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NBA Draft Lottery lacks big payout this time around

May 17, 2011, 12:48 PM EDT

NCAA Hampton Duke Basketball AP

We love the NBA Draft Lottery because it’s like franchise roulette — random luck and the bounce of some balls will determine the future of a franchise, potentially setting some up for years to come.

Well, most years. This year, not so much.

This year the lottery has very little payout.

This is a down draft year where the top pick — Duke’s Kyrie Irving almost certainly — has question marks, then after him and Arizona’s Derrick Williams things drop off fast. Some years winning the lottery or even getting in the top three means a franchise gets a key building block. But look what Marc Spears of Yahoo was told.

“It’s horrendous,” (one Western Conference general manager) said. “Every year we always talk about how bad the draft is. This year we really mean it.”

Irving is going to be good, just how good is the question. It’s a little hard to judge because he missed most of his one season at Duke due to a toe injury.  Here is what friend of this site David Thorpe — who works with a number of professional players and prospects — wrote this at ESPN (behind their insider pay wall):

When watching Irving on tape, I see a player who looks like Brandon Roy with better natural playmaking skills. I mean the All-Star Roy with healthy knees, not the guy who is fighting his knees most nights and can’t move anywhere close to the way he used to on every possession. A healthy Roy used his strong body, great balance and crafty ball-handling to create shots for himself and others. He was a solid perimeter shooter and a devastating mid-range guy, with a true talent for finishing in the paint but away from the rim.

Pretty much every team could use a Roy, but that is Irving’s high end. He is not an explosive guy like John Wall last year, or Derrick Rose or Russell Westbrook. And remember Roy fell to six (although in a draft where in hindsight only LaMarcus Aldridge is a guy that should have been taken in front of him, and recall that Andrea Bargnani was the top pick).

After Irving you get Williams, but he is considered a bit of a tweener at the forward spot — too small to be a four but they are not sure he can be a three.

Then who knows? Maybe the third choice is Turkish center (and Kentucky recruit who couldn’t play because he’d been a pro back home) Enes Kanter. But he didn’t play anywhere organized ball last year. Lithuanian big man Jonas Valanciunas gets mentioned. DraftExpress has Kemba Walker third. But there is no consensus.

Last year the New Jersey Nets were able to get Derrick Favors with the third pick, then trade him as the core part of a package to get Deron Williams. There will be none of that this time around. The pickings are much more slim.

Usually the motto among GMs is to draft the best player available. You need talent to win, you can worry about fit as you go. But this year, with the talent quickly reduced to guys you hope can be role players, more teams will draft to fit need first. At least after the first couple of picks.

So enjoy the lottery. Some team is going to get a very good player tonight. But if your team doesn’t win, time to start tamping down those expectations.

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