In part 1, we looked at the low-level karmic threats to win the 2015 NBA draft lottery. Now, the middleweights and heavyweights.
THREAT LEVEL: Did I remember to turn off the oven? I did. Didn't I?
---Oklahoma City Thunder (14th)
History says: The 14th-best odds have never advanced to the top three.
Karma says: The Thunder, like the Pacers, had a '97 Spurs thing going on: annual contender falls on hard times due to injuries. Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka combined to miss 89 games; every OKC player missed at least 9 games this year. Westbrook's very existence pleases the gods, despite him being equal parts Prometheus and Hercules. Promethcules. He's such a badass they can't help liking him.
Judgement: The basketball blasphemy of Seattle losing the Sonics because a billionaire didn't get what he wanted is not easily forgiven. If the league wanted to cement Oklahoma City as a franchise, a lottery win would do it. If Oklahoma City wants to know how much the league values established franchises, give Seattle a call.
---Denver Nuggets (7th)
History says: In 2007, Portland leapt from seventh to first and drafted Greg Oden.
Karma says: Your feeling here says a lot about what kind of view you have of the universe. If you think the basketball gods hate the Knicks, then Denver will win the lottery, birthing a thousand message boards worth of "new" Carmelo-trade/Carmelo-extension/Carmelo-everything arguments. If you don't think the Knicks are cursed, Denver's just another up-and-down organization that did nothing to inspire honor, one the gods couldn't care less about.
--Minnesota Timberwolves (1st)
History says: The Timberwolves have never won a draft lottery. Their highest-ever pick came in 2011, when at no. 2 they took Derrick Williams. They acquired the rights to last year's number one pick, Andrew Wiggins, in the Kevin Love deal.
Karma says: Minnesota is the Susan Lucci of draft night: seemingly always coming up short. Two ways to look at that: One is that even Lucci won, eventually, so the Wolves have to, too. Bet on enough horse races and you're bound to win one eventually. The other way to look at it: from Pooh Richardson to Zach Lavine, Minnesota's had 31 first-round draft picks. They've had a winner (Kevin Garnett). Maybe that was it for them. Maybe the Wolves have out-Lucci'd Lucci. Don't sleep on Minnesota ending the season on a 12-game losing streak, including giving up 47 points in the first quarter of their season finale. That is the Sodom and Gomorrah of tanking, an abomination unto the gods.
Judgement: With all the parallel dimensions in existence...we can't live in the one where Dan Gilbert and Flip Saunders both fall ass-backwards into that much luck? Can we?
--Charlotte Hornets (9th)
History says: Charlotte won the lottery once, in 1991, when they jumped from the fifth-best odds to take future four-pointarian Larry Johnson number one. This year the Hornets had the league's ninth-best record. Last year's ninth-best team, Cleveland, won the lottery.
Karma says: Michael Jordan was criminally underpaid versus the revenue he generated for the NBA in his playing days. If the league tries to balance the books by throwing him a lottery win every 14 years or so, he probably deserves it. I'm not saying they have to. But I understand.
Judgement: Duke's the national champs. Don't you go getting greedy, North Carolina.
THREAT LEVEL: DEFCON 1
--Orlando Magic (5th)
History says: The Magic and the fifth-best odds have had a lot of success in the past: Shaquille O'Neal, Chris Webber, and Dwight Howard were all taken first overall by Orlando. Five different five-seeds won their lotteries, resulting in Larry Johnson, Joe Smith, Yao Ming, Andrea Bargnani, and John Wall.
Karma says: You know how dogs will circle a spot before settling in it? That's the gods and Orlando's lottery hopes - there's a lot to circle and admire. A possible opening at head coach. A likable young backcourt in Victor Oladipo and Elfrid Payton. Karmic debts owed to them: Orlando lost more franchise centers in about 15 years than most franchises have ever even had...both times to the Lakers. Forget winning the lottery: finishing ahead of the Lakers would be sweet justice for many Magic fans.
Judgement: It feels like an Orlando-ends-up-top-three year.
--Los Angeles Lakers (4th)
History says: The last time the 4th-worst team won the lottery three years ago, the Pelicans née Hornets took Anthony Davis. The Hornets née Bobcats were the worst team that year. They fell to no. 2 and drafted Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.
Karma says: To the Lakers, luck is a low-hanging fruit they pluck effortlessly and suck dry whenever they need a pick-me-up. It used to grow wild all over their yard. But the post-2010 CBA was designed to be big-market-unfriendly. These days there's no tangible advantage to being the Lakers over the Wizards or the Warriors. They don't have more money to spend than other teams. Their most appealing piece for the future is a 20-year old with as many broken legs as baskets made. All the while, Laker fans chafe under an inept owner who was born into power. Honk if you know what that's like!
Judgement: Someday the Lakers have to make amends for the HALF-CENTURY of good fortune they've enjoyed. Laker Lent begins this year - I think they stay outside the top-three.
--Miami Heat (10th)
History says: The Heat have only picked once in the top three, drafting Michael Beasley second in 2008. The 10th seed has never won the lottery; in 1990 the Seattle Supersonics rose from 10th to second and took Gary Payton.
Karma says: Pat Riley has dirt on everyone, basketball gods included. If there is any way to rig the draw, he's rigged it. I've already said too much. If I disappear, tell my mother I love her.
Judgement: Impossible to say. I learned a long time ago the Heat are immune to justice.
--Philadelphia 76ers (3rd)
History says: In the modern lottery era, the Sixers have had six top-three picks: Shawn Bradley, Jerry Stackhouse, Allen Iverson, Keith Van Horn (dealt in the Jimmy Jackson/Tim Thomas deal), Evan Turner, and Joel Embiid. The third seed has won the most lotteries of any seed since 1990 (six).
Karma says: Believers in the invisible hand of the basketball gods think the Sixers will fall out of the top-three to punish their unabashed years-long tanking, cherry-on-topped by a season-ending 10-game losing streak. Other more radical sects view Philadelphia's losing as the ultimate sacrifice, a sacrifice the gods will smile upon and reward.
Judgement: I have faith in the gods. Philadelphia picking fourth is only right.
--New York Knicks (2nd)
History says: Since drafting Patrick Ewing first in 1985, the highest Knicks' pick was Kenny Walker in 1986 (no. 5). Their last top-five pick before Ewing? Bill Cartwright, class 'of 79.
Judgement: Emmy Rossum must represent New York at the lottery drawing. If they drop any spots, Rossum'll make some disappointed/"shucks"/grrrrr face. And the pain will ebb, and you'll rationalize, telling yourself and anyone who'll listen this is still their best pick in 30 years, and Michael Jordan went third, and just like 1984 this year there's a swingman from an elite North Carolina school coming off a big showing as a freshman helping his team to this year's college championship; plus the league's more guard-centric than ever, so who cares about missing out on the centers anyway? But if the Knicks win the lottery? Think how happy Emmy'll be, how happy she'll look, how happy you'll feel seeing how happy she looks feeling so happy. If that's the face of tanking, it's all been worth it.