NBA Lottery Leaves Room for Speculation

Posted: May 18, 2011 in Opinions
.nick-gilbert (larrybrownsports)

Cavaliers representative Nick Gilbert (right) celebrates receiving the No. 1 overall selection as Kahn (left) and O'Connor (center) can only stand and watch (LarryBrownSports).

Last night’s NBA Lottery selection show was just another chapter in the book of suspicious league behavior.

It seems rather odd that the NBA, a league that dominated national headlines this last summer with the sporting world’s wildest free agency period ever, would be able to paint a picture better than it did last night.

Nick Gilbert, the 14 year old son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, was the selected representative for Cleveland last night. Gilbert suffers from neurofibromatosis, a genetic defect which allows tumors to grow on certain parts of the nervous system including the brain and spinal cord. Side effects include difficulty hearing, learning, and cardiovascular problems.

When the dust settled last night, Gilbert’s Cavs were randomly chosen to pick 4th overall (a pick they acquired from the Clippers along with Baron Davis for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon) and 1st overall for the first time since 2003 when they took LeBron James.

Isn’t it funny that a league which doesn’t guarantee the worst team gets the highest draft pick would see such results like that? The Cavaliers, a nationally sympathetic team after LeBron broke their hearts, would send the owner’s sick son represent the team and it just so happens they get the first pick to make up for losing James to Miami a year ago.

That’s exactly how Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn felt when his team, who had the best statistical chance to land the top choice, was slated to choose second instead.

“This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines,” Kahn said following Tuesday’s draft lottery. “Last year it was [Washington Wizards owner] Abe Pollin’s widow and this year it was a 14-year-old boy and the only thing we have in common is we have both been bar mitzvahed. We were done. I told [Utah Jazz executive Kevin O’Connor]: ‘We’re toast.’ This is not happening for us, and I was right.”

While Kahn may have been smiling and slightly chuckling at his own remarks, he does seem to have a point. The NBA lottery has not been the most criticized league drafting process across American sports dating back to the mid-1980’s when the New York Knicks, one of the NBA’s most important franchises, just so happened to land a pick to get Georgetown center Patrick Ewing.

Just as the Knicks should never have been handed Ewing should the Bulls have never gotten Derrick Rose in 2008. Chicago, who that year had only a 1.7% chance on getting the top overall selection, actually did. Instances like this make the public raise an eyebrow and question just how dumb it is that the NBA leaves the future of it’s non-playoff teams to the odds of ping pong balls being chosen.

Question if you will the integrity of not giving the Timberwolves the outright No. 1 pick. It’s obvious why the league does this lottery, to try and make itself different from the NFL, NHL, and MLB. I can completely understand why the NBA would want to avoid having a cookie cutter draft, but this just seems unethical to leave things like this to fate.

Every league needs its own way of generating ratings throughout the off-season just as much as the regular season. IT doesn’t seem like anyone will be able to catch the current king of the hill in the National Football League however. The NFL absolutely dominates all sports in ratings, revenue, and off-season interest. Even the NFL Draft is televised on multiple networks over several days. No other sport can lay claim to that.

While it seems as though there is reason to doubt how the NBA lottery works, it did do enough publicity to inspire this and other articles to be written. So in retrospect, the “avoid-getting-lost-in-the-news” gimmick did indeed work this time. Just wonder what next year’s draft, if it is so “fixed” as these last two, will provide for its headline.

The NBA Draft will take place on June 23 at 7/6c on ESPN.

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