Thirteen NBA franchises have a chance to land the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft next month, and their fate will be decided tonight in the Draft Lottery (8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN).
Thanks to a 2013 trade with the Brooklyn Nets that is still paying dividends, the Boston Celtics have a 25 percent chance to win the No. 1 pick — but according to Colin Cowherd, the Los Angeles Lakers are the biggest story of the night, as Magic Johnson's regime could be dealt a devastating blow depending on the outcome of the lottery.
Boston is the only team that can elevate itself substantially tonight
“The NBA Lottery is tonight. Ping pong balls define the order of the draft.
"…. Tonight is the power of hope, and the Laker fans are on pins and needles. Here’s the way the draft truly plays tonight. It can only really help, really take one good team — Boston — to another level.
"Because to win in sports, you have to be operationally excellent. That’s what the Spurs are, it’s what the Warriors are, it’s what thePatriots are, it’s what Alabama football is.
"It doesn’t matter if you give a great player to a crappy organization. LeBron, he had to leave and eventually come back again. Tim Duncan works and got titles because Tim Duncan went to the right franchise.
"This thing tonight is not going to elevate any other team substantially except Boston, because Boston’s operationally excellent.”
Brad PennerBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The Lakers could be facing years of mediocrity if they lose their picks
“If Boston can get in the No. 1 spot and get who they want, I think it makes a real difference in the NBA. It can be that ‘oomph’ that gets them somewhere. If a Kyrie Irving or a Love got hurt next year before they played them in the playoffs, LeBron’s a year older… maybe it’s an ‘oomph’ play with one more free-agent acquisition.
"But the real story tonight, don’t kid yourself, is the Lakers.
"The Lakers have to get into the top three. If they do not, they lose this year’s lottery pick and 2019’s lottery pick — and it’s devastating, because they’re not very good now, and they’ve been awful for four years.”
Brad PennerBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
There almost certainly will be an upset in the final draft order
“Of the last 32 lotteries, in 30 of them at least one team with a top-three probability did not end up picking in the top three.
"In fact, last year was the first time in the history of the lottery that the order was the same as the pre-lottery probability showed. Tonight it should be Brooklyn, Phoenix, Lakers. That ain’t the way it’s going to turn out. First time ever, last year, it worked out that way.
"Tonight could be absolutely devastating to the Lakers, or it could be absolutely plentiful for the Celtics. It could really be a game-changer for Boston.”
Jennifer BuchananJennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports
The odds are stacked against the Lakers
“This is a very, very good draft, and two or three players — like Josh Jackson out of Kansas — going to Boston… to me, he’s the next Jimmy Butler. He’s that kind of player, and he’ll be that kind of player within a couple of years.
"But the Lakers have had four awful years, and if they don’t get the ping pong ball in the top three tonight, it is all over. It ain’t getting better. You are crossing your fingers that you can convince Paul George to come to a 31-win team.
"And right now, the Lakers have only a 46.9 percent chance. The most likely scenario? They are doomed.”
Denny MedleyDenny Medley-USA TODAY Sports
Even if the Lakers do get their pick, there's no guarantee it pans out
"The Lakers’ future depends on a celluloid ball tonight to fall in the top three.
"And, by the way, do I think there’s an upside to the draft for the Lakers? Not until they become operationally excellent. Remember, [Tim] Duncan is the only one that goes to a place, stays at a place and changes the league.
"LeBron changed it by leaving and coming back. So you’ve got to get your house in order before Lonzo Ball’s even going to matter. That’s the Lakers’ problem… but their problem will be exacerbated if they don’t get a ping pong ball tonight. I can’t wait for tonight.”