Written by: Andrew Wittry
Last week was the highly-anticipated raffle for Anthony Davis, or as most people refer to it, the NBA Draft Lottery. The Charlotte Bobcats, who infamously had the worst winning percentage of any team in NBA history at 7-59 had a 65% chance of getting the number one pick after all but two teams had dropped out of the running but instead landed the number two pick behind the New Orleans Hornets (21-45 record this season).
Let the conspiracy theories begin.
In mid-December, NBA officials nixed the proposed trade between the Los Angeles Lakers and New Orleans Hornets that would send point guard Chris Paul to L.A. and forward Pau Gasol to New Orleans, among a handful of other players traded between the two teams. With the league in control of the Hornets, they did not think that the trade was good for the team. Within a week, the other NBA team with which the Lakers share the Staples Center, the Los Angeles Clippers, acquired CP3 via a trade with New Orleans.
Maybe the NBA gave the Hornets the number one pick to make up for cancelling the trade with the Lakers.
The owner of the New Orleans Saints, Tom Benson, is looking into purchasing the New Orleans Hornets as well from the NBA. And since the better quality of a product, the higher the price that can charged, what if the NBA gave New Orleans the number one pick so that they can make more money from selling the Hornets to Benson?
It is certainly entertaining listening to all of the conspiracy theorists who claim that the NBA is rigged. However, it is amazing how irrational their logic is and that they actually believe the draft lottery was a scam. It was not as if the NBA was able to pick a team of their liking to receive the number one pick. The entire process took place in the presence of a representative of all 30 NBA teams as well as various members of the media. So yes, the NBA draft lottery could be rigged if every single team and members of the media agreed to keep quiet about it, which we know would never happen. And conspiracy theorists are blowing a 30% chance of selection way out of proportion. If two more ping pong balls were chosen after the one bearing the Hornets' logo, chances are that they would have both been in favor of the Charlotte Bobcats. New Orleans just happened to get lucky that a ball in their third of the total number of balls was chosen.
Having a team other than the one with the worst record in the league win the first draft pick is no anomaly. Since the first year of the draft lottery system in 1985, only four times has the team with the worst record received the number one pick. The amount of attention surrounding this year's draft is more than normal because Charlotte had the worst record in NBA history as well as that we've known who the first overall draft pick, Kentucky center Anthony Davis, will be for months. Stranger things have happened than for the team with tied for the third-worst record to earn the number one draft pick including the Orlando Magic getting the top pick in consecutive seasons (1992 and 1993) and two teams having the number one pick despite having less than a two percent chance of getting chosen. In 1993, the 41-41 Orlando Magic had a 1.52% chance of being selected and in 2008 the Chicago Bulls had a 1.70% probability. Both teams ended up getting picked in their respective years and went on to draft Chris Webber and Derrick Rose.
As fun as it may be to create conspiracy theories and point fingers at David Stern and the NBA, it is not productive. Instead of asking if the NBA draft lottery was fixed, a better question is whether or not the lottery is the best system to decide the order of the draft. Certainly there needs to be some form of lottery system in place to prevent teams from bagging their season half-way through in order to get the top pick. Maybe the NBA should consider the records of the fourteen teams that participate in the lottery and increase the probability that the worst teams will be chosen based on how many games they are behind the rest of the pack, which certainly would have helped the Charlotte Bobcats this year. Another way to help ensure that the teams who need the top draft picks the most get them would be to make different tiers of the lottery. This would mean that the five worst teams would have their own lottery to determine their position 1-5. The next worst teams would have a lottery for spots 6-10 and so on.
While I completely disagree with the conspiracy theory rumors that are spreading like wildfire, I do think it would be worth the time and effort of NBA executives to discuss revisions to the current NBA draft lottery. It is a shame to think that the Charlotte Bobcats were the worst team in the league by fourteen games and they may once again be a cellar dweller next year since Anthony Davis will be headed to New Orleans, Louisiana instead of Charlotte, North Carolina.
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