The NBA draft lottery show has so much potential as entertaining television. For some teams, it’s the culmination of a season of furious tanking, the final judgement after weeks and weeks of resting veterans, signing G Leaguers, and experimenting with lineups that range from innovative to imaginative to incredibly bizarre. Representatives from the 14 worst teams in the league (or those that have the rights to their draft picks) gather in a celebration of incompetence, and, usually, 13 of them go home disappointed. So why not spice up the show by sending the most entertaining cast of characters possible?
14. Denver Nuggets: Nikola Jokic, Center
The Nuggets were an overtime period away from making the playoffs, so it feels cruel that they have to endure the lottery process with just an 0.5 percent chance at the top pick. Competent teams are like unicorns when it comes to lottery night: It’s exceedingly rare to see one. So if you’re Denver, why not send your unicorn? Plus, Jokic is the best bet to fire off a side-splitting one-liner when he’s introduced.
13. Los Angeles Clippers: Boban Marjanovic, Center
The team with the 13th-best odds has only a 2.2 percent chance of jumping into the top three (it’s never been done before), so the Clippers should send their most entertaining player, who might also be the most entertaining player in the NBA. There’s the added bonus that Jokic and Boban are best friends (even though Boban made Niko and all of his teammates look like middle schoolers in February), and that means we could see one or both of them deploy a few choice words when their picks don’t pan out.
12. Detroit Pistons: Andre Drummond, Center
Detroit doesn’t keep this pick unless it jumps into the top three (2.5 percent chance), which means it will likely join Boban and friends in L.A. That means all Drummond has to do is smile when he’s introduced—something he should be eager to do after proudly rocking adult braces for years—and give a light grimace when the Pistons lose the pick. The fun part would be watching Drummond’s reaction if the pick does make the leap, which would require him to stand up front and act excited, all while trying to process the fact that his team might have just lucked into Deandre Ayton—or as Drummond might call him, “younger, cheaper, more skilled me.”
11. Charlotte Hornets: Mitch Kupchak, President of Basketball Ops
Kupchak is representing the Hornets at the lottery, and he’s the right choice as the Elgin Baylor Memorial “Veteran of the Lottery Process.” The Lakers, Kupchak’s previous employer, had a lottery pick in each of the past four years. The ping-pong balls were kind to him when he was still GM there: In 2015, the Lakers’ pick jumped from fourth to second, and in 2017, it went from the third slot to no. 2. Charlotte will need even more good fortune to jump from 11th into the top three (2.9 percent chance), but it’s worth sending Kupchak if only to torture Lakers fans: The draft pick that Kupchak traded for Steve Nash will finally convey this year, but the new Hornets president has dominion over all of the team’s first-round picks.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Meek Mill, Rapper/Boston Celtics: Drew Bledsoe, Quarterback
The 76ers and Celtics have had extremely internet-friendly playoff runs, so they might as well send these hometown favorites that became something like team mascots this postseason. Apologies to the confetti guy; the mentalist; angry Danny Ainge, and T.J. McConnell.
9. New York Knicks, David Fizdale, Head Coach
As the newest member of the organization, Fizdale is the person most qualified to represent the Knicks with the proper amount of optimism that the lottery requires. He wasn’t around for the team missing out on Steph Curry by one spot in 2009 or trading away its first-round pick in 2010, or trading away their first-round pick in 2012, or trading away their first-round pick in 2014, or passing on Donovan Mitchell to take Frank Ntilikina (although Fiz will have to feel the effects of that in the coming years). The real reason to choose Fiz: If the Knicks get the no. 1 pick, he could bust out an epic “TAKE THAT FOR DATA” that would rival the original.
8. Cleveland Cavaliers: Rich Paul, Totally Unbiased Party
There’s no need for the Cavs to pretend the lottery, or the draft itself, are anywhere close to as important as the decision LeBron James will make this summer. Sure, sending LeBron’s agent might be considered tampering, but wouldn’t the Cavs eat that fine if it meant making the King happy? Wouldn’t it be incredible to watch Paul pull out his phone after the pick is revealed to be eighth, and we get to see him text Lee Jenkins to get started on “Dreams and Nightmares: Why I’m Joining the Philadelphia 76ers” live on ESPN?
7. Sacramento Kings: A Randomly Selected Fan
The Kings have the saddest retired jersey number in the whole league, narrowly edging out the Heat’s retirement of Dan Marino and Michael Jordan. (No, you’re not forgetting about a late-career stint with the Heat. They retired MJ’s 23 for his “contributions to basketball.) In 1985, Sacramento retired no. 6 in honor of “the fans.” So instead of vice president of basketball ops Vlade Divac or owner Vivek Ranadivé, Sacramento should choose a lucky fan to do the lottery night honors—that is, if there are any willing participants left after the team drafted Jimmer Fredette, Thomas Robinson, and Ben McLemore in consecutive drafts. They could even wear a custom no. 6 jersey!
6. Chicago Bulls: Omer Asik, Center
Asik narrowly edges out a pile of $3.5 million worth of cash (the amount the Bulls got in return for Jordan Bell on draft night in 2017) for this spot. Asik is Chicago’s tank personified: They took on his indefensible contract and shipped out Nikola Mirotic, who played a crucial role for the Pelicans in the playoffs. Asik is also one of the NBA players most familiar with undeserved good fortune. The Turkish center parlayed a season of 3.1 points in 14.7 minutes per game with the 2011-12 Bulls into a three-year, $25 million deal with Houston, then got New Orleans to pay him $58 million before vanishing as a productive player. If Asik is still blessed with that type of luck, maybe some of that would rub off on the Bulls at the lottery.
5. Orlando Magic: Shelvin Mack and D.J. Augustin, Point Guards
The Magic will likely be in position to draft Trae Young even if they don’t vault into the top three, so they need to show Trae just how little competition he’ll have at point guard if he lands in Orlando. Augustin was fifth (28.4) and Mack was seventh (22.5) on the team in minutes per game after the All-Star break (Jamel Artis, a totally real player and not a fake name used for tax purposes, was eighth at 22.4). Augustin is 30 and Mack is 28, and they ranked 34th and 57th in PER, respectively, among qualified guards last season. Orlando should display these two as proudly as possible Tuesday night and make it abundantly clear to Young that he’d be the team’s long-term answer at point.
4. Atlanta Hawks: Kent Bazemore, Guard
This one is simple: Bazemore made a name for himself with his over-the-top bench celebrations, including a signature move celebrating a 3-pointer. He’d raise his right arm while the shot was in the air, and then sink down to one knee while swinging his left arm into the sky, holding up three fingers. The entire lottery process would be worth it if the Hawks jumped into the top three and Bazemore leapt to his feet and pulled out one of these:
3. Dallas Mavericks: Mark Aguirre, Mavericks Legend
The Mavericks have picked first overall only once in their history, taking Mark Aguirre out of DePaul in 1981. Aguirre’s no. 24 may not be retired in Dallas, but the team should send in Aguirre with the hope that the ping-pong balls will reward them with that second no. 1 overall pick. They should also do it because Aguirre is the president of the Champions Basketball League, which is home to former NBA players like Earl Boykins and Ricky Davis. It would be legendary if Aguirre tried to recruit prospects for his league at the lottery: “Hey, Mo Bamba! You’d fit right in with Al Harrington and Jamaal Tinsley on your hometown Gotham Ballers!”
2. Memphis Grizzlies: Marc Gasol, Center
There are two reasons Gasol is the Grizzlies’ perfect lottery rep: First, he’d have to pretend to be thrilled with the idea of playing with another 19-year-old next season, and he made it clear that he didn’t have the time of his life this past season. The other reason to send Gasol is that we need an infusion of pettiness at the lottery show, and it would put him and Fizdale in the same building for the first time since the report came out revealing that Fiz told him, “I get it, you want Gregg Popovich, and I want LeBron James.”
1. Phoenix Suns: James Jones, VP of Basketball Operations
Jones is the human good luck charm. He played in 709 regular-season games in his career, and his team won 461 of them. That’s a 65 percent winning percentage, which would translate to 53 wins over a full NBA season. Jones played 14 years in the NBA and put together a cumulative record that most teams would kill for. Playing alongside LeBron, he went to seven straight NBA Finals, making him one of eight players in history to do so. Basically, when James Jones is around, good things happen. I’m not saying that’s the reason the Suns made him their VP of basketball operations, but it’s a perfect reason to send him to the lottery.