With the regular season concluded and the NBA lottery odds locked in, general managers of every non-playoff team should be toiling over their big board right now, preparing for every possible scenario. The NBA lottery will commence on May 17, in which the official draft order will be determined.
The NBA’s new lottery rules — constructed to prevent as many teams from tanking as possible — have added a new wrinkle and level of excitement to the draft. Since the new lottery odds were implemented, there have been a number of jumps and drops in draft position that have reshaped the NBA landscape tremendously.
In 2019, the New Orleans Pelicans finished the season with the eighth-worst record after Anthony Davis’s boycott to force his way out to the Los Angeles Lakers. Thanks to the new system, they still had an outside shot at six percent to land the number one overall pick; the new lottery allowed them to segue their franchise from AD to Zion Williamson.
Of course, for every unexpected riser in the draft, there have to be some freefalls as well. Last season, the Orlando Magic tanked their way through the year and finished with the third-worst record in the league.
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They had essentially done all they could to guarantee themselves the opportunity to take one of Cade Cunningham, Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, or Scottie Barnes. Instead, the lottery did not draw in their favor and the Magic dropped to the fifth-overall pick.
For this mock draft, I ran Tankathon’s draft lottery simulation once, as trying to base picks purely off of record is a lost cause in today’s NBA. Duke’s Trevor Keels was left off of this project, as he recently declared for the draft but opted to navigate the pre-draft process without an agent. This keeps him eligible to return to college if he doesn’t like the buzz surrounding his draft stock.