NBA Lottery Rant

May 19, 2010



I may sound like a broken record, but the way the NBA handles their draft infuriates me every year. I still can’t for the life of me understand while the media and general public does not call the NBA out for having a lottery system in the first place. They have so little trust that NBA teams won’t tank that they actually have to have measures to protect against that. Baseball gets ripped for the steroids, where it’s going on in every sport, but the NBA tries to sell of the excitement of the draft as a cover-up for a tanking concern.


In every other sport the worst team gets the first overall pick (which could actually be a detriment in the NFL, but the intentions are good and that’s a conversation for another day) in order to give them a chance to improve. Not so in the NBA. They devised a ridiculous formula that flat-out doesn’t work. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out something’s rotten in Denmark. All too often the team with the best odds doesn’t get the number one pick. That goes against mathematical probabilities. Here’s a look at the teams that ended up with the #1 pick and the odds.


2010:  Washington Wizards got the #1 pick with the 5th best odds
2009:  LA Clippers got the #1 with the 3rd best odds
2008: Chicago got the #1 pick with the 9th best odds
2007: Portland got the #1 with the 7th best odds
2006: Toronto got #1 with 4th best odds
2005: Milwaukee got the #1 pick with the 6th best odds
2004: Orlando got the #1 pick with the 1st best odds
2003: Cleveland got the #1 pick with the 1st best odds
2005: Milwaukee got #1 with 6th best odds
2002: Houston got #1 with 5th best odds
2001: Washington got #1 with 3rd best odds (Michael Jordan’s first pick, hmm)
2000: New Jersey got #1 with 7th best odds (Former NBA exec Rod Thorn’s first year with NJ, hmm)
1999: Chicago got #1 with 3rd best odds
1998: LA Clippers got #1 with 3rd best odds
1997: San Antonio got #1 with 3rd best odds
1996: Philadelphia got #1 with 2nd best odds
1995: Golden State got #1 with 5th best odds
1994: Milwaukee got #1 with 4th best odds
1993: Orlando got #1 with 11th best odds (1 in 66 chances, hmm)
1992: Orlando got #1 with 2nd best odds
1991: Charlotte got #1 with 5th best odds


So why would the NBA want the Washington Bullets, I mean the Wizards to get the number one pick? Simple. Gilbert Arenas disgraced the city and gave the NBA a bad name. What better way to put that fiasco behind you than awarding them John Wall. People are talking about Wall now and how Arenas has to adjust his game. The gun scandal is an afterthought.


I’m going to continue to be skeptical about the draft until they actually show us the ping pong balls. There have been too many instances where the two teams with the best odds have failed to get the top pick. In the last 20 years the team with the best odds only landed the top pick twice. The number two team landed it twice. That’s four times in 20 years of 20 percent of the time. The problem is, that number should be twice as high. That’s the same as the team with the 5th best odds won. The team with the third best odds has won five times. It’s staggering that 55 percent of the time the #1 pick goes to the team with the 3rd, 4th, or 5th best odds.

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8 Responses so far | Have Your Say!

  1. LEV
    May 19th, 2010 at 9:04 am #

    I whole-heartedly agree. It’s an absolute fiasco. The fix was definitely in for all the reasons you mentioned above. Just as bad as when the Knicks got the #1 and ended up with Ewing, the Magic get the #1 on back to back years, and Chicago to land local product Derrick Rose. Absolutely ridiculous. The NBA lottery is the biggest joke in all of sports.

  2. LestersLegends
    May 19th, 2010 at 9:07 am #

    It truly is. The Nets basically got handed a death sentence in the LeBron Sweepstakes. Was Stern trying to show he’s in charge and not the Russian billionaire?

    It’s not the players or the play that has turned me off to the NBA. It’s this kind of nonsense. The lame officiating that has been proven to be corrupt. We’re supposed to believe it’s an isolated incident. Right.

  3. Brad
    May 19th, 2010 at 10:10 am #

    I agree with you – the lottery is bogus, and it makes it even more bogus that they don’t let anyone see the ping-pong balls. It’s like they want us to know they’re covering up the evidence that it’s fixed.

    In a way, though – it’s not that bad this year that the Nets didn’t get the #1 pick, because they don’t need a PG, they need a big, and there are none who are really worthy of the #1 overall pick in the draft. The dude from Kansas (Aldrich?) is good, but I don’t see him as a viable #1 overall pick.

    But that’s beside the point – you’re right that the lottery is a sham, and it’s pathetic that the worst team in the league can’t get the #1 pick to at least make an attempt to improve.

    If the league refuses to change from the lottery system (which we all know they do – the fixed system works great for Stern because he can dictate where his revenue is coming from based on rookie superstars going to big markets or hometown teams), then the least they could do is change the formula for giving probability of the #1 pick. Give the worst team a 40% chance instead of a 25% chance, and at least make it more frequent that the top pick goes to the correct team.

    In fact, I believe that if you go back and look closely at every #1 pick since 1991, there will be something fishy about each and every one of them, like Derek Rose/LeBron James going to home-town teams, and Jordan getting the #1 pick, etc.

  4. LestersLegends
    May 19th, 2010 at 10:28 am #

    Excellent points Brad. It’s truly sickening. You’re right. Big markets, hometown teams, rewarding players/execs, rewarding teams that sell lots of merchandise, etc.

  5. Larry
    May 19th, 2010 at 2:47 pm #

    My problem is not other teams getting the #1 Pick but the fact that others can drop 3 slots is unfair, Why not have the lottery for the # 1 Pick then if someone other than the worst team gets the 1st pick the worst team then picks 2nd,
    Back in 1970 They used to have a coin flip to decide the #1 pick between the 2 Worst teams in each conference , The Bucks were last in the east with a 27-55 record, The Suns were last in the west with a 16-66 record, (Both were Expansion Teams) The Bucks won the toss and picked 1st and picked a Center out of UCLA named Lew Alcindor (What ever became of him?)..And the Suns drafter out of Folorida, Neal Walk

  6. LestersLegends
    May 19th, 2010 at 2:53 pm #

    That would work too. Coin flip would be better than the sham they have now.

  7. Larry
    May 19th, 2010 at 3:21 pm #

    I just hate to see teams with the worst record drafting as low as 4th, I think the NHL has a different Lottery, If I remember they have one ball picked of the non playoof teams and that team moves up 5 spots and the rest slide 1 spot, So that way only the #s 1-6 worst records can pick #1 so that would prevent what Orlando in 93, New Jersey in 2000 and Portland in2007, did, I also agree with the team with the worst record getting 50% of the balls

  8. LestersLegends
    May 19th, 2010 at 7:04 pm #

    I’m with you Larry. If anyone can look at the probabilities and the actual results and not come away thinking something is wrong they are either in denial or are kidding themselves.

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