NBA Lottery, Fixes, and Spin: A History (Part One)

Joe M.Correspondent IIMay 19, 2009

DENVER - APRIL 19:  NBA Commissioner David Stern speaks to the media prior to the tip off between the New Orleans Hornets and the Denver Nuggets in Game One of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the 2009 NBA Playoffs at Pepsi Center on April 19, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Tonight's annual NBA Draft Lottery Selection show airs at 8:30 EST on ESPN. If you've kept up with its dubious history, then you know of its conspiracy theories and other discontent amongst fans mentioned in today's Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Many crazy things have happened on draft night starting with the controversial 1985 debatable Patrick Ewing lottery that saw the big market New York Knicks land the top prize in the draft.

Three recent and notable conspiracy theories:

As a recent ESPN.com poster pointed out, 2003 saw Akron, OH native LeBron James get drafted by his home state Cleveland Cavilers who many believed tanked on their way to a 17-65 record in order to improve their chances at winning the draft and James, the obvious top prize.

Never mind the fact that the in previous four seasons the team's records abominably ordered as follows: 29-53, 30-52, 32-50, 22-28 (lockout).

Some would argue they were due, and some would also argue they were rewarded for their futility. After all, why would the NBA want its next bright star playing in a small market in a dying state in the "Rust Belt?"

In 2006, the top foreign player, Italy's Andrea Bargnani, ironically went to the league's only foreign market, Toronto, when the Raptors beat the 8.8 percent odds for the right to draft first.

Bargnani was selected after All-Star Brandon Roy and other notable players LaMarcus Aldridge, Tyrus Thomas, and Rudy Gay; but at least here it looks as though he's improving (15.4 PPG in this past season) and should continue to have a nice, solid career.

Chicago's native son, Derrick Rose, got selected out of Memphis with the first overall pick in 2008 after his hometown team won the lottery despite a 1.7 percent odds.

While many people feel this ploy was rigged, few people if any, could seem to agree on the draft's best player—Derrick Rose or Kansas State's Michael Beasley.  Presently, Beasley looks like an over matched bust, considering he's a No. 2 draft pick with only okay numbers thus far.

Three more inexplicable occurrences:

The league's premier power team, the Boston Celtics had just come off an abysmal 15-67 season. It had only been two short years, however, since the team last made the playoffs. I remember reading about the probability of green "21 DUNCAN" jersey's being sold in Boston and the fans were unbelievably wild with anticipation.

The Spurs, however, with the second best chance of winning that lottery, won the draft and the rights to the prize.

If this draft was fixed, why would the league's next big thing go to small market San Antonio instead of a more successfully marketed franchise? Some people think the Spurs were being rewarded for All-Star and motivational leader David Robinson going down with a season-ending injury that contributed to the team's uncharacteristic twenty-win season.

In 2005, small market Milwaukee Bucks, owners of a 30-52 record and a 6.3 percent chance of winning the lottery did so, and despite having only the sixth best chance.

For only the fourth time in franchise history, this forgotten franchise landed the top pick, and while Australia's Andrew Bogut is no Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, he too seemed destined to have a stellar career.

In a draft largely hit-or-miss but mostly miss, small market selections included: Wake Forest's Chris Paul, Illinois' Deron Williams, and New Mexico's Danny Granger all of whom it could be argued, would have been better served in bigger, more traditional markets.

The 2007 draft had two clear prizes—Ohio State's Greg Oden and Texas' Kevin Durant. While Memphis and Boston statistically had the league's worst records and thus the best chances at winning the draft, it was small, obscure markets like Portland and Seattle that won the rights to the respectively sought after players.

Oden went first overall to Portland and Seattle, which recently relocated to Oklahoma, took Durant.

Again Boston had a chance to refresh its team, but this time a crafty trade—ironically involving Seattle—netted them All-Star Ray Allen in exchange for a package centered around Georgetown forward Jeff Green who had been acquired by Boston with the No.5 pick.  

Is the NBA draft rigged? You be the judge, but do so only after reading Part Two of the series.