Entering the NBA Draft Lottery, the New Orleans Pelicans had just a 6.0% chance of landing the first overall pick, the seventh-best odds of any team.
As it does every year, the order of the lottery impacts the entire landscape of the league and alters the futures of several franchises beyond simply the one that lands the ultimate prize. This was already lining up to be one of the craziest offseasons in NBA history given the marquee names hitting free agency and major market teams all in a state of flux.
Add to it the wrinkle of a generational talent like Zion Williamson potentially going to a team that already figured to be at the centre of trade talks surrounding superstar Anthony Davis, and we're suddenly in store for even more drama and chaos than anyone thought possible.
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Make no mistake: Tuesday's results sent shockwaves around the league, ones that indirectly reached all the way up to Toronto. In particular, the New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and LA Clippers all felt the effects in ways that could have major implications for the Raptors.
Here's a team-by-team breakdown of what Tuesday's lottery results mean for each of those franchises and how they impact the Raptors.
New York Knicks
The Knicks have extreme visions of grandeur for the next two months with their sights set on adding three franchise-altering talents.
They have a stated goal of adding two marquee free agents, headlined by a potential pairing of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. In an ideal world, the Knicks land two big fish in free agency and add a third either via trade or through the draft.
This is, of course, all hypothetical and they could end up with none.
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Had the Knicks landed the first overall pick, they could have either kept Zion Williamson or looked to trade him for Anthony Davis. A Knicks trio of Durant, Irving and Davis would immediately become a championship contender that would have made the Knicks the favourite in the Eastern Conference regardless of what happens over the next month.
The path to adding Davis is now more difficult. Though they're by no means off the table as a potential trade partner for the Pelicans, the Knicks would now almost certainly have to give up more than this year's pick and another young piece.
If trading for Davis means now giving up additional future picks and/or more players from their stable of young assets, that has major implications for how the Knicks would go about filling in the roster.
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What it means for the Raptors: Regardless of whether or not the Raptors re-sign Kawhi Leonard, a burgeoning potential dynastic trio in New York would not be good for a team that waited patiently for LeBron James to finally leave the conference. Even if Leonard were to stay, it would be difficult to imagine a scenario in which a Knicks team with Durant, Irving and Williamson/Davis would be below the Raptors in the Eastern Conference pecking order.
It just got harder for the Knicks to build a superstar-laden squad. That's a win for the Raptors.
Los Angeles Lakers
Outside of the Pelicans, the Lakers might have been Tuesday's biggest winner as they jumped from 11th all the way up for fourth. Though they could in theory keep the pick, the Lakers are in win-now mode with LeBron James entering his 17th season. They don't exactly have the luxury of waiting for yet another prospect to round into form several years down the line.
This pick gives the Lakers another massive trade chip to acquire a star. Maybe now they have enough to re-engage the Pelicans in trade talks for Anthony Davis? If not Davis, maybe there's another gettable star with the fourth overall pick added to a treasure chest that includes Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma, among others.
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The roadmap for the Lakers acquiring high-end talent is far more navigable now than it was pre-lottery.
What it means for the Raptors: By virtue of the Lakers potentially loading up, that places yet another strong contender in the Western Conference. One of the destinations that Leonard has been linked to is the Clippers. Would a stronger team right down the hall at Staples Center play a factor in Leonard's decision about whether or not to head west?
If the Lakers are a stronger contender now not only for Davis but for other star players, it also weakens the odds of an Eastern Conference team stepping in to acquire those same players. The Lakers trading for A-listers and by virtue keeping them out of the East would be a win for the Raptors.
One of the reasons that New Orleans didn't ultimately trade Davis at the trade deadline was because the Celtics could not be involved until the offseason. The line of thinking has been for a while that no team could ultimately match a package built around Jayson Tatum and/or Jaylen Brown. If Kyrie Irving re-signed and the Celtics wanted to add Anthony Davis, they could get it done.
That's now far more complicated.
Not only is the Irving situation far more fluid following the turbulent second half of the season and the manner in which Boston bowed out in the second round, there's also no guarantee that New Orleans trades Davis. Several months ago, the Celtics were dreaming of a team featuring Irving, Davis, Al Horford and a fully healthy Gordon Hayward, which would be an immensely talented core. When you add in Horford's ability to opt out, there's a chance the Celtics enter next season without Irving, Davis and Horford.
What it means for the Raptors: The East remains winnable. Should Leonard decide to re-sign in Toronto, a weakened Boston team - or perhaps one with a lower ceiling - means a more realistic path towards annual championship contention. Should Leonard decide to leave, playing catch-up to Boston in a rebuild wouldn't seem like such an impossible task like ones teams in the West have faced during Golden State's run of dominance.
There's a world now where Davis stays in New Orleans and never suits up in green and white alongside Irving. That's a win for the Raptors.
The Raptors just barely squeaked by a 76ers squad with serious questions this offseason. Should Philly bring back the same team, there's every reason to think the 76ers could ultimately prevail in a rematch. That could very well still happen.
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What would have made that far more likely?
Williamson in a 76ers jersey. Though incredibly unlikely, the 76ers entered Tuesday with a 1.0% chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick as they owned Sacramento's pick in the event it landed at No. 1 (it stayed at 14 and conveyed to Boston).
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Lottery madness has happened before and however unlikely, there were scenarios on the table where the 76ers limped into the lottery licking their wounds from the devastating Game 7 loss and then moonwalked out of the lottery fistpumping about yet another blue chipper to place alongside Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
What it means for the Raptors: This one is pretty straight forward: Toronto did not need to see one of the East's up-and-coming powerhouses add potentially the best prospect since LeBron James. Rest assured, it didn't happen. That's a win for the Raptors.
Two options seem more likely now than prior to the start of the lottery:
- Anthony Davis stays in New Orleans
- Anthony Davis gets traded to the Lakers
If the first option comes to fruition, there's suddenly a three-headed monster in Davis, Williamson and Jrue Holiday to compete with in the Western Conference. With the highly respected David Griffin now calling the shots in New Orleans, it's entirely feasible that he's able to quickly add pieces that fit around those three to create an immediate championship contender in the West.
He did it once in Cleveland, he can do it again in New Orleans.
If the second option comes to fruition, the Lakers are one massive step back towards being The Lakers. The Clippers have been able to step out of the shadows of their co-tenants in recent years, but that would be much harder to do with a LeBron James and Anthony Davis duo on the Staples Center marquee 41 times a year.
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Either option results in another serious challenger in the West, which makes the road towards contention harder in an already brutal conference.
What it means for the Raptors: There are many who think the Clippers are the favourites to sign Leonard this offseason. If winning in the West is that much more difficult thanks to a rising power in either New Orleans or Los Angeles - not to mention Golden State, Houston, Denver, Utah, Portland and Oklahoma City - would it tip the scales in making Leonard think twice about leaving the East?
The Raptors have done everything in their power to try and secure a long-term commitment from Leonard. Every possible reason for Leonard to stay only helps their case more. That's a win for the Raptors.
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