NBA Draft, The Whiteboard

The Whiteboard: Way-too-early look at NBA Draft Lottery odds

Nearly a quarter of the way through the season, we’re taking a first look at the NBA Draft Lottery odds to see who could be the big winners.

As the NBA playoff races are beginning to take shape, so too is the bottom of the standings and the race for the top pick in the 2023 NBA Draft. Victor Wembanyama, the 7-foot-5 French big man with exceptional defensive upside and guard skills, is the presumed No. 1 pick. But this projects to be a deep class with plenty of star upside, looking at players like Scoot Henderson, the Thompson twins and more.

With the caveat that we’re just approaching the end of the first quarter of the NBA season, the NBA Draft Lottery odds hold the potential for plenty of chaos, with five picks changing hands and a handful of preseason contenders in position for a huge talent upgrade.

Who is on top of the current NBA Draft Lottery odds?

Data from

There are a number of interesting wrinkles here, including teams like the Heat, Warriors, Nets and Lakers falling in the lottery, despite entering the season with championship aspirations. Any of those teams could eventually move out of the lottery and shake things up but right now the present potential for a veteran team to add a game-changing rookie and jump right back to the top of the standings next season. That is, except for the Lakers…

The Pelicans have to be loving the Lakers right now

The Pelicans have the right to swap picks with the Lakers this season (as well as the Lakers’ pick next season outright). As the Lakers have struggled the Pelicans have to be thrilled with their chances of adding another high lottery pick. Although they didn’t actually make all of these selections, the Pelicans’ roster currently has seven former lottery picks.

  • No. 1 — Zion Williamson
  • No. 2 — Brandon Ingram
  • No. 5 — Jonas Valanciunas
  • No. 8 — Dyson Daniels and Jaxson Hayes
  • No. 10 — CJ McCollum
  • No. 13 — Kira Lewis Jr.

This 2023 Lakers pick swap is a product of the Anthony Davis trade and the Pelicans have already turned the draft assets from that deal into Jaxson Hayes and Dyson Daniels, and as pieces of the trades that brought back CJ McCollum and the pick that became Herbert Jones. Add another top 5 pick to that in a loaded class and the winner of the Davis trade becomes a bigger and bigger question.

The Jazz are playing their way out of the lottery but won’t be out completely

The Jazz were expected to be in the running for the No. 1 pick after trading Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. However, they’ve gotten off to a 12-7 start (best record in the West) and the odds of them trading players like Jordan Clarkson or Malik Beasley for additional picks seem to be shrinking. But even if the Jazz’s own pick doesn’t fall in the lottery, they’ll still likely be well-represented.

The Jazz have Minnesota’s first-round pick this season which is currently in the lottery as the Timberwolves have face-planted out of the gate. Gobert was supposed to be a game-changer for them but they’re currently at No. 10 in the Western Conference and FiveThirtyEight gives them just a 55 percent chance of making the playoffs. Utah also has the 76ers’ No. 13 pick, which they would technically get from the Nets in return from Royce O’Neale as part of a trio of pick swaps.

Utah’s own selection would currently be the No. 27 pick, giving them three first-round picks with the current standings.

The Magic could be the draft’s biggest winners

Orlando won the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft and selected Paolo Banchero, who has looked like the frontrunner for Rookie of the Year. But even though they only have the fourth-worst record in the league, the Magic actually have the best odds of the No. 1 pick this season because they also own the Bulls’ pick this year from the Nikola Vucevic trade. Those two picks give the Magic a combined 17.7 percent chance at No. 1.

If the Magic do somehow win the lottery it would be, incredibly, the second time in franchise history they’ve had back-to-back No. 1 picks. In 1992, they won the No. 1 pick and selected Shaquille O’Neal. The next year, they won the lottery again and selected Chris Webber, trading him for the draft rights to Anfernee Hardaway.

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Ben Simmons makes his return to Philadelphia tonight

More than a year since he last wore a 76ers’ uniform, Simmons will face off against his former team for the first time. What you need to know:

  • After a disastrous end to the 2020-21 playoffs with the 76ers, Simmons requested to be traded. The team initially resisted his demand and an ugly drama ensued with fines, a grievance, subtle accusations of exaggerating physical and mental health issues and more.
  • The 76ers ultimately traded Simmons to the Nets at last year’s trade deadline as part of the deal to acquire James Harden. Simmons missed the rest of the season even after the trade.
  • Reports have already leaked this season that Simmons’ Nets teammates are frustrated with his lack of production and availability.
  • Simmons has averaged 16.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and 5.0 assists over his last three games since that criticism was leaked, shooting 84.6 percent from the field.
  • James Harden, Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are all out with injury for the game against the Nets.

Kawhi Leonard returns, Paul George leaves

Kawhi Leonard has now played three consecutive games for the Clippers. But now Paul George is out day-to-day with a hamstring strain. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Leonard has now played in three straight games for the first time since June of 2021. Across those three games, all wins for the Clippers, he’s averaged 8.3 points, 4.3 assists and 2.3 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game. The Clippers have outscored opponents by 38 in the 70 minutes he’s been on the court.
  • George did not play in the second half of the second game of this Leonard run, after tweaking his hamstring. He did not play in the Clippers’ win over the Jazz on Monday night and he has been listed as day-to-day.

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