max last summer.
The 27 year old regressed last season after playing his way onto an All NBA team in 2017, and it will be fascinating to watch what decisions the Wiz make as they plan to pay Wall 40+ million through 2023.
(5) Cleveland Cavaliers ~ 2014
Andrew Wiggins – #1
In the 2014 draft lottery the Cleveland Cavaliers landed themselves back to back #1 picks, as they hoped that their 8 spot jump would land them another talented #1 pick to join the core of Kyrie Irving (#1 – 2011) and Anthony Bennett (#1- 2013).
As it turned out, LeExit hit Miami and the King returned home, eager to play with Irving. Wiggins was flipped in August of 2015 for All star Kevin Love, and Wiggins is a frustrating talent who can score, but doesn’t have a complete game like his max contract would suggest. Nevertheless going from 1.7% odds to drafting first overall laid the framework for Cleveland’s recent run of success.
(6) Sacramento Kings/ Philadelphia 76ers/ Boston Celtics ~ 2017
Jayson Tatum – #3
As the Kings have been known to do, a curious front office move in 2015 led to their 2017 and 2019 picks settling in the hands of the The Godfather of Tanking, Mr. Sam Hinkie. After the Kings jumped 5 spots in the 2017 lottery , the 76ers exercised their pick swap giving them the rights to the third pick and Sacramento the rights to the fifth.
Philly wasn’t done with the wheeling and dealing as Brian Colangelo then traded Tatum and the 2019 Kings pick for #1 overall and the opportunity to select Markelle Fultz. In trading down, drafting the supremely talented Tatum, and nabbing the extra pick, Boston has set themselves up to be dangerous in the East this season and for the foreseeable future. The ramifications of Philly moving up and drafting Fultz are still to be determined but both these organizations are well positioned to be contenders due to their young talent.
(7) Los Angeles Lakers / New York Knicks – 2015
D’Angelo Russell – #2 / Kristaps Porzingis – #4
In 2015 the Lakers leapfrogged the Knicks into the second overall pick in the draft, giving them the opportunity to take D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State. Russell has since been exiled from Los Angeles in a salary dump to the Brooklyn Nets, and his injury-riddled play hasn’t liven up to his high draft selection yet.
The more impactful consequence of this lottery result was the Knicks falling to #4 and selecting unicorn Kristaps Porzingis. KP is a legit franchise cornerstone provided he recovers from his ACL injury. Dropping to #4 worked out well for Phil Jackson and the Knicks, as he probably wouldn’t have been the pick at #2. That’s about all that worked for Phil as he has since been replaced, but his Latvian legacy is the glimmer of hope for new management and recently hired coach David Fizdale.
(8) Los Angeles Clippers ~ 2009
Blake Griffin – #1
Getting the #1 pick in any draft is the chance to re-boot your franchise and the Clippers were in desperate need of a re-programming. While the Clippers didn’t make as big of a jump as the Grizzlies who rose 4 spots to #2 overall, jumping 2 spots to #1 gave them the opportunity to lay the framework of Lob City.
Blake Griffin was an absolute stud ready to make the jump out of the University of Oklahoma to the NBA, a franchise changer. Griffin’s emergence as an All-NBA caliber big man attracted the Clippers to passing wizard Chris Paul, a move that set off the most successful run in franchise history – despite playoff shortcomings. The 2009 draft produced many current stars, but the Pistons better hope that a healthy Blake is one of them next season.
(9) Washington Wizards ~ 2013
Otto Porter – # 3
The 2013 NBA draft has not aged well for certain GM’s, with more busts at the top and stars selected in the middle and back portions of the class. 2013 saw the Cavs jump from 3rd best odds to #1, but the largest leap was the Wiz hoping into the Top 3 by jumping 5 spots.
This enabled Washington to select Otto Porter ahead of some worse prospects, and Porter has formed DC’s core next to Wall and Beal. The 24 year old can stroke the ball from downtown and his size and length are what every team envies in the modern game. Porter could be used as a trade chip if the Wizards are thinking about switching it up, but if he stays his game should expand to complement the other Washington stars.
(10) Philadelphia 76ers ~ 2010
Evan Turner #2
The 2010 draft lottery saw the Wizards and 76ers each jump four spots and bump down each team behind them 2 spots. This proved costly for Brooklyn, Minnesota, Sacramento, and the Warriors as each team’s decline in draft position led to some questionable selections. Turner did not prove to be the right call at #2, but the Philly leap forward caused some of the uncertainty in the Top 10.
A what-if in this draft regards the Warriors having the fourth best odds, giving them a chance to select Demarcus Cousins and ending their endless search for a franchise center. The Warriors ended up with Ekpe Udoh at #6, a shot blocker that just re-appeared on the NBA radar this season with the Utah Jazz, but has never played at Boogie’s All Star level. A young Warriors core of Stephen Curry, Demarcus Cousins, Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes would have been fun to watch grow, as each players talents could shine next to each other. It is fascinating to think of Boogie in a Warriors uniform, because maybe his career would have been very different, though I’m not sure the Warriors would be in a better position.