Flashing his familiar smile, while also sweating out a big bet, Magic Johnson got what he needed. He attended the NBA Draft Lottery in New York for a reason.
He’s Magic. He’s no hapless loser riddled by bad luck.
So it was really no surprise Tuesday when the ping-pong balls bounced the Los Angeles Lakers’ way, and Magic walked away with the No. 2 pick in a loaded draft.
Brad Stevens is pretty lucky, too. The Boston Celtics, the top seed in the Eastern Conference, drew the No. 1 pick by virtue of Danny Ainge’s blockbuster 2013 trade with Brooklyn. Philadelphia and Phoenix are set to draft third and fourth, respectively.
This was a critical lottery for the Lakers. If they landed outside of the top three, their pick would have gone to Philadelphia, and their 2019 first-round pick would have gone to Orlando. That was the potential nightmare scenario.
Jim Buss has been kicked out of the picture, and the picks are safe. The Lakers’ future is no longer clouded by smog.
A case for the No. 1 pick could be made for any one of four college freshmen — Washington point guard Markelle Fultz, UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, Duke forward Jayson Tatum and Kansas forward Josh Jackson — though Fultz is the favorite to go to Boston.
Ball reportedly plans to work out only for the Lakers, so there might not be much mystery involved in the top two picks.
Matthew Holt of CG Technology sports books said his company is likely to petition the Nevada Gaming Control Board to approve proposition wagering on the NBA Draft, just as CGT and William Hill sports book did for the NFL Draft, which attracted surprisingly strong wagering action.
No other draft compares to the NFL, but looking ahead to June 22, when the books turn into ghost towns, why not create some business?
Will Fultz be the No. 1 overall pick? Let’s start with a prop price of “Yes” minus-500 and “No” plus-400. That price might be too high, mainly because Fultz is not a perfect fit for the Celtics' puzzle, but as of now he's the consensus top pick.
VSiN host Mitch Moss (@MitchMossRadio) put on an oddsmaker hat and prepared an unofficial list of possible NBA Draft props:
* Total number of college freshmen drafted in the first round: 16.5
* Total number of freshmen to go in the lottery (top 14): 10.5
* When will the first non-freshman be drafted: 9
* Total number of college seniors drafted in the first round: 0.5
* Total number of international players drafted in the first round: 4
* Kentucky players drafted in the first round: 2.5
* UCLA players drafted in the first round: 2.5
* Duke players drafted in the first round: 3
Matt Youmans’ NBA mock draft (lottery)
1. Celtics: Markelle Fultz, 6-4 PG, Washington
Fultz might not be the best fit for Boston, which has Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart in the backcourt. Thomas needs to dominate the ball to be most effective, and so does Fultz. The Celtics’ bigger need is an athletic wing such as Jackson or Tatum. Or Jimmy Butler.
2. Lakers: Lonzo Ball, 6-7 PG, UCLA
Magic Johnson sees himself and some of Jason Kidd in this kid. A high-IQ point guard who has exceptional court vision, elevates the play of his teammates and has a hitch in his shot.
3. 76ers: Jayson Tatum, 6-8 SF, Duke
The Celtics could use Tatum against Cleveland in the Eastern Conference finals. The Sixers need a scoring guard, so they might consider a trade, but it would be tough to pass on Tatum or Jackson.
4. Suns: Josh Jackson, 6-8 SF, Kansas
The Suns are mostly set with guards, so they need a big, versatile athlete. Jackson is a high-energy player who can score inside and out, defend and rebound. Phoenix would be happy to get Jackson or Tatum.
5. Kings: De’Aaron Fox, 6-3 PG, Kentucky
This is bad news for Fox, who would disappear into obscurity in Sacramento. But it’s a good pick for the Kings, who are looking for a dynamic point guard.
6. Magic: Lauri Markkanen, 7-0 PF, Arizona
His stock will rise between now and the draft. Markkanen is a tantalizing prospect because he’s got size, skills and 3-point shooting range.
7. Timberwolves: Jonathan Isaac, 6-11 PF, Florida State
Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau has a young team with several scorers and too few good defenders. Isaac is a defense-first athlete with a high ceiling. He would fit in with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins.
8. Knicks: Malik Monk, 6-4 SG, Kentucky
Seeking a split with Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks will be hunting for a shooter. In a win against North Carolina in December, Monk made 8 of 12 3s and scored 47 points. The Knicks would love to get him, if he’s still on the board.
9. Mavericks: Frank Ntilikina, 6-5 PG, France
The scouting reports say this is a big point guard with a 7-foot wingspan who can run the offense and defend. Foreign players are always a mystery for mock drafters. If Markkanen slips, is he the next Dirk Nowitzki?
10. Kings: Zach Collins, 7-0 PF, Gonzaga
A 7-footer who can run the floor, shoot and protect the rim. Collins is not the next DeMarcus Cousins, for better or worse, but the former Bishop Gorman High star would be an intriguing replacement for him.
11. Hornets: OG Anunoby, 6-8 SF, Indiana
A knee injury ended his sophomore season early, so he’s under the radar. But Anunoby is one of the most explosive athletes in this draft, and he defends, so his stock should rise after his workouts.
12. Pistons: Dennis Smith Jr., 6-3 PG, North Carolina State
Smith has the potential to be an elite NBA point guard. But he has track record of inconsistency and a knee injury in his history. He could go in the top 10 or slide.
13. Nuggets: Luke Kennard, 6-6 SG, Duke
Every team is searching for 3-point shooting. Kennard does not have that so-called high upside, because he’s not a great athlete, but he can shoot and would be a good fit with the Nuggets.
14. Heat: Justin Jackson, 6-8 SF, North Carolina
This just feels like a Heat pick. He could be a smaller Chris Bosh. Jackson has length, shooting range and does a lot of things to help a team win.