I love the NBA, I love college basketball, I love seeing rookies come into the NBA and make an impact. However, the thing that I detest about the NBA (besides the Warriors) is the draft lottery.
The NBA decided that the best way to determine the top 14 picks, was to not do the logical thing and give the worst team the 1st pick but to instead use ping pong balls in a machine to let luck choose who gets the most coveted rookie.
Is the NBA Draft Lottery Rigged?
Ever since the inception of the NBA draft lottery, the lottery has been under suspicion for being rigged. Let me set the scene for you, the year is 1985, Patrick Ewing is the superstar center down at Georgetown, and the consensus #1 rookie in the draft. The league knows this kid is special and deserves to play in a big market. The way the lottery was picked was that envelopes with all the team’s names were placed in a clear plastic ball and then spun around before former commissioner David Stern picked an envelope.
The theory is that the envelope with the Knicks logo in it was put in a freezer so Stern could find it easier, along with the edge being bent. So Patrick Ewing went to the Knicks and had a Hall of Fame career, but what if the Pacers had won the lottery and Ewing went and played out in Indiana.
Owned By The League
Let’s go back to 2012, the New Orleans Hornets just traded Chris Paul and needed a boost, they have a 13% chance to get the #1 pick, on the other hand, my Charlotte Bobcats had just finished a 7-52 shortened lockout season.
Oh God, that was painful to type, no it was painful to acknowledge the fact that my Bobcats only won 7 GAMES IN THE ENTIRE SEASON. EVEN THE NETS CAN EKE OUT OVER 10 WINS. So everyone thought that the Bobcats would be getting Anthony Davis, and lead them to mediocre success. However New Orleans, who guess what? Were OWNED BY THE LEAGUE, got the #1 pick and the rest is history.
With a 1.7% Chance, Chicago Bulls Selected Derrick Rose
Way back in the days before the 3pt line and the Warriors were still in Philadelphia, the NBA had a territorial pick, basically, a team like the Philadelphia Warriors, would have the rights to drafting a hometown kid like Wilt Chamberlain, from Philly, this practice was done away with because otherwise the Timberwolves would have grabbed Kris Humphries instead of Karl Anthony Towns.
However remnants remain, let’s check back to the 2008 draft where the Bulls had a 1.7% chance to get the #1 pick. The consensus pick was Derrick Rose, who just happened to be from Chicago. Guess who happened to win the lottery? Da Bulls. It provided a heartwarming story, but did it screw other teams out of a star?
Irving, Bennett, Wiggins
Ok, a lot of people will bring up the Magic getting back to back #1 picks against the odds from 1992 to 1993. Drafting Shaq and Chris Webber changed the face of Florida’s second franchise. Everybody focuses on that but does anyone remember the fact that the Cleveland Cavaliers had 5 lottery picks from 2011 to 2014. Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson in 2011, Dion Waiters in 2012, Anthony Bennett (excuse me while I go vomit) in 2013, and then Andrew Wiggins in 2014. That amounts to 3, #1 overall picks and 2 top 5 picks in the span of 4 years.
Did the Cavs get 2 lottery picks have to coincide with LeBron leaving for Miami in 2011? LeBron coming back to Cleveland in 2014, was it the reason the top pick fell to the Cavaliers?
Can We Change?
Can the draft be rigged? Hell yeah, it can be. Do we need to keep the lottery? No way Jose Calderon. So I was listening to some guys talk about how the NBA’s draft order needs to change. I am taking on Gerald’s idea and expanding on it. All props to my main guys on SiriusXM NBA radio. I watched the lottery play out this year, it was boring as hell, watching Kiki Vandeweghe pick ping pong balls out of a machine is about as pleasant as watching a middle school basketball game. So the following is a new way to change the draft order and maybe prevent tanking.
NBA Draft Tournament
First, off the bottom 4 teams in eight Conferences are going to be the ones competing for the top spots in the draft. Number them 1-8 by number of wins and we are having a one and done, ala March Madness tournament. 1 plays 8, 2 plays 7 and the rest. 7 games to determine who gets the number 1 overall pick in the upcoming draft. One game played NCAA college basketball-style half lengths. Once you lose you are out, whoever wins the tournament gets the #1 overall pick and so on. Now teams have no incentive to tank and try to up their lottery odds anymore. It extends the basketball season enough that we ball nuts have something to tide us over until the playoffs start, it gives the playoff teams more time to rest up before the first round starts. The owners make money off of ticket sales which makes everyone a winner. On any given day an 8 seed can beat a 1 seed, so these guys have a reason to play hard.
This is how you do this tournament which I am prematurely calling, “The Quest for #1” You hold multiple games on the same day, in the same arena. The Big3 league did it, and it worked well. The entire first round of those playoffs happen in one day, back to back to back games, it gives the fans a longer experience, you make the tickets cheaper than normal tickets so people will have a reason to come. Have the first round happen in say Los Angeles, semifinals in Boston, and the final round of the tournament happens in the stadium where the NBA Draft is taking place. Nobody likes to see tanking in the NBA, Cavs fans don’t want to travel to see their beloved team on the road only to find out that LeBron and K-Love are resting that night. Who wants to get excited about seeing Richard Jefferson and Kyle Korver start a game, (Besides me of course.)? Or let us go with a real example of the Lakers playing like garbage so they can grab Lonzo. This tournament gives some excitement back to the draft.
Even more, this also changes up the value of trading draft picks. No draft pick will be assured, so when you trade the Pelicans for their 2019 draft pick you don’t know what you are going to get. Will they win the 7th seed? The 3rd? Until this tournament is over, draft pick trading gets even more risky, so then maybe Danny Ainge, will finally let those poor draft picks out of his hoarding room.
One of the few problems I see is that this leaves 6 teams in the “middle ground” The 9th place through 11th place teams are in an odd position, they are not good enough to make the playoffs, yet they are not bad enough to go for the draft tournament. We could implement this style and watch the results, and make necessary changes as problems arise. Oh, by the way, we pay each player playing in the tournament, let’s say $30,000 extra for playing in the tournament, and each player on the championship team $70,000 extra to give these guys an incentive to play hard and keep the competition active and intense.
As we wave goodbye to the lottery as we know it, we enter a time of lessened odds for bad teams. We start to see Adam Silver handing out player resting fines out like Scott Skiles handing out assists. Turn the draft into something more exciting, diminish the power of trading draft picks, let us make the draft order something exciting!