You don’t need to play the draft lottery to win. The Indiana Pacers are proof of that. Of their starting five, only swingman Paul George was a lottery pick. And he was drafted 10th, closer to the bottom of the lottery.
Meanwhile, center Roy Hibbert was selected 17th overall, forward David West 18th, point guard George Hill 26th and shooting guard Lance Stephenson 40th.
So maybe take your eyes off the lottery. Instead, watch out for the Pacers.
(All records through Sunday’s games)
1. Indiana Pacers: Lance Stephenson may be the most underrated shooting guard in the league. As if the Pacers needed any more good news.
2. San Antonio Spurs: Time is running out for Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Or so we said five years ago.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder: Kevin Durant should keep them near the top of the West until Russell Westbrook returns.
4. Miami Heat: Lost back-to-back games to New York and Brooklyn. No one’s perfect, but that automatically drops you a couple spots.
5. Portland Trail Blazers: There was a time when we thought LaMarcus Aldridge wanted to bolt. Forget about that noise now.
6. Golden State Warriors: Steph Curry probably doesn’t have to worry about missing the All-Star game this season.
7. Los Angeles Clippers: Return of J.J. Redick should help ease the burden of losing Chris Paul. Plus, Blake Griffin has been better than ever.
8. Houston Rockets: Weren’t they supposed to be doing what the Blazers are doing, record-wise? Still, Rockets should be even better at the end.
9. Phoenix Suns: League’s biggest surprise could experience a little reality with the injury to Eric Bledsoe.
10. Dallas Mavericks: Clearly, Dirk Nowitzki is capable of one more legit playoff run. Will Mavs have to make another trade for it to happen, though?
11. Atlanta Hawks: Play hard, play smart and are more talented than you think. But they’d better find a way to make up for loss of Al Horford, and soon.
12. Toronto Raptors: Who needs Rudy Gay? Not the Raptors, who own one of the league’s most unsung big men in Amir Johnson.
13. Denver Nuggets: By the time you read this, Andre Miller could be traded. And the Nuggets may have dropped to 20th.
14. Minnesota Timberwolves: Kevin Love is calling out teammates for sulking. Never a good sign.
15. Chicago Bulls: No Derrick Rose and no Luol Deng, but Tom Thibodeau’s defense is alive and well.
16. Memphis Grizzlies: All those money-saving trades and a baffling coaching change seem to have caught up to them.
17. Washington Wizards: Shouldn’t they be third in the East by now? It may happen soon, but until then, John Wall’s career year makes Wiz worth watching.
18. New Orleans Pelicans: If these guys could ever stay relatively healthy for an entire season, who knows?
19. Detroit Pistons: Better on the road than they are at home. And better on paper than they are in reality.
20. Brooklyn Nets: Kevin Garnett doesn’t want to play center. Things are going much better anyway.
21. Charlotte Bobcats: Coach Steve Clifford has the Bobcats thinking defense — and playoffs. Yes, amazing.
22. New York Knicks: Without any real reason, they’re playing harder and smarter. Carmelo Anthony deserves credit, but J.R. Smith does not.
23. Los Angeles Lakers: Who’s on this team again? Oh that’s right, Pau Gasol, and he probably should’ve been traded.
24. Sacramento Kings: Winners of five of eight and enjoying life with Rudy Gay. But little guard Isaiah Thomas may be the biggest reason why.
25. Boston Celtics: Coach Brad Stevens has kept them within striking distance of the playoffs without Rajon Rondo. Impressive.
26. Cleveland Cavaliers: Trading for Luol Deng couldn’t keep them from losing by 44 at Sacramento. Now what?
27. Philadelphia 76ers: Can’t defend the 3-point line and are no great shakes underneath, either. Coach Brett Brown is unbelievably cool, though.
28. Utah Jazz: Lots of teams would love to have Gordon Hayward. Some may try to trade for him soon.
29. Orlando Magic: Usually play hard and together, but in this league, you usually need at least one real star.
30. Milwaukee Bucks: O.J. Mayo has never really lived up to expectations. Could he be dealt again?