Being a lottery team is an overlooked, often-too-simplified condition.
As a matter of fact, one could easily argue that not all lottery-bound franchises, especially coming after such a talent-packed draft, have made moves in this offseason that really put them in a position to push for a post-season run or dwell in the league’s gutter; that despite the widely-accepted notion that staying “in-between”, not really a threat for a playoff-berth nor a high draft pick candidate (or, if you like, a team mastering the art of having an atrocious season), is an all-out condemnation for your future.
Then, you might ask, why do some teams act as if they, at the very least, don’t mind inhabiting this no man’s land?
Enter two names: Orlando and Milwaukee.
What do they have in common? They have drafted, in the last 16 months, at least three potential starters each (Antetokounmpo, Parker and Wolters for the Bucks; Oladipo, Gordon and Payton for the Magic); also, both rosters have been refueled with decent NBA talent that wouldn’t be fan-infuriating as starters.
Mind you, that is all but unintended: those two sides actually WANT the starting lineup to be undecided until the season settles.
That’s what we are making a case for: Orlando and Milwaukee are two teams whose destinies are on their young guns’ hands. If they prove themselves as legit NBA material they will start, and that means, specifically, having lineups that will look like this:
Magic 2014-15 best case scenario lineup: Payton, Oladipo, Harkless, Gordon, Vucevic. (reserves: Ridnour, Fournier, Nicholson, Frye, Harris, etc.)
Bucks 2014-15 best case scenario lineup: Wolters, Antetokounmpo, Parker, Ilyasova, Sanders. (reserves: Knight, K. Marshall, Mayo, Dudley, Bayless, etc.)
(n.b. newly added players in bold)
However, if rookies don’t pan out and sophomores don’t support their convincing first-year campaigns with solid seasons, lineups may end up looking like this:
Magic 2014-15 worst case scenario lineup: Ridnour, Fournier, Harkless, Frye, Vucevic.
Bucks 2014-15 worst case scenario lineup: Knight/Marshall, Mayo, Dudley, Ilyasova, Sanders.
And, of course, I’m still barring injury/behavioural problems (see. Vucevic, Sanders) that would leave these two teams completely helpless.
What is the point in all that? Well, simply said, the only way to know the true value of a player is putting him on the floor and letting him play. Both the Bucks and the Magic are giving themselves a chance to have some depth in case their draft picks work out. If they don’t, however, it still puts them in a lottery-favorable position to add even more young talent.
For a losing team, that really sounds like a win-win scenario.