I have been a fan of the NBA since the mid-1970’s. In that time the method for developing the draft order has changed several times. I am not a huge “Conspiracy Theory” kind of person but this Draft Lottery has been fixed since 1985 when it first began. Last night, the NBA held the 2014 version of this farce of a system for choosing the draft order of the 14 worst teams in the League. And for the 3rd time in 4 years, the Cleveland Friggin Cavaliers received the first pick in the draft even though they only had a 2% chance of getting this pick. I am going to tell you right now why this has happened.
It goes back to when LeBron James was still in High School and Dick Vitale was going nuts about him on games that were actually televised by the “Mother Ship”. James was, unquestionably, the greatest prospect to show up on the NBA Radar since Michael Jordan. James happened to hail from Akron, Ohio, only a stone’s throw from Cleveland. The Cavaliers franchise has been saddled with much bad luck and many difficult losses at the hands of the previously noted Jordan during the 1990’s. The League realized that the best place for James was not one of the large markets like Los Angeles or New York, but right there in his home state of Ohio. The Denver Nuggets and Cleveland Cavaliers tied for the worst record in the League in the 2002-2003 season and had equal chance at the first pick. When the Ping Pong Balls were dropped into the rack, it was the Cavaliers, not the Nuggets who received the first pick. And although the Nuggets got lucky when the incompetent front office of the Detroit Pistons chose one of the great busts in NBA draft history, Darko Milicic, with the 2nd pick and Carmelo Anthoney fell into the Nuggets lap, the fix was definitely on. David Stern and his minions at the League Office made sure that the “Hometown Boy” went to his hometown team.
Now the Cavaliers have received the first pick in the draft in 3 of the last 4 seasons and only had the worst record once during that span. The League wants to pay the Cavaliers back for losing LeBron James to “South Beach” so they have tried their best to make sure the team gets re-built through the draft and given them the first pick 3 times since James left for Miami. The Cavaliers did fine with the first #1 pick by selecting Kyrie Irving who looks to be a future NBA star but dropped the ball last year selecting UNLV product Anthoney Bennett who didn’t score his first points as an NBA player until the 10th game of his career. We will see what the Cavaliers do with this season’s #1 overall pick, but the League is doing everything it can to make sure the Cavaliers become relevant again after the loss of James to the Heat.
There are many other examples of the League making sure the right team (in the League’s mind) received the first pick as well. Remember when the San Antonio Spurs were an up and coming team with the charismatic David Robinson leading the team? Robinson gets hurt in the 1996-1997 season and the Spurs tanked from a division winner with a 59-23 record all the way to the 3rd worst record in the League at 20-62 and ended up with the first pick in the draft and the right to draft future Hall-of-Famer Tim Duncan. This pick propelled the Spurs to 4 championships since 1999 including Robinson’s only one during the ’99 season after Duncan joined the roster.
There is so much evidence to support the theory that the NBA chooses who gets the first pick in the draft each year that I have thought about writing an entire book on the subject. The only reason I haven’t is I am worried that the NBA Office will start stalking me and pressure me into dropping the project or serve grave consequences. This is one thing that makes me jaded towards the NBA even though I am a huge fan of the game, and obviously, the Denver Nuggets. The worst part of this theory for me is that the League will never fix the Lottery for the Denver Nuggets. The only time in Nuggets history that this may have occurred was when Carmelo Anthoney was on the roster. The problem with that was the Nuggets made the playoffs every year after ‘Melo was drafted so they were never in the lottery. I am not the only person who has broached this subject in the past and I won’t be the last one to broach it in the future. It is our reality as NBA fans that this is the way the League conducts it’s draft and there is nothing we can do about it. Follow @Nugg_Love all the way up to draft day on June 26th to see what the Nuggets will do with the #11 pick in this year’s draft.