Roundtable: Lottery winners, losers
Kings' drop in draft lottery likely will cost them shot at franchise-changing player
Selecting Blake Griffin would allow Clippers to deal some frontcourt depth
Assuming Kevin Garnett returns healthy next season, Celtics still a title contender
SI.com NBA writers analyze the latest news and address hot topics from around the league.
1. Who were the biggest winners and losers in Tuesday's draft lottery?
Ian Thomsen: The losers obviously were the Kings and Wizards, the Nos. 1 and 2 worst teams in the league who fell to Nos. 4 and 5 in the draft, respectively. Let's see how the Wizards do in a trade for their pick and whether it helps launch them back into contention next year -- in which case they'll survive the bad luck.
Of course, the Clippers were the big winner. But the team that is going to benefit most will be Memphis by taking Ricky Rubio with the No. 2 pick. He is going to give that franchise an exciting identity in the open floor. He's a terrific passer who will make the Grizzlies worth watching.
Jack McCallum: If I were a mean, cynical person, I'd say the big loser was the Clippers because now they have the opportunity to screw up in front of the whole world. But I'm not mean and cynical -- well, not mean anyway -- and, besides, the Clips have already done that, having made Michael Olowokandi the first pick in 1998. So I'm going with the obvious and say the Clippers are the big winners as long as they manage to utter the words "Blake Griffin," instead of, say, "Archie Griffin."
With their slide to fourth, the Kings are the big loser, much more than the No. 5 Wizards. Both teams were horrible this season, but the Wiz should get better with the return of a healthy Gilbert Arenas and the coaching of Flip Saunders.
Other big winners? Certainly Memphis and Oklahoma City did OK by vaulting past Sacramento and Washington, but, unlike the last two drafts (Greg Oden or Kevin Durant in '07, and Derrick Rose or Michael Beasley in '08), I think there is only one possible first pick.
Chris Mannix: In a draft that is probably only two-deep with superstar talent, I'm going with the teams that secured the top-two picks. The Clippers have the ultimate no-brainer with the top pick in Griffin; their biggest challenge will be moving either Zach Randolph or Chris Kaman in the offseason to create minutes for the talented power forward. Some reports have the Grizzlies passing on Rubio. Huh? When have the Grizzlies ever passed on a point guard? And why would they ever pass on a potential franchise point guard who has ready-made chemistry with Spanish center Marc Gasol? I'd even lump the Thunder into the winners mix, too. Local boy Griffin is the ultimate prize, but if the draft holds to form, GM Sam Presti will have a shot at drafting a defensive-minded center (Hasheem Thabeet) to support an offensively gifted lineup.
You have to give the lottery loser award to Sacramento, which would have loved a crack at Rubio and is now left to sift through the Jordan Hill/James Harden/Brandon Jennings leftovers. The Wizards would have scared half the league if they came away with Griffin, but don't feel too bad for them. Harden is just the type of efficient, complementary scorer they need to play next to Arenas.
Steve Aschburner: The biggest winners were any teams looking for help up front, because with Griffin plugging into a spot along the Clippers' front line, someone there -- Kaman, Marcus Camby, Al Thornton -- is expendable. A similar situation might play out in Memphis if the Grizzlies draft Rubio on top of Mike Conley.
The biggest losers, once again, are the Timberwolves. This franchise is 0-for-12 in the lottery, in terms of improving its draft position going in. It has been bumped down, on the other hand, six times, including from a natural fifth (24-58) to sixth Tuesday night and, of course, the all-timer in 1992 when Minnesota had the league's worst record, "deserved" top pick Shaquille O'Neal, but wound up with No. 3 Christian Laettner. But wait, there's more: The team that it beat in a tiebreaker this year was Memphis -- which used the balls assigned to it, post-tiebreaker, to land the No. 2 pick. In 2007, Minnesota won a similar tiebreaker with Portland and saw the Blazers use those assigned balls to score the No. 1 pick overall.
Scott Howard-Cooper: The Clippers were the biggest winner. There's probably some analysis to be done about a hidden winner, but if you have the straight line to the only possibility for No. 1 in a bad draft, you are the Winner. No unique perspective changes that.
Biggest loser: the Kings, and it's not even close. From the worst record to picking fourth. From the favorites to get the best player, Griffin, or at least the best point guard to address a position weakness to needing to get lucky to have Rubio fall to them. From the chance to reenergize a deserting fan base, especially if Rubio was the choice, to another blow to the impossible marketing plan.
2. Griffin and Rubio appear to be the top two players in the draft. All things being equal, how would you jump-start a rebuilding team: with a big man to anchor the post or a point guard to run the club?
Ian Thomsen: In general terms, I'd go with Rubio. In most cases, teams would go for big over small, but in this case Rubio is a quarterback who will create an exciting brand of play while bringing out the best in his teammates, and that is a rare thing to find.
But now that we know the results of the lottery, we can't deal in generalities. The Clippers are stuck with the remaining four years and $54 million of Baron Davis' contract, which probably can't be traded to make room for Rubio at point guard. They can rebuild their frontcourt around Griffin over the next couple of seasons while moving or letting expire the one year on Marcus Camby's deal and the two years remaining for Zach Randolph. Maybe center Chris Kaman returns to health and gives them an excellent frontcourt. The short of it is that drafting Griffin enables the Clippers to operate from a position of strength, whereas if they drafted Rubio, now they would be working from a weak hand while trying to force Davis and Rubio to play together.
Jack McCallum: It's not about position. There is no single paradigm as there was back in the 1980s, when the you-must-get-a-big-man philosophy ruled, thereby prompting the Trail Blazers to take Sam Bowie instead of Michael Jordan. It's about players. And Griffin is the best player by such a margin in this year's draft that it's not even calculable.
Now, were Griffin in last year's draft, I would've taken Derrick Rose, a point guard, in front of him because Rose is that good. So Griffin's going before Rubio is not about position -- he's just better right now, and in the long run will be better, too, a potential 17-and-10 power forward. With the second pick, by the way, I see the Grizzlies going with Hasheem Thabeet, not Rubio.
Chris Mannix: Obviously, the situation plays a large role in the pick. A team with a franchise forward isn't taking Griffin, and one with an All-Star in the backcourt would probably pass on Rubio. But if all things were equal, I'd go for the Spanish playmaker. Every GM I have spoken with about Rubio in the last few months has sang his praises. His shooting needs work, but at 18, Rubio already possesses the poise of a five-year veteran and his playmaking potential is off the charts. If there is one thing we have learned from the Steve Nash/Jason Kidd/Chris Paul/Deron Williams era, it's that a point guard can be a franchise-changing player. Rubio has that kind of potential.
Steve Aschburner: Jump-starting a team at the gate is as important as jump-starting it on the court. Rubio has a chance to be a star and a fan favorite at a position that has become increasingly vital to contending teams. Your worries: He won't make it to the elite level or he'll give up too much to the NBA game in strength and stamina. Griffin could become Karl Malone Jr., but there seems to be a deep pool of young power forwards right now, meaning you could get one through other means. I'd draft the point guard.
Scott Howard-Cooper: If it's this big man and this young point guard, I take Griffin and start worrying about other positions. Power forward is set. Griffin might not be a superstar, but if he's very good in the Carlos Boozer mold, the way most teams seem to project, with a never-ending work ethic, it's more than the safe pick. It's easy to see Rubio developing into something special and captivating fans as he goes. Griffin just has the better chance of getting there.
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