It is pretty hard to focus on anything but the NBA playoffs at this point, but it is worth taking a brief detour to peek at an event that could change the fortunes of a few teams tonight. The NBA Draft Lottery will air before tonight’s Game 2 (7:30 PM EST on ESPN).
Believe it or not, there’s still a (slim) chance that the Celtics could win the lottery with the Lakers’ pick. Specifically, there’s a 2.87% chance that the pick ends up in either slot #2 or #3 and conveys to the Boston Celtics. How did we get here?
Well, there’s a long Trust The Process story about how the Sixers ended up with the Lakers and Kings picks, but the protected pick came to us via the pre-draft trade last year. The Celtics, who owned the #1 pick, were willing to give the Sixers that pick in exchange for the #3 pick and a protected pick from the Lakers. That allowed for the Celtics to pick Jayson Tatum (whom they say they would have picked at #1 anyway) and allowed the Sixers to pick Markelle Fultz.
Back to the Lakers pick. It was protected by the Sixers, so the only way the Celtics get it this year is if it falls between pick 2 and 5. The Lakers record puts them at the 10th selection before the lottery. There’s no way it can land in slot 4 or 5 so the only way it comes to the Celtics is if it jumps up to number 2 or 3.
We have a 2.87% chance of getting pick 2 or 3. I've worn the same jacket to every Celtics home game since it replaced a smaller one when I was a kid. Never worn it anywhere else. Do I wear the jacket in the room with the ping-pong balls?— Mike Zarren (@mikezarren) May 14, 2018
If you care about how it is broken up, there’s a 1.3% chance of getting the #2 pick and a 1.57% chance of getting the #3 pick (per @dangercart).
If the pick does not convey this year, then the Celtics get a pick in 2019. They will get whichever one is better between the Sixers and Kings (unless it is #1, in which case the Celtics would get the other one). Got all that?
If the Celtics manage to jump into the top 2, it will signify 3 straight years of winning the lottery. Last year, of course, they landed the number 1 overall pick. Two years ago they had the 3rd most chances of winning a top 3 pick and were selected to pick 3rd (so technically they won the lottery). So they aren’t exactly “due” for more luck. If anything, it would be a case of the rich getting richer.
Obviously, if the Celtics do land the 2nd or 3rd pick, that would be an embarrassment of riches (especially considering where they are in the playoffs and whom they expect to get back healthy next season). Figuring out how to slot in (and eventually pay) another top 3 pick would be tricky at best, but those are the best kinds of problems to have.
Still, I wouldn’t exactly hold my breath over a 2.87% chance. But you never know.