It’s Time to Kill the Lottery

When the NBA Draft Lottery hits the airwaves, the conspiracy theorists hit the social media platforms. Ever since the “Patrick Ewing” draft, conspiracy theorists have said that the NBA Lottery is fixed. Truth be told, 98% of these amateur sleuths have a conspiracy theory for every team in the lottery so no matter who wins, their rhetoric will be spewed to the masses.

Yesterday the NBA didn’t help themselves when Dikembe Mutombo “announced” to the Twitter World that the Sixers had won the lottery. Only problem was, he made the announcement an entire 3+ hours before the NBA Draft show was to air. This gave birth to more conspiracy theories than the Kennedy assassination.


MutomboMutombo made a futile attempt to explain his tweet but it was too late and in a strange way I was thankful. From day one, I hated the NBA lottery. I hate the NHL lottery which also has been subject to conspiracy theories just not as loud. It’s time to eliminate lotteries in sports and move away from the outdated notion that the worst team should get the first pick like it’s the “lucky dog” in NASCAR.

Too many teams have gamed the system and cheated the fans by intentionally losing. Now, you can argue teams did that pre-lottery (see the Ralph Sampson draft) but what we are seeing now is that teams are willing to scuttle the ship over multiple seasons which was highlighted by the “Trust the Process” Sixers.

Sad thing is, the NBA owners have resisted changing the system and this is where Adam Silver needs to step in and act in the best interest of the game. He needs to eliminate the lottery and set new guidelines on how the draft order is determined.

Currently, there are 14 non-playoff slots in the draft. The only change that needs to be made is that team with the best non-playoff record should get the number one pick. Then it will continue in that order until you get to the 14th pick. So if the NBA did that this year, the order of the first 14 picks would go as follows.

  • Chicago Bulls
  • Phoenix Suns (via trade with the Washington Wizards)
  • Utah Jazz
  • Orlando Magic
  • Milwaukee Bucks
  • Toronto Raptors (via trade with the Denver Nuggets)
  • Sacramento Kings
  • Denver Nuggets (via trade with New York)
  • New Orleans Pelicans
  • Minnesota Timberwolves
  • Phoenix Suns
  • Boston Celtics (via trade with Brooklyn Nets)
  • Los Angeles Lakers
  • Philadelphia 76ers

The first thing people have said is what would be the incentive for a team that has traded away their first round pick to continue to win if they aren’t going to make the playoffs (ex: New York Knicks)? The majority of traded lottery picks are protected. In this system teams would continue that practice. For example, the Washington Wizards had a top 9 protected pick. It would serve their own interest to continue winning so, not only would they keep the pick, they would actually get a higher pick. The system would put more incentive for non-playoff teams to play harder until the end of the season as opposed to putting together a glorified D League roster. The rest of the draft would be determined the same way it is determined now.

For various reasons, most bordering on being completely ridiculous, the NBA has always been accused of being “fixed”. Even in this year’s playoffs, the conspiracy theorists had surmised that the NBA wanted a Miami-Cleveland Eastern Conference finals for ratings purposes. When that didn’t happen the same people flipped the switch and said the NBA wanted to ensure that LeBron James was in the finals so the league wanted Toronto to win. Huh?

The NBA can take away some of this by fixing something that is actually broken… the lottery.

Follow Marcus “Mook” Washington on Twitter at @mtcwithmook

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