NBA Draft lottery winners and losers: Suns, Kings smiling; Mavs, Pistons lacking luck

The 2018 NBA Draft lottery provided plenty of excitement on Tuesday night as the ping pong balls delivered a shakeup to the draft order. Both the Kings and Hawks bounded into the top three while the Grizzlies and Mavericks suffered a slide.

All told, here’s what the lottery will look like on draft night absent any trades:

NBA Draft order1. Phoenix Suns (21-61)2. Sacramento Kings (27-55)3. Atlanta Hawks (24-58)4. Memphis Grizzlies (22-60)5. Dallas Mavericks (24-58)6. Orlando Magic (25-57)7. Chicago Bulls (27-55)8. Cleveland Cavaliers (28-54)9. New York Knicks (29-53)10. Philadelphia 76ers (35-47)11. Charlotte Hornets (36-46)12. L.A. Clippers (42-40)13. L.A. Clippers (42-40)14. Denver Nuggets (46-36)

With plenty of potential pick swaps on the line and the aforementioned shakeups, lottery night went better for some than others.

Here’s a look at some of the winners and losers from the event in Chicago...

NBA Draft lottery winners

De’Aaron Fox’s smile proves lucky for the Kings

When lottery representative De’Aaron Fox told everyone watching he skipped on the lucky charms because his smile was lucky enough, he wasn’t lying. The Kings vaulted from No. 7 in the projected order to No. 2 in the actual order on Tuesday night. Sacramento’s basketball franchise is a frequent punching bag of national media and NBA fans alike, so it’s nice that the evening panned out for a team badly in need of some good news.

The Kings figure to be the beneficiary of the Suns’ non-choice at No. 1, whether it be Real Madrid’s Luka Doncic or Arizona’s Deandre Ayton. Both Duke’s Marvin Bagley III and Michigan State’s Jaren Jackson Jr. could also be in play.

Given the bevy of young bigs already on Sacramento’s roster, landing Doncic would be the ultimate prize. Not only is the Slovenian wunderkind ranked as the top prospect on our board, he would also fit well next to Fox thanks to his playmaking ability and shooting potential.

The Suns hold onto No. 1

In the 50-year existence of the franchise, Phoenix has made 302 selections in the NBA Draft, per Basketball-Reference. Never has the Suns' selection been No. 1 overall. That’s set to change on June 21.

The Suns entered Tuesday night’s lottery with a 25.0 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick. It was more likely than not they’d have to wait for someone else on draft night, but things held to form, and lottery representative Josh Jackson was left holding the last placard revealed.

Phoenix’s roster already contains an immense amount of young talent between Jackson, Devin Booker, Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss. Adding another top prospect to the mix should help speed up what’s been a lengthy rebuilding process.

Which prospect will that be? Well, that answer figures to be the subject of a lengthy debate.

NBA fans hoping for a fun draft debate

Oftentimes, there’s a pretty clear selection at No. 1. It can make the pre-draft process a bit less interesting. In other years, there’s a drive to drum up a somewhat phony competition for the pick. (Hello, Brandon Ingram!)

Then, there’s the rare year with a real debate. This year is one of those years.

Phoenix will have a difficult decision to make between the two prohibitive favorites, Ayton and Doncic. Ayton went to school at Arizona where Suns owner Robert Sarver is an alum. Presumably Phoenix’s front office has seen more than its fair share of the 7-footer.

Then, there’s Doncic. The Suns just hired Igor Kokoskov to be their head coach. The 46-year-old coached Doncic and Slovenia to a EuroBasket title last summer. He’ll have unique insight into the 19-year-old prodigy.

For NBA fans interested in the draft, the push and pull between Ayton and Doncic as they battle to be the first name called on June 21 should create an interesting storyline as the playoffs wind down.

NBA Draft lottery losers

The Mavericks fall into a tough position

While the Hawks only had a 0.3 percent worse chance of landing a top-three pick than Dallas, the draft lottery results still had to sting the heart of the Texas franchise. The Mavericks fell two spots in the projected order, from No. 3 to No. 5, on Tuesday.

With Dirk Nowitzki entering the twilight of his career, Dallas is embarking on a true rebuilding phase for the first time in nearly two decades. Landing a top-three pick would have helped quite a bit.

Now, sitting at No. 5, the Mavericks project to be in a difficult position. Assuming the top four falls as expected — with Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic and Jaren Jackson Jr. coming off the board in some order — Dallas will be forced into a tough choice. The top prospect on our big board here would be Oklahoma’s Trae Young, but the Mavericks selected Dennis Smith Jr. with a top-10 pick last year.

Texas’s Mohamed Bamba and Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. would be other rational choices. Both come with serious risk, however. Bamba’s offensive game is a mess, and Porter’s injury history is a concern. Staying put and being able to latch onto one of the top four would have been a much better result.

The Grizzlies suffered a similar fate, but staying in the top four at least gives them a softer landing.

The Celtics miss out on a top-five pick

It’s tough to call a team that went up 2-0 in the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night a loser, but vaulting into the top five thanks to the Lakers would have been the cherry on top. As part of the Markelle Fultz-Jayson Tatum swap last summer, Boston would have received Los Angeles’ pick had it fallen between No. 2 and No. 5 in the lottery.

Unfortunately, it stayed put at No. 10, so the Celtics will receive the higher pick between the 76ers and Kings next year with a caveat that it cannot be No. 1 overall.  

That doesn’t sound so bad since the Sacram

ento pick is virtually unprotected, and the Kings should still be pretty bad, but early returns on next year’s draft class are less promising. There are a number of fine players expected to be in the 2019 group, including R.J. Barrett, Nassir Little and Zion Williamson, but the value of a top-five pick this year would have much higher in terms of projectable upside.

But don’t fret too much Boston fans. You’re still up 2-0 over the Cavaliers, and the evidence provided by Tatum and Fultz suggests you’ll end up on the right side of history in the swap despite missing out in 2018.

The Pistons don’t get lucky

Detroit traded its first-rounder to the Clippers this season as part of a deal for Blake Griffin, but had the selection landed in the top three, it would have stayed in the Motor City. While there was only a 2.5 percent chance of that outcome — the rough equivalent of hitting any single card on the river in a poker game — the result still stings.

Barring any trades, the Pistons’ roster is functionally set for 2018-19, as the team already projects to be nearly $17 million over the cap. Most new signings would push them into the luxury tax, an almost certain no-no for a non-contender.

Landing a pick in the 2018 NBA Draft would have been a luxury for a front office without much flexibility and a roster seemingly designed to win now, but sometimes the ping pong balls don’t bounce your way, and the midseason superstar trade you made turns out to look just as bad as everyone thought.