Since I spent the morning talking about why we still need to weight the lottery, I thought I’d also touch on one of the union’s other proposals, which could be implemented for the 2012 draft if we get a settlement.
Back in June, the union brought up the idea of giving lottery teams additional picks, Henry Abbott, who is also very much on board the “owners and management who are bad at their job should be punished not rewarded” wagon, thought that it wouldn’t hurt the other teams, or the league, but the fans. No, really.
You know who’d get the short end of that stick? The third party known as the fans, specifically the fans of teams that just simply don’t know how to build a winner. More good draft picks would be a way for the worst GMs and owners to compete without getting any better at their jobs. This is like performance-enhancing drugs for the worst front offices in the league.
As fans, we root for the great competitors, right? Those who do best at their jobs? I’d argue the league ought to encourage teams similarly. If the Clippers didn’t have Blake Griffin walking through that door, as a reward for losing, wouldn’t Donald Sterling have to do some soul-searching about how he runs his team, and maybe come up with a more competitive approach?
Well, for starters, I’m of the opinion that as fans, we root for teams. Ask a Royals fan if he’d be angry if the Royals won a World Series because David Glass is a terrible owner, or if Bengals fans would be mad if they won a Super Bowl because Mike Brown is the devil. Would Clippers fans be throwing their championship DVDs in a flaming pile next year if Blake Griffin becomes the best basketball player on Earth and the Clippers miraculously win a title? No. They’re just going to be happy that they got to see their team win a title.
The other problem is that there’s an idea that if you win, you must be good at your job. Show of hands, who thought before this season that Michael Heisley and Chris Wallace were good at their jobs? Anyone? Anyone? Oh, and Orlando. Otis Smith traded for Rashard Lewis, knowing that it was far too much in the sign-and-trade, was building around Hedo Turkoglu and hoping Jameer Nelson would become an All-Star (and he did! Kind of.). But the Magic won, so it was perceived they were run well. Now? Not run well. Difference? Two years and converting bad contracts into worse contracts. The Knicks traded everything including 30 percent of the Statue of Liberty to Denver (they actually own the torch). They started Jared Jeffries. They made the playoffs.
In short, a lot of this stuff is completely and totally random. So why would loading up on draft picks for terrible things help things? Because it makes the hole not so deep for teams that can dig themselves out while not necessarily rewarding the truly terrible. One of the biggest problems is that teams have to make it through rebuilding processes and because they don’t want to suffer the horror of a true rebuilding year until it’s absolutely necessary, teams will enter purgatory, sticking with marginal contracts to get a few wins which end up being expensive in terms of moving forward and don’t help them. But they don’t have the talent to get by. But multiple picks gets them out of this. It means that if a team drafts well, they’re not trying to suffer through a painful year, but going forward aggressively. And if that team elects not to go completely young, they can trade the secondary pick for better players. It just means that the hole isn’t quite so deep to get back to contention. Younger, better teams. Fans like those, right? Especially on, you know, their teams?
But what about rewarding those terrible owners like Herb Simon, Dan Gilbert, and Michael Jordan instead of icons of purity like Mark Cuban, Micky Arison, Jerry Buss, and James Dolan?
Here’s a question. Let’s say you don’t live in the state of Minnesota. And let’s say you concur with the vast majority of the known universe that if there’s a way David Kahn can find to screw up a decision, it’s 80% likely that he will. Do you feel that with an extra pick that David Kahn will magically be able to win a title? Or instead, will he do something like, oh, I don’t know, draft two point guards back to back, one of which won’t come over for two years and the other will be a complete bust and he’ll hire a coach whose system specifically limits the impact of the point guard? Oooor, will he do something like draft a combo forward when he’s already made two trades to acquire combo forwards?
How about the Bobcats? They’ve been pretty terrible at the draft (until this year, am I right Biyombo-Cult?). But wasn’t part of the reason they kept trading picks for players was because all the players they drafted were busts? The question here is if you honestly think that the draft isn’t a complete crapshoot a decent percentage of the time. Sean May? 2005 NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Averaged a double-double. Emeka Okafor? Part of the reason for the Hornets’ resurgence. Adam Morrison? Naismith Award winner, USPBWA POY award winner, averaged 20 points per game. I’m not saying you don’t have to project how they’ll adapt to the pro game, saying sometimes it’s impossible, and that if the misses hadn’t destroyed the Bobcats’ chances so much, maybe they wouldn’t have put themselves in the equivalent of a $20k credit card hole.
The Cavaliers are looking at another painful year working with Kyrie Irving and incorporating Tristan Thompson while trying to liquidate the rest of their roster. Another pick, and they’re more easily able to drop their dead weight and can move back towards contention, if they use the players correctly. That’s the key here. You can draft all the players you want, you still have to be able to use them correctly.
The multiple-pick lottery is unlikely to get moved on. The owners are only really interested right now in anything they can suck pennies from. The idea doesn’t fix the BRI split or help with making sure owners can’t lose money. But it’s an interesting idea and one that deserves further consideration than it will warrant in a league-fanbase that continually moves towards the idea of punishing a team that goes through a losing season, despite the idea that every franchise, no matter how well run, eventually goes through one.