by Robert Ferringo - 05/26/2005
Why is it that the National Basketball Association is the only one of the four major sports leagues that has a lottery to determine draft order? Everyone else gives the top pick to the worst team, so why is it different in the NBA?
I'll tell you why. It's because the NBA is full of some of the most vile and depraved humans in the sports business. From the players and owners to the agents and ad men, they are pure swine that can't be trusted not to eat their own young. The league knows that if they gave the top pick to the worst team outright each year, franchises would be mailing it in by October. Teams would be pulling rejects out of the local YMCA or out from under local bridges and turning The Game into some sort of small-town freak show or circus. And if you think that's not the Truth, just observe the play of Vince Carter this year in Toronto or that of the 2002-03 Cleveland Cavaliers. No, checks and balances is the ticket, and the league has it right on by involving Lady Luck. And just as "The line never lies" when it comes to free throws and fouls, the "lottery never lies" when shadowy NBA figures line up to spend what little karmic currency they have built up over the past 12 months.
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So where does that leave us? It leaves us with the Milwaukee Bucks, who had a 6.3 percent chance of victory (roughly the same odds they have of resigning free agent Michael Redd), staging a minor coup by moving up five spots to steal one of the largest figureheads in sports - the No. 1 Overall Pick - from the clutches of the putrid Atlanta Hawks. For the Hawks, it was another kick in the groin after an already wretched season. They had a 1-in-4 chance of landing the top spot in the NBA Draft Lottery, but couldn't even win that.
Other losers on a night of hope for the broken and beaten were New Orleans, Charlotte and Utah. They each dropped a pair of spots to select fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. But that isn't a devastating blow, considering that draft positioning matters much less in the NBA than it does in football, baseball or hockey. That's not to say that it isn't important, but while the draft is as much an unpredictable crapshoot as anything in sports, and has broken more than one strong man with its fickle nature, positioning matters much less than strategy.
Below is merely a brief overview of the teams that will be intimately involved in the June 28th extravaganza. They will be front and center in an event which annually features goofy high schoolers and at least two dozen uncomfortable David Stern moments. I can hardly wait. June 21st is the last day for underclassmen to withdraw their names from the draft pool, so I'll be back with my own predictions, full player analysis and general mockery when we get a little closer to the big day.
2005 NBA Draft Lottery Results and NBA Draft Order(Pick, team, 2004 record - analysis)
1. Milwaukee (30-52) - What do you do with this pick? You can't take Wake Forest point guard Chris Paul because you've already invested in T.J. Ford. You can't take UNC forward Marvin Williams because that tells Michael Redd and your already depleted fan base that you're rebuilding. So that leaves Utah center Andrew Bogut, the Tallest White Guy Available. I think we all know how that movie ends.
2. Atlanta (13-68) - As much as I want to rip the Hawks, not getting the No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft Lottery was the best thing that could've happened to them. They get to snatch up Marvin Williams, who has a huge upside and will have time to develop alongside Josh Childress and Josh Smith on a team with no expectations. With that core, maybe in three years or so Atlanta could do what Chicago pulled off this year. And if Bogut does become the next Rik Smits, Atlanta can shrug and blame fate.
3. Portland (26-55) - Has a professional team ever resembled the personality of their city less than the "JailBlazers"? Portland will probably take high schooler Gerald Green for no other reason that he's young, talented, immature, and could easily be swept up by the money, girls and drugs that come via an NBA contract. Or they'll take Pierre Pierce, who is Portland's version of a "character guy" (because he already started a rap sheet while at Iowa, where he was arrested and kicked off the team last year). It will be Green, but who on the Blazers is going to mentor the kid?
4. New Orleans (18-63) - Over the last three or four years, the Hornets had the potential to make several deep runs in the Eastern Conference, but could never put it together. Now it's time to blow this team up and start over, which they started by shipping Baron Davis out of the Big Easy and into the NBA wasteland known as Golden State. They would love to see Chris Paul in the Bayou.
5. Charlotte (17-64) - The Bobcats did well this year for an expansion team, and they proved that they made a slam dunk pick with Emeka Okafor last year. With two first rounders this summer, they can get a little greedy and make one "potential pick," but that means they need the other choice to be someone who's an instant contributor.
6. Utah (26-55) - So good for so long, it's still odd to see the Jazz picking this high in the draft. But if you want to know why they're here you don't have to look farther than two moves: 1) trading Carlos Arroyo for Elden Campbell and a future pick (did they watch the Olympics?) and 2) signing Mehmet Okur last summer. Oh, and the Pistons got Campbell back a month later after the Jazz waived him (like it matters).
7. Toronto (33-48) - They need to get real lucky with this pick. They can't afford to gamble on a high schooler, and getting a good foreign player won't excite the already disinterested Toronto fans. I expect the Raptors to be the wild card in the Top Ten - the most likely to make a move and shake things up.
8. New York (32-49) - No matter what, this will be an awful pick. It will be either be the 28th-rated player from the Former Soviet Union, or the most emotionally unstable high schooler on the board. It doesn't really matter since the Knicks are in Salary Cap Hell until 2023 anyway. Isiah Thomas has made up a lot of ground on Elgin Baylor for the title of Most Ridiculous NBA Executive, and this pick will help his case.
9. Golden State (33-48) - I just will never understand this franchise. Every time I think they're heading in the right direction, something happens and they just don't put it together. This is another team to keep a careful eye on, and could be the one that demolishes everyone's mock drafts with some wild and wacky trade. Or they'll do something very Warrior-like and take Pitt's Chris Taft.
10. Los Angeles Lakers (34-47) - The Lakers finished behind the Clippers last year. I need to say that again. The Lakers finished behind the Clippers last year! No matter who they pick in this spot, Lakers Rookie Orientation will consist of two weeks of Kobe Bryant explaining that he wasn't responsible for the breakup of what could've been one of the NBA's top three dynasties of all time, followed by the burning of 1,000 copies of Phil Jackson's book.
11. Orlando (36-45) - I would love to see the Magic take another big man to place alongside Dwight Howard - who's an absolute animal - and build from the inside out. Instead of Orlando brass saying "Well, we're set underneath with Dwight," I think they should try to find a solid European big man (and there are four or five power forwards and centers from across the pond that will go in the top of the first round) with a good feel for the game and decent ball skills that Howard can feed off of.
12. Los Angeles Clippers (36-45) - How does Elgin Baylor still have a job? Honestly. They say he's one of the nicest guys in the NBA, but he doesn't have to prove it every year by letting random drunks that live under the L.A. Freeway make their picks every year. To stick with the plan they'll need to find someone that has a chance to contribute right away, that way they'll at least get something from a guy who they'll later refuse to re-sign after his rookie contract is up.
13. Charlotte (From Cleveland, via Phoenix) - Again, these are two key picks for Charlotte. They'll be back in the Top 5 for the 2006 draft, but after that the two-year Expansion Team Grace Period will be wearing off, and they'll be expected to at least compete in 2006-07, and then make a solid playoff run in 2007-08. If that happens, it will be due at least in part to the two guys they get in this draft.
14. Minnesota (43-38) - Sprewell is gone, Cassell is right behind him, Olowokandi is staying, and Wally's World is a whine-ass. I wouldn't expect anything too positive out of Minnesota this off season (unless they can trade KG for Kobe, which would be something). Minnesota can do pretty much anything they want in this spot, but it will be a perimeter player.
If you enjoyed this article about the 2005 NBA Draft Lottery, keep an eye out for more NBA Draft coverage from Doc's Sports.