The conspiracy behind the NBA draft lottery

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I dislike conspiracy theories.

I’m not some tinfoil-hat wearing lunatic raving about the Kennedy assassination, moon landing and Elvis’ true whereabouts. These are delusions, poor excuses for paranoid people to attack the establishment.

That’s not me.

But as much as I dislike conspiracy theories, I absolutely detest those in power preying on the powerless.

And, I’m sad to say, that’s what David Stern did for years and Adam Silver continues to do with the NBA draft lottery.

The lottery is fixed. I’m 100% certain. No doubt. Absolutely positive.

I won’t attempt to prove this with anonymous sources or innuendo. I’m a stick-to-the-facts kind of guy.

  • Fact: The actual lottery occurs in secret for no good reason. The NBA could end all the fixing accusations by simply showing the actual drawing in front of the cameras.
  • Fact: In the last three years, the New Orleans Hornets Hornets (14.8%), Cavaliers (1.7%),Cavaliers (15.6%) andhave gotten the No. 1 pick. The odds of that happening? Just 0 .4%. Are you really falling for something that has just a 0.4% chance of happening?
  • Fact: I have predicted the winner before each of those lotteries. The NBA always fixes it for the most obvious team.

Three years ago – before the lottery – I wrote:

The NBA no longer owns the Hornets, but is still committed to keeping them in New Orleans. With their arena improvements needing approval of the state legislature in July, the Hornets could ride the Anthony Davis buzz and ensure there are no hitches. The league spent a year-and-a-half trying to sell the team without finding a buyer, so maybe Tom Benson needed a No. 1 pick thrown in the deal. David Stern has also meddled in the Hornets’ business before, in the Chris Paul trade. Davis would help Eric Gordon, and therefore Stern’s reputation, because Stern was the one who handpicked Gordon for the Hornets rather than taking the Lakers’ offer.

Of course, New Orleans got the No. 1 pick and Davis.

Last year, again before the lottery:

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.

Yup, Cleveland got the No. 1 pick and Anthony Bennett. (The NBA can lead a team to a the top pick but can’t make the team pick someone worthwhile.)

Last year, I wrote before the lottery:

I don’t know what Dan Gilbert is blackmailing the NBA with, but it sure works. Two No. 1 picks in three years is unprecedented in the current weight setup. Gilbert tried showing restraint on his golden goose, exercising his ability to get a top pick only every other year. But now, the Cavaliers owner is getting desperate. He traded for Luol Deng and Spencer Hawes and still couldn’t make the playoffs, and Anthony Bennett sure deserves a mulligan. Gilbert will cash in again.

Obviously, Cleveland got the No. 1 pick and Andrew Wiggins.

I’m no Ivy League genius. I can’t just magically predict something that has a 0.4% percent of happening. The only reason I knew how the lottery would unfold is because the NBA always gives the top pick to the most obvious team.

Every. Single. Year.

The lottery winner is always the team that the NBA has incentive to give the No. 1 pick.

So, who will get it this year? It’s painfully clear.

Here – regardless of the what the NBA will tell you – are the true lottery odds:

Minnesota Timberwolves

Odds of winning the lottery: 25.0% 100%

The NBA wants to tap deeper into the Canadian market. See the league’s flirtation with Montreal. Marketing the Raptors would have been the easy route, but they’re fizzling. The next-best option: Selling Andrew Wiggins, a native Canadian and budding superstar. That gets easier when the Timberwolves get better. (That they also have Canadian Anthony Bennett and Vince Carter’s closest dunking heir apparent, Zach LaVine, only helps.) The NBA will give Minnesota the No. 1 pick and gain a huge following across an entire country.

New York Knicks

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9% 100%

The NBA literally invented the lottery to give the Knicks the No. 1 pick, Patrick Ewing in 1985. The league likes to claim it’s financially viable without a strong team in New York – which is true. But methinks the NBA protests a bit too much. This isn’t complicated. Better team plus larger market = more profits. The NBA isn’t interested in merely being viable. The league wants to maximize profits, and that’s why the Knicks will get the No. 1 pick.

Philadelphia 76ers

Odds of winning the lottery: 15.6% 100%

The 76ers have won. They’re a black eye on the league, their tanking an annual embarrassment. The NBA tried to alter the lottery format, but Philadelphia successfully scared off enough teams from changing the rules. So, the league has no choice but to give the 76ers the No. 1 pick and end their “rebuilding” process as quickly as possible. Plus – and it’s easy to forget now that the team has put itself in the pits – Philadelphia is a major market.

Los Angeles Lakers

Odds of winning the lottery: 11.9% 100%

The Lakers are the NBA’s best brand, and the league must protect it. Even in these last two dismal years, the Lakers have gotten many nationally televised games. The NBA needs that to continue, but for it to be viable, the Lakers must be better. A good Lakers team essentially has license to print money. That’s why the NBA is sending the No. 1 pick to Los Angeles.

Orlando Magic

Odds of winning the lottery: 8.8% 100%

LeBron James, Chris Paul and Dwight Howard are the only players in the last decade to make the All-NBA first team and then leave their team that offseason. The Cavaliers got three No. 1 picks after LeBron left, and New Orleans got one after Paul. Now, the NBA  will get around to compensating the Magic for losing Dwight Howard. This is the NBA’s most important – and most secret – strategy for achieving competitive balance.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 6.3% 100%

Nearly a year ago, Sacramento approved funding for a new arena – for a Kings team that has now missed the playoffs nine straight seasons. Why? Because city officials knew the Kings would be rewarded with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft.

Denver Nuggets

Odds of winning the lottery: 4.3% 100%

The Nuggets’ attendance dropped from last season to this season by 2,199 fans per game – a bigger fall than every other declining team combined. Denver needs the jolt of a No. 1 pick, and increased revenues will follow. The NBA is well aware how this works. The biggest attendance jump from last season to this season? The Cavs, who won the last two and three of the last four lotteries.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 2.8% 100%

Not long ago, the Pistons led the NBA in attendance. Now, they rank near the bottom of the league. A suburban arena makes it easy for Detroit fans to ignore the Pistons when the team is struggling. The Knicks and Lakers play in bigger markets, but they’re cash cows regardless. Giving the Pistons the No. 1 pick will maximize the NBA’s overall revenue.

Charlotte Hornets

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7% 100%

The NBA desperately wants to market Michael Jordan as an owner, but lowly Charlotte had to take steps before that was viable. The team rebranded to the Hornets and secured funding for arena upgrades. Now, the league will uphold its end of the bargain – the No. 1 pick. As long as Jordan doesn’t mess this up like Kwame Brown, Charlotte will become one of the league’s trendiest teams. That’ll move shoes.

Miami Heat

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.1% 100%

The Big Three era is over in Miami, but the Heat’s success the previous four years drew incredible attention. Some of Miami’s new fans followed LeBron to Cleveland, but many still cheer for the Heat – for now. These are not people with deep-rooted ties to basketball. If the Heat continue to struggle, these fans will move onto other forms of entertainment. So, the NBA will give the Heat the No. 1 pick and retain a huge number of fans who might be lost otherwise.

Indiana Pacers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.8% 100%

Paul George’s comeback is such a feel-good story. A star player seriously injured himself while selflessly representing the Red, White and Blue. Then, he worked his way back quicker than anyone expected. The perfect next chapter would be a playoff berth – which gets easier if the Pacers get the No. 1 pick. The NBA knows people would rally around that narrative. Patriotism and perseverance sell. Wrap both into one narrative, and this has amazing potential.

Utah Jazz

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.7% 100%

There is no reason for the NBA to fix the lottery for the Jazz… which is exactly why they’ll win. The league wants to fool those who are catching onto the the lottery being a charade. What better way to do that than give a team like Utah the No. 1 pick? This is year the to do it, because there’s no historically elite prospect (not even Karl-Anthony Towns), and the next tier of players (Jahlil Okafor, D’Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay) is relatively close. The NBA will give the Jazz the No. 1 pick, allowing its premier franchises to still draft good players and throwing gullible fans off the scent.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6% 100%

The Suns repeatedly playing well and missing the playoffs is a bad look for the NBA. Goran Dragic’s unhappiness and forced trade could bring this issue to the forefront, and the league hopes to avoid that. The NBA wants to keep its current postseason format, which creates an easier road to the playoffs for larger East Coast markets, without disruption. So, a small token to Phoenix – the No. 1 pick – is worth it. That will keep people from asking too many questions about why the Suns keep outplaying Eastern Conference teams and missing the playoffs.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5% 100%

The Thunder are the NBA’s model small-market franchise. Whenever someone brings up the advantages held the biggest markets, the league can point to Oklahoma City. The team is excellent, and Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are marketing giants. That all unravels if Durant leaves in free agency in 2016. So, the NBA will give Thunder the No. 1 pick in an attempt to convince Durant to stay with them.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.0% 100%

These guys always win.

So, there you have it. In case you can’t remember after the lottery winner is revealed, check back here to see why it was fixed for that team. Then, tell everyone you know why the NBA just had to have that team win the No. 1 pick.

Luol Deng retiring by signing with Bulls

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Luol Deng will be remembered for being the subject of then-Hawks general manager Danny Ferry’s racist statement and signing an exorbitant contract with the Lakers.

It’s a shame.

Deng was a very good player on some strong Bulls teams. He’s returning to Chicago to say goodbye.

Bulls:

Deng’s prime was cut short by health issues. He played hard in big minutes with Chicago, including deep playoff runs, and was never the same after leaving there.

But he made an All-Rookie first team then had eight more good seasons with the Bulls. He made two All-Star games, providing steady defense and nice complementary offense. We only remember Deng as leaving something on the table because he entered the NBA as a teenager and it feels like someone still so young should have continued to thrive.

As he began to decline, Chicago traded him to the mess that was the post-LeBron James Cavaliers. Then, Deng left for the post-LeBron Heat. Deng had some good moments in Miami, but his body was continuing to break down.

The four-year, $72 million contract in Los Angeles followed. He just couldn’t play effectively anymore. That wasn’t his fault. Blame should fall onto Mitch Kupchak and his crumbling regime for signing Deng to that deal. The Lakers bought out and stretched Deng, who will collect paychecks from them through 2022.

He spent last season with the Timberwolves, barely playing. At 34, he’ll return to the Bulls for what’s surely an unguaranteed contract then waiver.

Deng played 15 years in the NBA. His prime last eight years and peaked at All-Star status. Don’t dwell on the woulda/coulda/shoulda. Appreciate what’s in front of you.

That’s a fulfilling career.

Most NBA GMs pick Clippers or Bucks to win 2020 NBA title in annual survey, Lakers third

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The top of our 50 best players in 5 years list:

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo

2. Anthony Davis

3. Luka Doncic

Apparently, NBA general managers hold similar views. Though they answered a slightly different question in their annual survey on NBA.com, the polled general managers had the same top three:

If you were starting a franchise today and could sign any player in the NBA, who would it be?

1. Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee — 86%

2. Anthony Davis, L.A. Lakers — 7%

Luka Doncic, Dallas — 7%

Antetokounmpo won this category last year, but with just 30% of votes. An MVP season will certainly spark consensus.

The Bucks forward is the first player to claim a majority of votes in this category since Anthony Davis in 2015. Davis’ reign was short-lived. Karl-Anthony Towns claimed the top spot the following two years (though with just a plurality of votes).

Other interesting results:

Which team will win the 2020 NBA Finals?

1. LA Clippers — 46%

2. Milwaukee Bucks — 36%

3. Los Angeles Lakers — 11%

Also receiving votes: Golden State Warriors, Portland Trail Blazers

I’d favor the Clippers (though not over the field) followed by the Lakers. But the Bucks have an easier path from the East. They also don’t engender the resentment the Lakers do.

Who will win the 2019-20 Rookie of the Year?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans — 68%

2. Ja Morant, Memphis — 29%

3. Darius Garland, Cleveland — 4%

Which rookie will be the best player in five years?

1. Zion Williamson, New Orleans — 68%

2. Ja Morant, Memphis — 18%

3. Cameron Reddish, Atlanta — 7%

Also receiving votes: Jarrett Culver, Minnesota; Darius Garland, Cleveland

Will Zion Williamson win Rookie of the Year? Will he have the best career of this rookie class (which is essentially what the second question asks)? Neither are locks against the field. But I don’t understand naming another rookie ahead of the generationally athletic and productive No. 1 pick.

Yet, a full third of responding NBA general managers did just that. Wild!

I’m guessing (hoping?) some just wanted to give a contrarian take. Show me the general manager who’d actually trade Williamson for Morant, Reddish, Culver or Garland.

Who is the best head coach in the NBA?

1. Gregg Popovich, San Antonio — 55%

2. Erik Spoelstra, Miami — 17%

3. Mike Budenholzer, Milwaukee — 10%

4. Steve Kerr, Golden State — 7%

Also receiving votes: Steve Clifford, Orlando; Doc Rivers, LA Clippers; Quin Snyder, Utah

There’s nothing crazy about these results… except last year’s leader – Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who received 47% of the vote – got no votes this year. That’s a steep drop, especially for a category that isn’t even about performance this season. The best coach probably doesn’t fluctuate that much annually.

Only perception did, which says something about how long to hold onto these survey results.

Buddy Hield calls Kings’ extension offer ‘insult’: ‘Name one big free agent that came to Sacramento’

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Buddy Hield hinted about leaving the Kings in free agency next summer if they don’t sign him to a contract extension by Monday’s deadline.

He and Sacramento remain apart in negotiations. The Kings have reportedly offered $90 million over four years. Hield reportedly wants $110 million over four years.

So, Hield is intensifying his rhetoric.

Hield, via James Ham of NBC Sports California:

“I just know where my value is at, and I’m not going to budge for nobody,” Hield said. “I work hard. I come in here every day and I do my job.”

“It’s not frustrated, I’m just speaking to my heart,” Hield said. “I feel like people get mixed up with being frustrated. I’m just speaking what I believe and what I think. Like I said, there are 30 teams out there. If they don’t want to give me what I think I deserve, some team will give it to me. They’ll have the ability to match, or they’ll have the ability to let me go.”

“The goal is to be here,” Hield told a larger contingent of media. “I love Sacramento, but if they don’t want me here, if they don’t feel like I’m part of the core. … I like respect and loyalty, and I feel like I’m part of the group that’s getting the team back to where it needs to be.”

“Name one big free agent that came to Sacramento,” Hield said in the scrum. “I’ve been here three years trying to grow the program, grow the organization, and I feel like I could be rewarded close to that. But that’s just me. That’s my gut feeling.”

Hield, via Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee:

“I see it like an insult,” Hield said. “I feel like I’m worth more than that. If you say I’m your guy and you want to build around me, I just need you to show it. Actions speak louder than words. If you’re just talking and not showing nothing, I’m not going to respect it. I love playing here. I want to be here. This is my home. I’m trying to buy a house here, but everything is on stall mode because I don’t know if they’ll really commit to me.”

“I don’t know if things are going to get done,” Hield said while standing in front of his locker with more than a dozen reporters gathered around and three team staffers hovering nearby. “If it don’t get done, me and my team will look for something else — probably another home. Until then, we’ll see if they really want me here.

Chris Webber re-signed with the Kings in 2001, when he was the biggest free agent on the market. But that was back when they were good. They’ve been in a long rut since.

Sacramento appears on the verge of breaking through now. That’ll make the team more attractive to free agents.

Of course, Hield is a big part of the Kings’ rise. They might fear disrupting chemistry if he’s unhappy without an extension. He’s clearly trying to prey on that potential concern. That’s his leverage.

But Sacramento has far more leverage. Without an extension, Hield would be a restricted free agent, the Kings able to match any offer he signs. He can’t unilaterally leave next summer.

Hield could accept the $6,484,851 qualifying offer and become an unrestricted free agent in 2021. But that will be a stronger free-agent class, and Hield will be 28 then. That’d be quite risky.

The Kings also have another good young shooting guard in Bojan Bogdanovic. That gives them even more leverage with Hield.

There’s just not much Hield can do now except make waves through the media. So, that’s what he’s doing.

If he doesn’t get an extension, will it get worse? Sacramento should be wary of that. However, there’s also a chance the perceived slight motivates Hield into even better play. That’d be the Kings’ gain, because – again – they can still pay him next summer with no risk of losing him until 2021 at the very earliest (and that’s only if Hield is willing to take an unprecedentedly risky route with the qualifying offer).

There’s still plenty of time for Hield and Sacramento find common ground. He’ll likely keep applying pressure until a deal is reached or the extension deadline passes.

Did JaVale McGee feign injury to set up open dunk? (video)

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I’m extremely reluctant to accuse anyone of faking an injury, but…

1. It’s JaVale McGee, who has a history of antics.

2. There’s no obvious cause of an injury.

3. McGee recovered incredibly quickly.

If he weren’t actually hurt, this was an illegal play by McGee. Healthy offensive players can’t run off the court like that. The penalty is loss of ball, but I don’t envy officials who had to determine whether the injury was real.

It’s also inconclusive whether McGee established himself in-bounds before catching the pass it. It’s close.

Another debatable point if McGee did this deliberately: Did he waste a clever play in the preseason? Even a sharp defender, Draymond Green, understandably lost track of McGee once McGee limped off. Or was the preseason the only time to have fun like this?

What is clear: The Lakers had another nifty play in their exhibition win over the Warriors last night. LeBron James switched hands mid-air to throw a kickout pass to a wide-open Danny Green: