Why there’s a 100 percent chance the NBA lottery is fixed

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The NBA lottery is fixed. There’s no question about it. Just as last year’s draft order was determined by a David Stern-led conspiracy, this year’s will be determined the same way.

Think about it. If the NBA lottery really were legitimate, why not conduct the draw publically rather than in a back room? If the league conducted the lottery in the open, nobody could ever question the results.

So, don’t bother tuning in tonight. I’ll tell you why it’s totally fixed.

Orlando Magic

Odds of winning the lottery: 25 percent 100 percent

The NBA doesn’t technically have compensatory picks, but we all know Stern takes care of teams that lose superstars. The Cavaliers lost LeBron James, and then they won the Kyrie Irving lottery. The Hornets lost Chris Paul, and then they won the Anthony Davis lottery. Now, the Magic lost Dwight Howard, and it’s their turn to land the top spot.

Charlotte Bobcats

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9 percent 100 percent

The Bobcats might be the league’s most stale team. That’s part of the reason Charlotte is changing its nickname back to the Hornets, but a new star would go much further. Charlotte once packed the stands for NBA games, and with a good team, ticket sales will surge again. Plus, Stern wants to boost Michael Jordan’s profile.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 15.6 percent 100 percent

Stern desperately wants to create a Cavaliers-Heat rivalry to boost rankings, and to do so, he must make the Cavaliers better. Dan Gilbert remained loyal during the lockout, and especially after LeBron became the worst example of players seizing control from teams, Stern will reward Gilbert with a second No. 1 pick.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 11.9 percent 100 percent

Robert Sarver might not be selling the Suns, but he’s at least dipped his feet in the water more than other owners. It’s particularly important for the NBA that its franchises for sale are as valuable as possible, raising the value of all franchises in the process. If Sarver decides to sell anytime in the next five years, having the No. 1 pick on his team would raise Phoenix’s value.

New Orleans Pelicans

Odds of winning the lottery: 8.8 percent 100 percent

Selling the New Orleans franchise proved so difficult, the NBA took over the team for a while. Even then, the league needed time to find a buyer. You think Tom Benson ponied up $388 million for only one No. 1 pick? He’s getting at least two from Stern. The NBA showed it was committed to keeping a team in New Orleans, and for that decision to be financially viable, the Pelicans need more talent, which Stern will gladly provide.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 6.3 percent 100 percent

This just reeks of the Hornets situation last year. The NBA brokers the sale of a team shortly before the lottery, and – poof – that team gets the No. 1 pick. Why do you think these sales occur this time of year? Stern sweetens the pot with a No. 1 pick.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.6 percent 100 percent

The Pistons’ attendance has been extremely volatile in the last decade. When the team was good, the Pistons led the league in home fans. Lately, they’ve ranked near the bottom. So, the marginal value of giving Detroit the No. 1 pick is extremely high. Stern also has a habit of rewarding the new owners with the No. 1 pick, and though Tom Gores had to take a backseat to more pressing matters in Cleveland and New Orleans, he’ll finally get that No. 1 pick promised to him when he bought the Pistons in 2011.

Washington Wizards

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.5 percent 100 percent

It’s the second term of a basketball-loving president, and if the NBA is going finally cash in on the marketing that would come with Barack Obama attending more games, the Wizards must be better sooner than later. Obama has been spotted at Wizards games before, but if those games became higher profile, Obama would probably attend more. That’s the type of cache the NBA could use as it expands globally.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7 percent 100 percent

Glen Taylor might not be selling the Timberwolves, but he’s at least dipped his feet in the water more than other owners. It’s particularly important for the NBA that its franchises for sale are as valuable as possible, raising the value of all franchises in the process. If Taylor decides to sell anytime in the next five years, having the No. 1 pick on his team would raise Minnesota’s value.

Portland Trail Blazers

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.1 percent 100 percent

Just as Paul Allen buys so many late first-round picks, he bought the No. 1 pick, too. Why do you think the league’s other owners put up with a rigged lottery? It’s because the “lucky” owner pays off the rest. Really, everybody wins. Allen gets his top player, and the other teams get cash for a player they didn’t deem that valuable (or else they would have bid higher). Best of all, because this income is under the table, no taxes.

Philadelphia 76ers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.8 percent 100 percent

Philadelphia is the largest media market in the lottery, and Sterns obviously wants his big-market teams to be better. 76ers fans can be among the league’s most-passionate – and the NBA is getting increasingly better at turning that passion into money – but this season’s malaise sucked the life out of the fan base. Nothing would get Philadelphia fans going like the No. 1 pick in the draft, and even if they boo him on draft night, at least they’ll be watching.

Toronto Raptors

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.7 percent 100 percent

Not only are the Raptors the only NBA team based outside the United States, Toronto has plenty of overseas flavor. The Raptors are the NBA’s gateway to worldwide expansion, and the more fans the league draw sin Toronto, faster the growth will occur.

Dallas Mavericks

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6 percent 100 percent

In the first full season since Mark Cuban bought the Mavericks, Dallas missed the playoffs. Now that he’s personally involved, Cuban won’t sit quietly as the NBA fixes the lottery – unless his teams wins it. Stern will give into Cuban just this once, helping the Mavericks reach the playoffs next season and allowing the NBA to continue its lottery-rigging ways without Cuban interfering.

Utah Jazz

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5 percent 100 percent

Greg Miller’s ownership has been a little rocky, lowlighted by a very public feud with Karl Malone, since the death of Miller’s father, Larry H. Miller. Stern and Larry were old friends, and on his way out, Stern will do his old bud one last favor. Salt Lake City might not be the biggest market, but at this point, Stern doesn’t care. He just wants to look out for his friends.

Don’t worry, this post will still be here after the lottery in case you forget why it was fixed. Once you know who won the No. 1 pick, come back to check why we told you all along the whole thing was rigged for that team.

Report: Kawhi Leonard and Spurs must repair ‘broken’ relationship before San Antonio offers super-max extension

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The Spurs can offer Kawhi Leonard a super-max contract extension – which projects to be worth $219 million over five years – this offseason.

Will they?

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

The relationship between Kawhi Leonard is broken, and it’s got to be put back together again before the Spurs are going to make that kind of commitment to a player. And that’s going to take a lot of talking, communication and some comprise here in the next few months before the Spurs can make that offer. But the idea that an organization like the Spurs are going to just blindly walk in and give the biggest contract in franchise history to a player who has behaved the last few months like he doesn’t want to be a part of them, it’s not going to happen that way. So, there’s a lot of repairing that’s going to be done before they even make that offer, I believe.

Leonard will reportedly meet with San Antonio for an exit interview, and that’s the next big step toward mending fences.

Remember, LaMarcus Aldridge requested a trade last summer. Then, he and Gregg Popovich talked and got on the same page. Aldridge just had an excellent season for the Spurs. Handling unhappy players is part of the job. When they’re as good as Aldridge and Leonard, it’s worth making the effort to find common ground.

If San Antonio finds enough with Leonard to offer him the super-max extension, the next question becomes: Will he sign it? He might prefer to move on.

But nobody is that far. The big benchmark in this process is the Spurs offering or not offering the super-max extension. They must determine whether or not they will.

Report: Heat to explore Hassan Whiteside trade options

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Is there much demand for Hassan Whiteside around the NBA marketplace?

The pro-Whiteside camp can point to some raw numbers: He averaged 14 points and 11.4 rebounds a game this season (and 17 and 14 a season ago), he shot 54 percent from the floor, and had a PER of 24.1.

However, his shortcomings were on full display in the playoffs. In the first two games, when Philadelphia played small, Whiteside didn’t have a place on the court and saw limited minutes. When Joel Embiid returned things got worse — in the three games matched up against Embiid, when Whiteside was on the court the Heat were outscored by 11.9 points per 100 possessions. Whiteside played just 10 minutes in Game 5, where he was 0-of-4 from the field, picked up three fouls, and was -14. All through the series, Whiteside complained about his lack of minutes.

Whiteside and Erik Spoelstra are not on the same page, and the Heat would like to move him in a trade… but good luck with that. From Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.

The Heat is expected to explore a Whiteside trade, with the center due $24.4 million and $27.1 million in the final two years of his contract.

In a tight financial market, the Heat are going to struggle to find a team with the space (or willing to create the space) to take on $51.5 million over two seasons. Even if they do, the Heat are going to have to attach sweeteners — multiple first round picks, or a pick and young players that interest teams (Kelly Olynyk or Bam Adebayo, for example). It’s going to be a lot to give up to get out of that contract. Maybe in the summer of 2019, when the market loosens up and Whiteside is an expiring contract, they more easily can find a deal. This summer it would be difficult.

But expect the Heat (and Whiteside’s agent) to look for a trade. It’s time to part ways, it just may not be that simple to do.

PBT Podcast: What went wrong and what’s next for Trail Blazers?

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It was embarrassing, and left both fans and players of the Trail Blazers angry and frustrated — Portland was unceremoniously swept out of the playoffs by the New Orleans Pelicans.

Now what happens in Portland? Is Terry Stotts in danger as the coach? What about GM Neil Olshey? Would they consider trading C.J. McCollum? Is there any way to offload the contract of Evan Turner?

Kurt Helin and the Northeast’s own Dane Carbaugh of NBC Sports break it all down in this latest podcast, and Blazers fans may not like the answers. The pair also touch on other series around the league, like do the Pelicans have a shot against the Warriors? And, as required by NBA law, they touch on the Sixers run.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

Pacers head to Cleveland looking to put pressure back on Cavaliers

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — The Indiana Pacers are in no better position to pull off a historic upset in this first-round playoff series with the Cleveland Cavaliers than when they awoke Sunday morning.

The Pacers had a chance to put the Cavs, at the time reeling with playoff inexperience and the crushing weight of expectations with LeBron James, squarely behind the eight ball in this series by winning Game 4.

But Indiana fell behind by a huge deficit in the first half for the second consecutive game, erased it in the third and early fourth quarters again, but couldn’t sustain the momentum. Kyle Korver and James made enough plays down the stretch for the Cavs to win, 104-100, tying this series at 2-2 with Game 5 on Wednesday in Cleveland.

James has never lost a first-round series in 12 previous playoffs. Now, he has two of the next three games at home to try and keep his streak alive.

“I think just tying the series up and coming back home is something we feel good about,” said Kevin Love, who like every other Cav not named James has mostly struggled in this series. “We feel like it’s a best-of-three type series and at the end of the day, if it comes to it, we have two games at home. We like our advantage and we’re going to use that to our advantage (Wednesday) night.”

The Pacers trailed by 17 at halftime of Game 3 but steamrolled the Cavs in the second half and pulled out a 92-90 win behind 30 points from Bojan Bogdanovic, a playoff career high. They were down 10 through two quarters in Game 4 but fought back and were ahead 93-91 with 3:49 remaining before Korver connected on two deep 3s.

Indiana won Game 1 behind a playoff career-high 32 points from Victor Oladipo, who has struggled since (19-of-53 shooting in the last three games). Domantas Sabonis played a big role in the Pacers’ comeback Sunday, scoring a playoff career-best 19 off the bench.

The Pacers are getting the best night of someone’s playoff career almost each game of this series, and it’s been good enough for two wins. Then again, the Cavs’ two wins were by a combined seven points, and outside of James (32.5 ppg this series) almost no one is scoring.

Love is the next closest at 12.0 points in this series and JR Smith is third with 10.0 points.

“We’re not losing confidence,” point guard Darren Collison said, according to the Indianapolis Star. “This team is the defending Eastern Conference champions. Whatever you want to say about them, this is a very good team. They’ve been through a lot over the last few years. We’re fine. There’s no need to overreact or panic. We’re going to go into their building and we’re going to give the same effort.”

The Cavaliers say point guard George Hill (back spasms) is questionable to play in Game 5. He missed Game 4 with the same injury — four injections before the game were not enough to ease the pain to the point where he could play.

Jose Calderon started for Hill on Sunday and scored five points in 19 minutes. The Cavs are 24-9 this year (regular season and playoffs) when Calderon starts.

Hill is the only player on either team listed on the injury report. But Love suffered an injury to his left thumb in Game 1 and it’s affected him. He’s shooting 17-of-47 in the series with 11 turnovers. Catching and gripping the ball have been obvious problems.

“I’ve been able to get up a lot of shots,” Love said. “I think initially it was painful and in the few days that followed, but now it’s kind of subsided and I’m just getting my feel back in my left thumb.”