The NBA Draft is tonight. The New Orleans Hornets will be selecting first after winning the NBA Draft Lottery on May 30, 2012. Many people believe there is a conspiracy with respect to the draft lottery. Specifically, they think it is fixed. Well, count me as one of the many who feel the same way.
Why do I feel this way? Too many coincidences and good stories not to feel like something fishy is going on. Also my ability to somehow pick the team that is going to win the lottery more often than not. I’d love to say I am just that good or that the team with the best odds always wins, but that would be far from the truth. We are talking about a weighted lottery. It should not be as easy to guess the team that will win as it has been. I am going to go back to 2003 and touch on the teams I correctly picked to win the lottery in the given year and explain the conspiracy surrounding the situation and thus why I picked them.
2003 – Cleveland Cavaliers
Long in the dumps Cleveland finally won the lottery. Not only did they secure the rights to their hometown hero in LeBron James, they also got the right to draft the man everyone said was the next Michael Jordan. It was fitting for a team who was tortured by Jordan on numerous occasions to land the “air apparent”. I know some will say, well, Cleveland was tied for the best chance to win the lottery. True, however, since 1985, the team with the best chance to win the lottery has only won four times.
2004 – Orlando Magic
Dwight Howard was not as highly hyped coming out of high school and entering the draft. However, I never bought the idea that Emeka Okafor was as good and could be drafted ahead of Howard. We knew what Okafor was at Connecticut and his potential simply was not in the same stratosphere as Howard’s potential. I picked the Magic to win partially because of Shaquille O’Neal. The Magic had been missing a dominant center ever since O’Neal bolted for Los Angeles. Howard had the potential to fill that hole. Orlando was also in danger of potentially needing to move.
2008 – Chicago Bulls
Despite having only a 1.7% chance to win the lottery, I predicted the Chicago Bulls would come away with the top pick. First, the NBA desperately needed to get a big market like Chicago going again. It worked in 1985 when the New York Knicks won the lottery and drafted Patrick Ewing, so why not again? It simply had not been the same since Jordan’s Bulls broke up after winning the championship in the 1998 season. Also, Rose is a Chicago native and the NBA was not shy to send extremely talented players to their hometown teams.
2010 – Washington Wizards
I hate to place this one on the list because it was a great story and occurred under tragic circumstances, but it does fall under this discussion and I did predict the lottery winner correctly. In November of 2009, Washington Wizards owner Abe Pollin passed away. He was one of the most respected and highly regarded owners in the league. Pollin’s widow, Irene, attended the lottery with his NBA Championship ring as a good luck charm. It was heartwarming. I predicted the Wizards would win, but I also wanted them to win for Mrs. Pollin. I was happy for her that they won. It made a great story and even though I hate to have it on this list, I must put it on. Also, not to be overshadowed, the Wizards were in desperate need of a face lift after the gun incident involving Gilbert Arenas.
2011 – Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert sure kicked up a stink when LeBron James left. Some of it was understandable. James should not have left in the way he did. The decision was a horrible idea as was his refusal to contact any of the teams pursuing him to let them know he would not be signing with them. Gilbert also kicked up a stink about small markets and the lack of competitive balance. So it came as no surprise to me that the Cavs were going to win the draft lottery. I even went as far as predicting the Cavs would win it with the pick they got from the Clippers in the Baron Davis trade. Why? The lottery only selects the top three teams and then everyone else slots in. By winning the lottery with the Clippers selection, the Cavs were able to also have the fourth pick. Sure seemed like a oh you lost LeBron let's make that up to you situation.
2012 – New Orleans Hornets
This was a no brainer to me. The NBA was running the New Orleans Hornets. They vetoed a trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. The NBA then sends Paul to the Clippers for, amongst other assets, Eric Gordon and the first round draft pick of the Minnesota Timberwolves. I correctly predicted that draft pick would not be worth as much as some thought because the Wolves were going to be a decent team this year. Anyway, the NBA finally sells the struggling franchise to New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. The team had few assets and Eric Gordon has already been talking about leaving. I had no doubt when Benson bought the team that the Hornets would win the lottery. Stern was so desperate to find an owner I would not be surprised if part of the deal was the top pick. I have no proof of this and am not saying I feel this happened. However, it would not surprise me if it was true because no one would have an incentive to purchase the team. Some feel the conspiracy could have been written if Charlotte won the lottery because Jordan needs help, if the Nets won the lottery because they are moving to Brooklyn, or if the Sacramento Kings won the lottery because they are threatening to move. To me, any of those three teams would have been an upset compared to the Hornets and would not have deserved credence for a conspiracy theory. The Hornets were in bad shape and the league desperately needed a buyer. Sure looks all to convinient that after all that went down with the league controlled Hornets that they finally get a buyer for the team and the team miraculously wins the lottery.