Well, I was in the middle of writing the Week In Review column about the lottery when I realized that I had enough to say that I needed to devote a whole column to expressing my thoughts on the lottery. Hope you enjoy!
The Cavs won the lottery. This has a lot of ripples, like tossing a boulder into a small pond. Most relevant to me, it’s going to be hard for me to write about how God hates Cleveland anymore now that they’ve won three lotteries in four years. Of course, the only year in the last year that they didn’t win the lottery had Anthony Davis as the top pick, the last ‘sure thing’ superstar center in the draft since 2008 when Greg Oden was the presumptive 1st overall pick (although we all know how that panned out) so maybe God STILL hates Cleveland. We can always hope. Or, maybe, three first overall picks in four years may be compensation from the Basketball Gods for LeBron leaving, and ripping their hearts out in the process. This is all waaay too confusing. Let’s hold off on a decision to make sure that Cavs don’t screw it up, either by taking Embiid and his back problems flaring up or taking a point guard like Dante Exum while somehow forgetting that they’ve already got an all-star point guard (see: Irving, Kyrie). Don’t count out the Cavs from doing something stupid like that, they’re capable of doing anything. They’re absolutely crazy.
Should the Cavs should be rewarded with the first overall pick? They’re incompetent and horribly run, but at least they tried to win this year. They sent picks and Andrew Bynum to Chicago for Luol Deng and they sent a couple of second rounders to Philly for Spencer Hawes, although that evidently didn’t work out too well. The question is whether or not the trying hard outweighs the fact that the Cavaliers are a dysfunctional organization.
This conundrum also applies to the Suns, Bucks, and Bobcats—wait, Hornets. (Quick tangent: As far as I can tell, the whole point of a team’s name is to sound strong and powerful. That’s why you see names like the Giants or the Kings throughout sports. I’ve always thought it amusing when teams use names like the Hornets—am I supposed to be intimidated by a bug? Being the Bobcats was a lot better and moving down the scale-of-scary-names was not a great idea. At least they weren’t as bad as New Orleans, who originally had the name of Hornets and then decided to become the Pelicans. Wow, I’m scared. I suppose that tangent wasn’t all that quick, but whatever.) We’ll be getting to the Hornets in a bit but I’ll quickly go through the Suns and Bucks.
First, Milwaukee. They tried to win this year and never officially started tanking, but they were led by Herb Kohl who just wanted to make the playoffs. While they wanted to do well, they didn’t exactly go the right way about doing so. Of course, the best thing for them to do to be good is to tank (which is what they ended up unwittingly doing) just showing how weird it is to be in a league in which eight teams were aiming to willfully throw their seasons away in order to get better in the long run and how that strategy actually makes sense.
Now for Phoenix. Phoenix was planning on throwing away their season, but when they were unexpectedly good at the start of the year, the rolled with it and finished with 48 wins which would have made them the three seed in the Eastern Conference. Of course, in the West, they missed the playoffs and ended up in the lottery anyway. How are they not being rewarded for trying their best? To solve this problem, here’s what I propose: a complete change of the lottery system.
It’s always great when a borderline good team manages to acquire a transcendent player to turn them into a very good team. Of course, with the lottery, that never actually happens. Why not change the lottery around? Clearly, you can’t have tanking, nor can you have the elite teams getting even better, so here’s my proposal: You have the same lottery format, but with switched odds. So, this year, Phoenix would have had a 25% shot at the #1 pick. You can’t tell me that it wouldn’t be awesome to see Wiggins or Embiid tearing up the NBA with the Suns next year. Teams couldn’t purposely lose games because they’d be destroying their hopes for the playoffs AND for the lottery. The only potential downside is an eight seed tanking out of their spot for a good shot at the 1 pick, but that’s okay for three reasons: One, rather than having eight teams tanking, we’d only have, at most, two or three. Two, teams attempt to tank out of the playoffs to get into the lottery anwyay. This year the Hawks did their best to get out of the playoffs but they were unable to, due to the incompetence of the Knicks and Cavs. Three, it’d be fine with me if we were improving teams that were already half-decent. Why aren’t we doing this? Get Silver on the line!
The Cavs moving up to number one overall is quite bad for the Pistons as they had a top eight protected pick that they owed to Charlotte in the Ben Gordon for Corey Maggette bad contract swap. When the lottery began, Detroit was in the 8th spot, but when Cleveland moved ahead of them, they moved down to the 9th pick, meaning that they had to send it away to Charlotte. It means that the Pistons won’t have a draft pick in Steve Van Gundy’s first year, something that dampens the excitement that he brought to their organization. On the flip side, the Bobcats are an up-and-coming team and, after adding a high draft pick, they have a chance to get even better. That’s how the lottery SHOULD be, improving teams that are genuinely attempting to get better. Who would rather see a young star having his growth stunted by having to carry a crappy team by himself over a team that’s already pretty good getting two high-ish picks and reinforcements. For me, at least, it’s no contest. Charlotte now, depending on how well they pick, have a chance to improve enough to get the 4th or 5th seed, maybe even the 3rd seed (and if LeBron leaves Miami to go to the West, the two seed). Hell, if Toronto can get the 3 seed, certainly Charlotte with a couple of new, very good, rookies can too.
Other ripples: after destroying its team and MCW’s good habits, the 76ers only have the third overall pick and the tenth overall pick, which they got from New Orleans in the Nerlens Noel and top 5 protected pick for Jrue Holiday robbery—I mean trade. The Cavs moving up affected the Sixers a lot as they moved from the potential 2nd overall and 9th overall to 3rd and 10th. Kind of sucks for the Sixers and their fans when after ravaging their team and throwing away a season they only get the 3rd pick. It’s great for everyone else though: it shows that tanking doesn’t result in a guaranteed superstar and that the lottery works (although that’s debatable after the Cavs winning three times in four years). Other than that, there’s all the aforementioned story lines in play from before.
Hope you enjoyed and I can’t wait until the draft (I think I’ll even write a running diary for that too).