The NBA got what it wanted.
The Hawks, perhaps, did not.
The league introduced a new lottery format this year designed to keep teams from tanking — losing on purpose — to get better draft picks.
At Tuesday’s draft lottery, three teams outside the top six moved into the top four. The Pelicans and Grizzlies moved up six spots each, to Nos. 1 and 2, and the Lakers jumped seven spots to No. 4. The Knicks, Cavaliers and Suns, who all had the best odds at the top overall pick, each dropped three spots. The Knicks, with the NBA’s worst record at 17-65, will pick third at the NBA draft on June 20th. The 19-win Cavaliers and Suns will pick fifth and sixth.
The Pelicans and Grizzlies each had only a 6.0% chance to move up to No. 1.
The Hawks entered the lottery with the fifth-worst record after a 29-53 season. While they had a 10.5% chance at any of the top-four picks, their first-round selection will be No. 8, a spot they had an 8.8% chance to land. They will also have the No. 10 pick, acquired from the Mavericks as part of the Trae Young-Luka Donic trade last year. The Mavericks’ pick fell back a spot.
More from lottery draft
“Obviously, not for us, but it worked,” Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said, noting his team didn’t have the fortune of others. “… What you are going to see, hopefully, is less emphasis on teams trying to lose games and teams be competitive down the stretch because you have a better chance to move forward. That’s the whole purpose of balancing out the odds.”
The 76ers were the model franchise for building a roster with players selected at or near the top of the draft after one futile season after another. They went six consecutive years with 35 or fewer wins, including a three-year stretch with 19, 18 and 10 wins respectively. The 76ers made the playoffs the past two seasons, but it took awhile to obtain their top-level talent.
The league needed to make a change to prevent the systemic purposeful losing. Now, it may not pay, at least not as much, to lose.
“The reality is when your odds are what they were, you don’t spend a great deal of time focusing on things you don’t control,” new Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said after his good fortune.
The Hawks certainly could have done better than pick Nos. 8 and 10, but they could have done worse. They could have left Chicago with only one lottery pick at No. 9.
“Our job is to make eight and 10 work,” Hawks principal owner Tony Ressler said. “That’s Travis’ job. That’s basketball operations’ job. You don’t sit back and know what could have been. Listen, this is the NBA. And yes, better picks were possible, but we also could have had only one top-10 pick. I’m trying to focus on the positive. We as an organization have to make two top-10 picks. Most people going into a draft would say if you have two top-10 picks you are moving in the right direction.”
The Hawks appear to be moving in the right direction going into the fourth season of Ressler’s ownership and third year of Schlenk’s direction. The 29 wins last season were more than even those in the organization expected. With a young nucleus that includes Young, Kevin Huerter and John Collins, there is a growing excitement certainly not present when the decision was made to rebuild the franchise. The Hawks got both Collins and Huerter at No. 19. They moved back and picked up the extra first-round pick with the deal for Young. They will have a total of five draft picks next month, with three second-round selections. There are options.
While the Hawks’ luck could have been better in their second consecutive draft lottery, the job now is to keep moving forward.
“We’ve been out of the playoffs two years,” Ressler said. “I think we are making progress. I think we are moving in the right direction. Whether we are right on the cusp or not, I think we are going to find out after June 20.
“Listen, our job is to keep making progress and it’s to keep moving forward, and we think we are doing it the right way. We think we are building foundation. If we can’t make two top-10 picks work for us, it’s our fault. Our job is to make them work, and I think we will.”
A look at how the 2019 NBA draft lottery unfolded Tuesday with the team, position change and odds to finish where it landed.
1. Pelicans, +6, 6.0%
2. Grizzlies, +6, 6.3%
3. Knicks, -2, 12.7%
4. Lakers, +7, 2.8%
5. Cavaliers, -3, 27.8%
6. Suns, -3, 26.0%
7. Bulls, -3, 16.8%
8. Hawks, -3, 8.8%
9. Wizards, -3, 3.8%
10. Mavericks (to Hawks), -1, 24.3%
11. Timberwolves, -1, 18.9%
12. Hornets, Unchanged, 86.1%
13. Heat, Unchanged, 90.6%
14. Kings (to Celtics), Unchanged, 95.2%
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