Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Was the NBA Draft Lottery Drawing Rigged?

In a word, YES. When the drama unfolded and all the cards were shown, the teams who had been [most] accused of tanking games on purpose in order to improve draft position all finished three spots below what the percentages suggested. Memphis. Boston. Milwaukee. In a night, two of these teams' outlooks have changed.

First, let's take a look at Memphis. Yesterday, they dreamed of Gasol and Oden occupying the paint and imagined defense as a mandatory activity. Tonight, they get the 2nd pick among those not named Oden or Durant. At this point, they'd be happy to get their hands on the likes of Al Horford.

Second, there's Boston. I can't feel sorry for the Celtics. In early March, there was Celtics GM Danny Ainge breaking every tampering rule imaginable by talking it up with Kevin Durant's mother. Then, there was the actual Celtics, who not only shut Paul Pierce down at all the right times (all the times if you owned him in both of your fantasy leagues, but that's another story for another day), but also benched starters such as Ryan Gomes in the 4th quarter of a close game. They lost.

Third, there's Milwaukee. Now, Milwaukee could have been accused of tanking, but they had every fathomable injury occur to their best players. They were more of a mix of bad and unfortunate. In all reality, the third spot is not that much different than the sixth in this specific draft and when considering that it would be nearly impossible to trade into a top 2 position. In fact, the Bucks will save some coin in the process.

As for teams who gained the top 3 picks, they all tried to win games late in the season. The operative word is "tried".

Portland, who won the draft lottery, began placing firm building blocks for the future late this season as Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge (prior to his bout with dehydration and further issues), and Sergio Rodriguez all played well.

Seattle struggled with a full roster. They barely mustered up enough courage to take the court when Ray Allen was sidelined at season's end. In the games I watched, they didn't show signs of tanking. Conversely, they didn't have to show signs of throwing games to be awful. The likely selection of Kevin Durant will have an effect on Seattle's ownership having more pull within the city, as he becomes an instant draw in addition to Mr. Shuttlesworth.

I happened to watch as many Atlanta games as nauseatingly possible this season and while they were a very bad team, the team resembled a helpless child when Joe Johnson wasn't around and it's nearly impossible to feign that level of cluelessness. As much as Atlanta wanted to keep its pick, they badly wanted a top 2 pick. The third pick overall means plenty of research needs to be done by the Hawks brass and last year's research led to reaching for Shelden Williams with the 5th pick. They wanted the no-brainer pick and instead, they will have to act with a look forward to the future to determine which of its young core it wants to retain. The rookie contracts of Josh Smith, Josh Childress, and Salim Stoudamire come to an end in 2008, as do those of Anthony Johnson, Tyronn Lue, and Lorenzen Wright.

So there you have it. That's the lesson for the day. Don't sit your best players in the 4th quarter just to get a higher pick for the following year. The NBA (i.e. the karma police) will get even and make sure your fans think your organization is cursed.

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