The NBA’s draft lottery, a fixture on primetime television since ESPN gained its television rights prior to 2002-03, will take place on that channel at 8 p.m. ET on Tuesday evening.
[Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball]
The usual cast and characters representing the 14 lottery teams will be there: NBA players, coaches, general managers, presidents, relatives of the team’s owner, and whatever Jason Kidd does with the Milwaukee Bucks these days. The whole affair should be business as usual.
This is why the Philadelphia 76ers have the best odds at the top overall pick, because things are going according to plan, or, “business as usual.” The Sixers, behind recently deposed GM Sam Hinkie, just about gave up on the business of winning games in 2013 in order to become a fixture of the lottery and accrue assets, and they could walk away from Tuesday night with the No. 1 overall pick and the 4th pick (acquired in a deal with Los Angeles) in the draft.
This is why many have been clamoring for lottery reform for years, in order to disabuse teams of the notion that they could eventually win big by losing big. In a recent interview with Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News, however, NBA senior vice president of basketball operations Kiki Vandeweghe, the league officially revealed that no immediate plans for lottery fixin’ are on the horizon:
What do you think of the current NBA lottery system?
Vandeweghe: “The first thing is, the lottery is not supposed to incentivize losing. In theory, it’s supposed to help the teams with the worst record. That’s the whole purpose behind it. It’s been constructed in different ways and changed a variety of times over the course and adjusted as needed. But those are the two tenets to keep in mind.”
Have there been any recent league proposals to change it?
Vandeweghe:: “Nothing recently. I don’t think see anything imminent. A year and a half ago, there was a lot of momentum for change. We brought some thoughts to the Board of Governors. The majority of the owners were in favor of change. But a change really takes a super majority. So we barely missed that. I don’t know what has happened in between that. We’ve focused on different areas. I would assume it hasn’t really changed that much.”
A “super majority” would involve 23 teams voting for the change.
Various reasons went into a series of owners declining to vote for a change – their teams may have been actively tanking, they may have wanted to take advantage of immediate gains in dealing with tanking teams, fears about future draftees actually (shock horror) having some say in their employment may have played a part, or the owners just may not have dug the ideas presented – and it’s obvious that we might be a ways away from seeing new proposals chatted about officially.
The upcoming rise in the NBA’s salary cap, as Vandeweghe pointed out later in the interview, also plays a part. Owners want to see if the world is going to burn, first.
The “winning big by losing big”-ideal is usually pitched in hopes of eliminating a team’s perpetual spot in the middling part of the NBA standings list. It’s a spot that many find rather distasteful – and for good reason.
The 2016 lottery is a rare one in that spots six through 14 are occupied by disappointing teams that do feature All-Star-level players. Those players list as New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, New York’s Carmelo Anthony (though New York traded away its pick in 2012), Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, Utah’s Gordon Hayward (or Derrick Favors, the choice is yours), Washington’s John Wall (Washington dealt its pick), and Chicago’s Jimmy Butler; with only Denver and Milwaukee as the obvious star-less holdouts.
Usually, though, that middle is rather unappealing. Fearful of it, the 2013 76ers dove to the bottom. Had they executed properly in their drafting, and had Hinkie not been so oddly off-putting in both his interactions with fans and media and his discussions with the Old Guard That Like to Be Anonymously Quoted, the Sixers might feature the most enviable roster potential in the East, and Hinkie might still have that job.
Doubt me on the grumbling? From Medina’s piece at the Daily News:
“Everybody has rigged the system. It wasn’t new what Philadelphia was doing,” said one Eastern Conference general manager. “It’s just that Sam was so brazen about how he went about it. He acted like he reinvented the wheel.”
(No word on if that executive went on to tell tale of the time he once saw K.C. Jones “eat an entire onion like it was a damn apple!”)
Philadelphia could enter this summer with cap space, and six high-end prospects taken in the NBA lottery. All, save for Dario Saric (who has financial reasons to not come over to the NBA just yet), would have been taken in the high reaches of the draft, with 2016 first-round picks from Miami and Oklahoma City coming down the pike.
Given the right execution, that could be a fantastic take. All it did was cost the 76ers and their fans three and probably four terrible seasons. Whether or not this is tearing the league up at its core or the future of team-building is up in the air. There is gray here, but the issue is that nobody calls gray their favorite color. Not when black and white colors draw radio and television attention look so darn cool.
Nothing new, for now. In the interim, enjoy the NBA’s draft lottery on Tuesday. No wagering.
- - - - - - -