These 14 teams are living proof that crime does pay. At least, if your definition of crime is an organizational policy that emphasizes ping-pong balls over winning, rampant jettisoning of elite-level talent and widespread incompetence of the people in charge.
Oh, and then there are the Phoenix Suns. Make that 13 teams that fit into said strata. Phoenix remains a lovable darling that everyone should appreciate, even if its magical season didn't end in a playoff berth.
As for the remaining squads, their reasons for being bad range from totally understandable (e.g., New Orleans' injury issues), to still befuddling (e.g., Minnesota's Minnesota-ness) to such an affront to the general spirit of major professional sports that the NBA is seriously considering a lottery overhaul to prevent similar future measures (hi, Sam Hinkie!).
At the end of the rainbow is a draft class that was billed as the best since LeBron James shook David Stern's hand more than a decade ago. College basketball's regular season showed that perhaps the Andrew Wiggins/Jabari Parker hype was a little overzealous, yet there are plenty of evaluators who still view both (and Kansas center Joel Embiid) as potential franchise-changing players.
Full disclosure: I am one of those evaluators. The trio grade out as future All-Stars, each capable of turning into regular All-NBA selections if they find the right coaching staff and situation.
For all of the backlash about the 2014 draft class being "overhyped," it is only so if you had wildly unrealistic expectations going in. LeBron James is one of the 10 best basketball players in history; how is an 18-year-old kid with a shaky jumper and lackluster passing skills supposed to live up to those expectations?
And the badmouthing is only going to continue from here on out.
The lottery is typically followed up with Smokescreen Season, in which every supposed "red flag" about each prospect is systematically leaked in an attempt to change the draft hierarchy. In some cases, it works. In others, everyone knows what's going on and roundly dismisses such claims as sour grapes.
Heading in to the lottery, and the offseason in general, the Lakers, Knicks, Celtics and numerous high-profile teams have looming questions to answer. Specifically in regard to their stars. Kobe Bryant shared his thoughts on the 2013-14 regular season:
Whether the Lakers or Celtics (Sorry, NYC) land a top-five pick won't be determined for more than a month. Until then, on thing is certain: The draft speculation season is going to be a whole lot of fun.
NBA Lottery Information
When: Tuesday, May 20
|2014 NBA Draft Lottery Odds|
|Rank||Team||Chance of Winning|
|6||Los Angeles Lakers||6.3%|
|10||New Orleans Pelicans||1.1%|
|11||Denver Nuggets (via New York Knicks)||0.8%|
|12||Orlando Magic (via Denver Nuggets)||0.7%|
*Odds via ESPN.com
Explaining How the Lottery Works
While a typical lottery would assume that all 14 picks are drawn at random, that's not actually the case. Only the first three picks in any year are determined via lottery selection. After the first three picks are determined, the remaining order is filled out traditionally (by record). This is why you will hear announcers say "Team X has moved into the top three" when its name is not called in the expected order. It's also why the Bucks are guaranteed to have no worse than the No. 4 pick.
The lottery is also a far more complicated system than it would seem. A total of 12 balls are drawn (four for each top-three pick), each carrying a corresponding number. Teams are assigned a series of numbers, with 1,000 total combinations in all. The Bucks, by virtue of having the league's worst record, have 250 of those combinations—25 percent. The Suns have only five.
The balls are drawn by pick order. If a team receives the No. 1 overall pick and one of its number combinations is drawn again for No. 2, the number is discounted and they draw for No. 2 again. They then follow the same process for the third pick.
The order of the numbers is also irrelevant. An example: If Milwaukee holds a combination of 8-5-1-2 and the balls come out as 2, 1, 5, 8, the Bucks would still receive whatever pick they are currently drawing.
Sound overcomplicated and give you a migraine? Good. You probably understand it, then.
2014 Picks Exchanging Hands
- New Orleans Pelicans (to Philadelphia 76ers): The Pelicans' pick will be conveyed to Philadelphia unless it falls in the top five to satisfy the terms of the Jrue Holiday trade from the 2013 draft. New Orleans' pick is protected 1-5 through 2020, but the Pelicans currently have a 1.1 percent chance of winning the lottery. It would need a borderline miracle to move into the top three to avoid giving the Sixers what should be the No. 10 overall pick.
- New York Knicks (to Denver Nuggets): Denver receives the Knicks' surprising lottery pick to help round out the Carmelo Anthony haul from 2011. The pick is unprotected, so the Nuggets will keep it even if it lands at No. 1—which would be the ultimate twisting knife to end a miserable Knicks season.
- Denver Nuggets (to Orlando Magic): The Nuggets convey the worst of their two lottery picks to the Magic as part of the Dwight Howard trade. Given where the other principals of that deal are at the moment, Orlando really won. You know, if winning is being one of the league's five worst teams.
- Charlotte Bobcats (to Chicago Bulls): The Bulls receive the Bobcats' first-round pick—once one of their highest-valued assets around the league—as part of the Tyrus Thomas trade from 2010. Tyrus Thomas: Still somehow haunting teams all this time later.
- Washington Wizards (to Phoenix Suns): Washington sent this pick Phoenix's way as part of the Marcin Gortat deal. Looked at as a massive tanking maneuver, jettisoning Gortat in the end allowed the Suns to give a starting spot to Miles Plumlee.
- Brooklyn Nets (to Boston Celtics): Brooklyn conveys its pick—the worst of the Nets' and Hawks' selections, thanks to a quirk in the Joe Johnson deal—to Boston, as per the Kevin Garnett-Paul Pierce blockbuster. Something tells me the Nets are going to be paying for this trade for a long, long time.
- Dallas Mavericks (to Oklahoma City Thunder): Oklahoma City's last major asset from the James Harden trade comes in the form of Dallas' first-round pick. The Thunder added Steven Adams with the No. 12 pick in 2013, which was conveyed from Toronto via Houston.
- Golden State Warriors (to Utah Jazz): This is the first of two first-round picks Golden State sent Utah's way as part of the Andris Biedrins-Richard Jefferson salary dump last summer. The Warriors used their acquired cap space to sign Andre Iguodala. The Jazz used Biedrins and Jefferson as coasters on team flights.
- Indiana Pacers (to Phoenix Suns): The Suns receive their last of two conveyed first-rounders as part of the Luis Scola trade. That deal also netted Miles Plumlee and Gerald Green. Scola has been a shell of himself this season. I'd say it's safe to say Larry Legend was fleeced.
*Info via Basketball Insiders.
Tyler Conway's 2014 NBA Big Board
|8||Marcus Smart||Oklahoma State||Sophomore||PG|
|9||Gary Harris||Michigan State||Sophomore||SG|
|13||Adreian Payne||Michigan State||Senior||PF|
|21||T.J. Warren||North Carolina State||Sophomore||SF|
|24||Cleanthony Early||Wichita State||Senior||SF|
|27||Glenn Robinson III||Michigan||Sophomore||SF|
|28||P.J. Hairston||North Carolina||Junior||SG|
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