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Lottery Results - How to Win Without Winning

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With literally thousands of permutations possible, almost anything can happen in the draft lottery.  The best result is obviously to move up in the draft, to first or second or third.  The Clippers didn't move up - but other than that, it's hard to imagine the results being much better for the team.  Let's look at the things that went right for the Clippers Tuesday afternoon.

  1. They didn't move down.  As I mentioned before, the Clippers' odds of moving down in the draft (to 9th or 10th) were actually better than their odds of moving up.  Staying at 8 is a good thing in that context, not to mention that as of now Johnson and Aminu appear to be on the cusp of that 8th pick.  A lot can change between now and the draft, but it's entirely possible that one spot is the difference between getting the player they want and need.

  2. Western Conference teams didn't move up - and three of them moved down.  It sucks playing in the West, where it takes 50 wins just to make the playoffs.  But at least none of the conference rivals stand to get a franchise player in this draft.  If you were going to pick teams to jump up into the top two spots, you'd definitely want them to be East teams.  Mission accomplished.  It just so happens that three of the four teams that moved down when Washington and Philadelphia moved up were Western Conference teams (two of them are even Division rivals, Sacramento and Golden State). 

  • The Nets fell out of the top two.  This may be relatively minor in the long run, but of the 14 lottery teams, the Nets were the one considered to be the top potential destination for LeBron James in free agency this July.  Without John Wall, the team with the worst record in the NBA last season looks a lot like the team with the worst record in the NBA last season.  It's worth noting that the Wizards also have oodles of cap space - more than enough to sign LeBron James.  However, the Wizards haven't really been on anyone's LeBron radar so far.  Maybe that will change now, but you have to remember that one of the perceived drivers behind making a change is the size of the market.  It's hard to see King James moving from Cleveland to Washington D.C.  The botton line is that New Jersey didn't get more attractive to LeBron, and Washington probably didn't get attractive enough.  And speaking of not being on the radar, both Minnesota and Sacramento have maximum cap space, so seeing them move down is pretty good as well.
  • The Clippers can afford the 8th Pick.  It would have been a good problem to have, but recall that the Clippers would have been unable to offer a full maximum contract to LeBron James had they moved up into the top three of this draft, as the salary difference between third pick and the eighth pick would have been a little too much to absorb.  This way, LA can make and keep their draft pick and still afford to make a max offer without jumping through any more hoops.  It's a relatively minor consideration, but it's there.
  • There are a lot of other implications as well.  Assuming John Wall goes to the Wizards and Evan Turner goes to the Sixers, does that mean that Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala are available?  Do the teams still in front of the Clippers decide to pick small forwards, or do they go after some of the quality bigs in the draft?  There's about five weeks to contemplate all of these issues, and we'll know a lot more as draft workouts get started.  But for now, suffice it to say that the lottery could have turned out better, but it also could have turned out a whole lot worse.