NEW YORK -- With the current lottery system in the NBA, it requires a little bit of luck to be a winner in the lottery. Even when a team is clearly the worst in the league, as the seven-win Bobcats were this year, it only has a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick in an NBA draft.
As such, the somewhat random results of ping ping balls bouncing can change the course of an NBA franchise. If that sounds like hyperbole, ask the residents of Oklahoma City. They were slotted in the fifth spot heading up to the 2007 lottery, but ended up with the good fortune of drafting second overall and landing Kevin Durant in the process. Chicago could also attest to the impact luck has had on its franchise, as it made an even higher jump from ninth to first, with only a 1.7 percent chance to do so, landing them Derrick Rose.
As we come away from any lottery, it's hard not to look at teams who, largely due to the random bouncing of balls that they have no control over, have seen the course of their franchise potentially altered.
The obvious winner is almost always the team who snagged the first pick, in this case Monty Williams and the New Orleans Hornets. Originally slotted at fourth, the Hornets struck gold with a 13.7-percent chance to win the lottery and the rights to draft the consensus No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis.
Having lost Chris Paul twice in trades, New Orleans can use the infusion of talent that having the No. 1 and No. 10 pick in the draft will bring.
"We're going to be in New Orleans, we have ownership, we have the number one pick. So many things to be thankful for," Hornets coach head coach Monty Williams said. "It's going to take a lot of work, but as I said this is a great step in the right direction."
"It's a good feeling, but yet as a coach, I'm already thinking about the steps I have to take to try to put this team into a position where we can be a top four team in the league," Williams continued.
"I don't see LeBron [James], I don't see a Tim [Duncan], but a lot of these guys are younger than Tim was when he came into the league," Williams said, when asked about the potential pick. "They have the potential to develop into those guys."
In addition to their slotted No. 11 pick, the Trail Blazers will walk away with the sixth pick in the NBA draft, thanks to their trade-deadline deal where they sent Gerald Wallace to the Nets in exchange for Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams and the pick. The draft pick the Trail Blazers receive was top-three protected, giving them approximately a 75 percent chance of getting the pick.
With a lot of cap space and now two lottery picks in this year's draft, that gives Portland many avenues to rebuild its roster around LaMarcus Aldridge.
The flip side to Portland/Brooklyn trade is the Nets, who ended up giving up the sixth pick in the draft for a player who appears to be opting out of his contract, gaining only a little bit of cap flexibility (Shawne Williams contract + the contract that the sixth pick in the draft will get) in return. Should Deron Williams and Wallace opt out, cap space is going to be something the Nets will have an abundance of regardless.
The prevailing notion at the time was that Billy King, the Nets' general manager, had three players he was targeting in this draft: Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Thomas Robinson. He echoed similar sentiments after the lottery results were announced.
"Every year everybody says this is a deep draft, but once [the draft process starts] you start getting phone calls with people like 'do you want this pick,'" King explained. "Once you start doing your due diligence, things sort of start to fall in place."
"I think for the Brooklyn Nets fans, we're not in the sixth pick, but I think we'll come out with some players that are pretty good," King continued. "We've got some good scenarios on the board."
King says he is still in discussions with Wallace, who can decide whether he wants to pick up his option on the final year of his contract.
It's hard to really call a team who has the fourth pick in the draft, one year after having landed rookie of the year Kyrie Irving with the top overall pick, losers. But, due to the ultimate display of luck and randomness, they were but a coin flip away from selecting first overall rather than fourth.
The Cavaliers, who ended the season with the same 21-45 record as New Orleans, won a coin flip tiebreaker with New Orleans on April 27. The Cavaliers ended up with 138 ping pong balls compared to the 137 the Hornets got, but winning the coin flip ended up being a negative as it cost them the ball that landed the No. 1 overall pick.
The Cavaliers are still positioned to add a good piece to their nice young core, but they were a stroke of luck away from adding a (second) potential franchise player to pair with Kyrie Irving.
Again, it's hard to say a team who will draft second really lost, and it certainly could have been worse, as they had a 17.72-percent chance of moving back to the No. 3 pick and a 35.8-percent chance, the scenario with the highest probability, of moving all the way back to No. 4. There's also some concern how Anthony Davis would have paired with Bismack Biyombo in the front court.
That being said, they did lose. Big time.
With a team as far away from contention as Charlotte is, they don't need to worry about how two players will fit together, but how they can accumulate the most talent. Davis is the clear-cut best long term prospect in this draft, and on a team so barren of talent, losing out on a potential franchise talent was a disappointment, to say the least.
"Obviously, everyone wants the number one pick," Charlotte general manager Rich Cho explained. "We know we're going to get a good player at number two. Last time I was with a team that had number two [with Seattle], we were able to get Kevin Durant. So, we'll go from here and hopefully find the right player for us."
Cho isn't necessarily looking for someone who is NBA ready.
"We're going to look to take the best player available. That will be our approach," Cho explained.
Potential rule changes
Before the lottery, commissioner David Stern and deputy commissioner Adam Silver met with the media to discuss the state of the league. The last time Stern met with reporters in a New York City hotel was during the lockout, and there was a very different vibe to this news conference.
Of the topics discussed, Stern and Silver talked about potential rule changes to flopping, goaltending and an age limit for the Olympics.
"I think we are going to approach something that many tell me is impossible, which is deciding whether someone was acting -- and thereby intending to trick the fans, and the referees -- or whether there was a legitimate reason for that particular person to go sprawling," Stern explained about flopping. "And then the question is, what to do in that case. And that's the kind of discussion that I look forward to having with the committee."
Stern later addressed committee he was referring to, the new Competition Committee.
"We don't have any expectations for the new committee," Stern said. "[They] will come to meet, which it's planning to do, next month, and go over a pretty broad agenda and see what has to be considered in the long term, and what should be considered in the short term; meaning for implementation next year."
Another potential rule change Stern addressed was his dislike of goaltending.
"I happen to be a fan of the elimination of basket interference," Stern said. "I think it's one of those plays that if you look at it, and if you watch the number of times that players either do or don't touch the ball, it really puts the referees in a very uncomfortable position, because even on replay I'm not sure you can get it right."
Stern and Silver also talked about the potential of making USA Basketball a 23-and-under event.
"When you have the Olympics, the World Cup of Basketball, we are taking a very close look at whether it makes sense, from an NBA standpoint and a global basketball standpoint, for the top players to be playing [that much basketball]," Silver explained.
"So what we have told FIBA, and what David has announced several times, is that we are all in through the London Olympics," Silver explained. "And then post-London Olympics, we want to step back, together with USA Basketball, and FIBA, and I think together with the Competition Committee, we need to take a long-term view of what makes sense both for the NBA and for the game."
Finally, Stern addressed the shortcomings of the lottery system.
"You can't win," Stern said, describing all the different ways they've tried to setup the lottery, all of which have seemingly caused complaints. "That's the way we start our morning. We do our bottom's up with our orange juice, and then we say 'What are we going to do to make the lottery better', and we are failures," Stern joked.
"To me, the purpose of the draft is a worthy purpose; that is, for fans and markets whose team have been losing, they tend to get an earlier draft pick and a chance at better improvement," Stern continued. "We shall see. It's a subject that will be continually studied."
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