Examining 2011-2014: Is the NBA Lottery Rigged After All?
Guess who won the top overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft lottery? Take a wild guess. Was it the heavily-favored Milwaukee Bucks, who finished the year 15-67 and entered the lottery with the best odds of obtaining the top spot? Maybe it was the Philadelphia 76ers or Orlando Magic, as they both put forth forgettable seasons and possessed a strong shot at picking first overall as well. Hell, it could have even been the Celtics or Lakers, since these historically-successful squads finished 2013/14 with the fifth and sixth worst records in the league, respectively.
Unfortunately, when the lottery process was complete and the ping-pong balls had finished pinging and ponging, none of these aforementioned teams attained the ultimate lottery achievement. But you know who did?
The Cleveland Cavaliers. The freakin’ Cleveland Cavaliers. Despite coming into the lottery with a measly 1.7 percent chance of acquiring the number one overall pick, the organization obtained the prize for the third time in the past four seasons. “Coincidentally”, this also happens to be the third time Cleveland has won it since home-grown hero LeBron James bolted for bigger and better opportunities with the Miami Heat back in 2010.
Notice how I placed the word “coincidentally” in quotations. That’s because the Cavaliers attainment of the 2014 NBA draft’s top pick – as well as both number one selections they obtained in 2011 and 2013 – is NOT a coincidence. Call me a conspiracy theorist if you will, but the NBA draft lottery is rigged. That’s right: RIGGED. Completely fixed in advance for whichever franchise the NBA powers see fit.
Don’t believe me? Let us take a look at the past four lotteries, shall we? Doubters, prepare for your mind to be blown.
2011: For the First Time Since 2003, Cleveland Comes Out on Top
After qualifying for the postseason from 2006 – 2010 with LeBron James leading the charge, the Cavs experienced a significant change in fortune when James vacated Cleveland for a threesome with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami. However, James did not just leave like any other free agent: he instead betrayed as well as embarrassed this ball club by making his decision live on national television. Due to the fact the best baller in the game proudly ditched his hometown squad, the Cavaliers went from finishing 61-21 the previous year to ending 2010/11 with a lowly 19-63 record.
As a result of their absolutely atrocious season (which included a 26-game losing streak), Cleveland ended the year boasting the second worst record in the league as well as a 19.9 percent chance of acquiring the top overall selection in the 2011 draft. However, in addition to their own pick, the Cavs owned the Los Angeles Clippers’ draft pick for 2011 as well. Since this was a time when the Clips were still a fairly crappy organization (the Pre-Paul era, aka their entire existence before Chris Paul), they had finished the year with the eighth worst record in the league, which subsequently provided the Cavs with a pick possessing a 2.8 percent chance of serving as the first one in the draft (look at the 2011 lottery odds for yourself here.)
Annnddd of course, (un)surprisingly enough, it was the pick from the Clips – not their own – which ultimately gave Cleveland the first overall selection in 2011. The Cavs’ own selection turned out to be the fourth overall pick. So, after the 2011 draft was all said and done, Cleveland walked away with talented point guard Kyrie Irving (1st overall) and skilled power forward Tristan Thompson (4th overall).
In sum, one year following the devastating departure of LeBron, the suddenly-rebuilding Cleveland Cavaliers not only received the fourth overall selection through their own pick, but they attained the first overall selection through a Clippers pick which had a 2.8 percent chance of obtaining it. 2.8 percent. The Cavs got two selections in the top five, including the top overall pick which turned out as all-star Kyrie Irving, with one of those picks possessing a 2.8 percent chance of even getting first overall. Clearly, former commissioner David Stern and the rest of the NBA’s leaders desired to aid Cleveland’s rebuilding efforts following the spectacle which was James’ decision, and they did so through utilizing their power to manipulate the draft lottery.
2012: In the Midst of Significant Changes, the Hornets are Granted Hope
While the Cavs attempted to turn their team around with Kyrie Irving serving as their franchise baller, the 2011/12 lock-out season proved to consist of significant changes for the then league-owned New Orleans Hornets as well. Of course, the highlight of this campaign for New Orleans – as well as the entire NBA, for that matter – was the famous Chris Paul trade to the Clippers, as acting Hornets owner David Stern vetoed a fairly reasonable trade with the Lakers and Rockets only to send CP3 to the purp’ and gold’s crosstown rival for youth, the Minnesota Timberwolves’ unprotected 2012 first-round pick, and Chris Kaman. Now, Did Stern deny the Lakers and send Paul to the Clips in order to initiate a shift in the balance of power in LA? That is a different question for a different time. For the subject at hand, all that matters is the Hornets executed a big-time trade, thus signifying the start of their very own rebuild.
Following the loss of all-star Paul, New Orleans put forth a rather poor effort in the ensuing lock-out shortened season, as they finished with the fourth worst record in the league at 21-45. As a result, the club was given 13.7 percent odds of acquiring the top pick in the 2012 draft, and thanks to a little bit of “luck”, a team attempting to turn a new leaf obtained the number one selection as well as the tenth overall selection through the Minnesota pick they gained via CP3. Ultimately, while the tenth pick turned out to be a project in Austin Rivers, the first overall pick was used wisely on Anthony Davis, the uni-browed defensive beast out of Kentucky who has shown much promise through his first two seasons in the league.
Now, I understand a 13.7 percent chance portrays an extremely realistic shot in the lottery. But considering this ball club had just traded away the best point guard in the game (arguably), was in the process of getting a new owner after the NBA owned them for about a year and a half, and was looking to switch their name to the Pelicans, it seems rather odd that the team experiencing changes at all levels just so happened to be granted with the gift of hope for the future in the form of Anthony Davis.
I do not know about you, but it seems clear to me that when the NBA parted with New Orleans, the top overall selection served as a sort of “parting gift”. Like a gesture which shows the league wishes them well moving forward.
Fishy stuff, man, fishy stuff.
2013 – 2014: Apparently, You Can Never Have Too Many Chances
Now that New Orleans’ story has been explained, let us shift our focus back to the Cleveland Cavaliers. Two years after selecting Kyrie Irving first overall, despite the young floor general winning Rookie of the Year honors as well as appearing in the All-Star game in just his second season, the Cavs had not improved much over the course of those two campaigns: they finished 21-45 in Irving’s rookie year, then 24-58 in 2012/13. Clearly, the club needed more help in their quest to recuperate from Bron-Bron saying bye-bye (you know, since the top overall pick in 2011 as well as the fourth overall picks in 2011 and 2012 were obviously not enough). So, how did the NBA respond? By granting them with the number one overall selection again, of course! Now, Cleveland’s pick in 2013 did possess a 15.6 percent chance of acquiring the first spot, which are pretty positive odds in the league’s lottery. But I mean, c’mon: it is quite “convenient” the city who’s heart LeBron ripped out just three seasons earlier won the number one pick for the second time in three years, wouldn’t you say? Seems shady, if you ask me.
Unfortunately for the Cavs, the organization blew their opportunity to select first overall in 2013 by choosing Anthony Bennett. Anthony freakin’ Bennett, the dude whose penchant at UNLV was going on late-night pizza runs. In sum, the forward did not produce a fruitful first year in the NBA, and while Cleveland did experience a nine-win improvement, they struggled once again and ended 2013/14 with a record of 33-49.
Now, the fact of the matter is, 33-49 is not that terrible. It’s bad, but it is definitely not atrocious. Quite frankly, this past year proved to be Cleveland’s best since LeBron’s departure. However, the powers that be in the NBA figured the Cavs’ season could have gone better had they drafted someone other than Bennett, and despite the team’s low 1.7 percent odds of acquiring the top pick in 2014, Cleveland received yet another shot at utilizing the number one overall selection. Through new commissioner Adam Silver, the “Angel of Stern” worked his wonders, and as a result, the Cavs have obtained a third chance to use a top pick in their efforts to recover from 2010.
I guess third time’s the charm, right?
To conclude, the NBA draft lottery is rigged. No doubt about it. The last four lotteries are surefire signs of this reality, and examples of lottery manipulation exist throughout the process’ existence. Shoot, even in the first ever NBA lottery back in 1985, it is widely believed the league purposefully gave the Knicks the ability to choose Patrick Ewing, thus reviving basketball in the big-market city of New York. Watch the following video of the 1985 lottery closely, and pay attention to the following:
- The man throwing in the envelopes throws the fourth one in differently to bend its corner,
- David Stern thoroughly examines the envelopes before reaching in and choosing New York’s, and
- The Knicks’ president already has Patrick Ewing’s jersey ready for use.
All of this is very suspicious, to say the least. Watch and see for yourself:
It’s fixed. That’s all there is to it.
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