The Cleveland Cavaliers got a mulligan.
The NBA draft lottery was held Tuesday, May 20, and for the third time in four years, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the No. 1 pick. They had the ninth-best chance to get the No. 1 pick, and were at a 1.7 percent probability of having their number chosen in the secret process.
Last year, the Cavaliers also won the No. 1 pick in the draft and they completely screwed that pick up, selecting Anthony Bennett out of the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Bennett was a complete bust, displaying a poor work ethic and an inability to score in the higher echelon of the NBA.
So the league gave the Cavaliers a mulligan, a second chance to get it right.
Yes, I am implying the draft lottery is fixed. I don’t have any proof, other than what is in the pudding, but I will always believe it is rigged.
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Since the institution of the draft lottery in 1985, when the league fixed it so the New York Knicks could get the No. 1 pick and select Patrick Ewing, the process by which NBA teams have the chance to improve themselves has appeared crooked. Only four times in the 30 years of the draft lottery did the worst team in the league with the best chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft actually end up with the first pick.
The league “gave’’ Ewing to the Knicks, Shaquille O’Neal and Chris Webber to the new Orlando Magic, and twice have benefitted the Chicago Bulls, with the selection of Elton Brand in 1999 and Derrick Rose in 2006.
The league has tried desperately to save the Los Angeles Clippers numerous times, in 1988 (Danny Manning), 1998 (Michael Olowokandi), and 2009 (Blake Griffin). If they get the chance in the future to benefit the new owners of the Clippers following the end of the Donald Sterling era, they will.
For some reason, the league really wants the city of Cleveland to succeed. Not only did Cleveland get the No.1 pick in 1986 (they chose Brad Daugherty), they got it again in 2003 (they took LeBron James) and when James left the city they got the pick in 2011 when they selected Kyrie Irving.
(In both 1986 and 2011, the Cavaliers used a pick that was owed to them by the Clippers, as one ridiculous franchise manages to do what it can to save another problematic franchise.)
There is a belief that the league wants to create a situation in Cleveland that will entice LeBron James to come back to his hometown team, which would allow him to become a hero again as opposed to the take-the-money-and-run villain he became when he left Cleveland to go to Miami.
It was interesting to see the NBA give the Cavaliers another shot at success when they were in position to reward the new owners of the Milwaukee Bucks, who had the best chance at getting the No. 1 pick in 2014. Instead, they fall to No. 2. Less pressure.
In truth, although the lottery result almost always looks bad, small market teams have almost always ended up with the No. 1 pick. San Antonio has won it twice, Milwaukee has won it twice, New Jersey has gotten the No. 1 pick twice, and the Washington Wizards have won it twice.
But I contend the NBA gives small market teams the No. 1 pick occasionally just so they can say “See, it’s not fixed.”
San Antonio has certainly made the most of its picks, grabbing David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997. Since 1997, the Spurs have failed to win 50 games in a season just once, and that was when the season was shortened to just 50 games due to a lockout. When the league played 66 games in 2011-12, the Spurs won 50 of them.
The Philadelphia 76ers did everything they could to lose enough games to have the vest odds at the No. 1 pick, but the Milwaukee Bucks were better at being bad. Still, neither team got the top pick, as the lottery served its purpose of punishing teams for trying so hard to be so bad.
Now the league is looking at changing the draft format, and many people are espousing the virtues of a draft wheel, in which the teams are slotted at a particular position in advance every year in a random manner and the draft order is set for perpetuity. You could look at the draft wheel and see where your team would pick in the year 3000 if you wanted to.
The idea is to completely erase the desire for teams to want to lose games. It could also end any discussion of the NBA fixing the draft lottery to benefit the teams they want to benefit.
Which means they may have to resort to kneecapping the best players on the teams they do not favor.