The ping pong balls? They’ve fallen. And the draft order? Well, that’s officially set after a wild Tuesday night at the 38th annual draft lottery that determined the Orlando Magic — for the first time since 2004 — will be picking first overall in the 2022 NBA draft.
Orlando had a 14% chance of winning the lottery, tied for the highest odds with the Pistons and Rockets, before their big offseason win was announced by NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum in Chicago. It’s the fourth time since the lottery that the franchise owns the top pick. And get this: two of the previous three No. 1 picks went on to become Hall of Famers — while Dwight Howard could potentially join them down the road. (No pressure, Chet Holmgren or Jaden Ivey or Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero. But also: some pressure!)
As such, the Magic are the biggest and most obvious winners of lottery night, though they certainly aren’t the only ones who had a good night. So, too, did the Thunder and Kings. Conversely … it was a rough night for the Pistons, whose 14% odds of winning the lottery only landed them the fifth pick. The Trail Blazers, Pacers, Rockets and — as per usual — the New York Knickerbockers are all likely licking some post-lottery wounds, too.
Here’s a look at the winners and losers as the dust settles.
Winner: Jabari Smith could be Magic’s man
For months this draft has been considered strong at the top with no clear No. 1 but four potential Tier 1 talent, meaning team fit and current roster construction could ultimately dictate who comes off the board to start the draft. Now we’re about to find out which prospect the Magic favors of the bunch. This is a front office that covets length — they were part of the regime that drafted Giannis — so Chet Holmgren would seemingly be a great fit. But Jabari Smith seems to be the early frontrunner one month out to be Orlando’s preference, and I’m personally not ruling out Paolo Banchero here, either. It’s a great stroke of fortune to have the first stab at the top any year, but this year in particular feels big — especially for a franchise that has some really fun pieces with 2021 lottery picks Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner.
Winner: Kings move up
When it was announced that the Portland Trail Blazers were owners of the No. 7 pick in the draft, it signaled the Sacramento Kings had moved into the top four of this year’s draft. They were in the seventh spot based upon lottery odds but moved up three spots — more than any other team this year — to earn the No. 4 pick. Newly-acquired big man Damontas Sabonis, the team’s draft rep on hand in Chicago, could do nothing but flash a wily grin after the stunning turn of events. He’ll have a chance to play alongside a potential Day One difference-maker depending on which direction Sacramento goes — assuming they keep the pick.
Loser: Jaden Ivey’s No. 1 pick chances
Gary Parrish and I came to the conclusion this week that the No. 1 pick would, more so than in year’s past, be decided based upon which team won the lottery. And one thing seems to be clear as the lottery haze settles: it’s probably not great for Jaden Ivey’s No. 1 pick prospects. Orlando drafted a guard at 15 two years ago in Cole Anthony then did it again with a top-10 pick last year in Jalen Suggs. It’s hard to envision them doing it again, especially with the promise both those picks have shown. I wouldn’t totally rule Ivey out of the running but the lottery order falling as it did was better news for the bigs at the top of the draft than a potential lead guard in Ivey just based on roster construction for Orlando.
Winner: Thunder can expedite reboot
This time last year during the lottery, OKC had a chance to come away with two top-five picks and instead walked away with only one pick: No. 6. But that pick turned into a foundational piece in Josh Giddey and boy, oh boy, did this team’s rebuild hit an accelerator Tuesday as they moved up to grab the No. 2 pick.
This is a draft tailor-made for OKC — a team in need of frontcourt depth — to nab either a Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero or Chet Holmgren, depending on who Orlando takes at No. 1. No bad choice here. Whomever is the pick should find instant success as a likely starter on a young team brimming with potential. I’m all the way here for Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey and one of Holmgren, Banchero or Smith growing together the next half-decade.
Losers: Portland, Pacers fall a spot
Portland led the NBA in consecutive games lost to end the 2021-22 NBA season but its brazen attempt at a late-season tank was not rewarded, as it fell from No. 6 in the lottery order to No. 7, which signaled Sacramento’s move into the top four. Indiana also had its own stinger on the night by dropping in the pre-lottery order from No. 5 to post-lottery to No. 6. With 10.5% and 9.0% odds, respectively, of winning the top pick, both teams have good (but not great) picks in a draft where there’s a significant dropoff in talent after No. 4.
Winner: Pelicans living best of both worlds
New Orleans is the only NBA team that can lay claim to securing a lottery pick in this year’s draft and securing a spot in this year’s playoff, this pick coming via the Lakers after the trade that sent Anthony Davis to L.A.
The Pelicans scouting staff has been money in recent years in drafting Herbert Jones in the second round, grabbing Jose Alvarado as an undrafted free agent and taking a generational talent in Zion — even if he’s been injury-riddled to start his career. This pick for them (at No. 8) could help keep them in the playoff hunt and potentially vault up another notch in the West, especially if Zion returns at full health next season.
Losers: Pistons misfire, slip down order
The Pistons were the anti-Kings on Tuesday, as they fell more than any other lottery team. Based upon pre-lottery odds their 14% chance of taking home the top pick was tied for best, but they walk away with the fifth overall pick instead.
There’s fabulous options at No. 5 for Detroit, so I don’t want Motor City fretting too much over this. But the difference between picking No. 1 and No. 5 — heck, even No. 4 and No. 5 — is pretty substantial in this draft. Here’s to hoping this front office can identify a stud from this position to pair next to 2021 No. 1 pick Cade Cunningham.