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.

Minnesota’s Gersson Rosas says Andrew Wiggins must be “main contributor” to T-wolves

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Last season in Minnesota — with Jimmy Butler torpedoing the team and ending the Tom Thibodeau era — was pretty much the figurative definition of a train wreck.

Out of that wreckage, the Timberwolves think they found some positives. Ryan Sunders was thrown into the fire as a young coach but bonded with Karl-Anthony Towns. Robert Covington sparked the defense before his injury. Josh Okogie emerged as a player. This summer the team drafted a player with a lot of potential in Jarrett Culver.

Minnesota also brought in the aggressive Gersson Rosas out of Houston to take over as team president and start reshaping the franchise into one that can live up to the promise of Towns’ potential. For that to start to happen, meaning a return to the playoffs, Rosas pointed to a couple of things needing to go right this season. First and foremost, they need more — and more consistency — out of Andrew Wiggins. Via Timberwolves writer/podcaster Dane Moore.

Most Timberwolves fans, and the rest of the league, have moved on from Wiggins, who has four years, $122 million left on his max contract. While he averaged 18.1 points per game last season, he doesn’t get those buckets efficiently nor consistently, and the result is an average/slightly below-average wing whose contract is an anchor on the franchise. We’ve learned no contract is untradable in the NBA, but this is as close to that line as it gets — the sweeteners Minnesota would have to throw in right now make a deal are prohibitive.

The only thing Minnesota can hope for is that in year six Wiggins takes some steps forward he did not take in the last five. Maybe continuity helps, but we’re all going to need to see it before we believe it.

The other thing Rosas said Minnesota needs: More consistent defense from Towns.

Saunders seemed to connect with Towns and got him to defend, and Covington played MIC linebacker calling out coverages and getting guys in position before his injury. Rosas said Covington would be good to go at the start of the season, if so that gives the Timberwolves real hope that the defense will improve.

Whether all of that will be enough to get them into the playoffs in a deep West is another question, but at least Minnesota seems to be moving in the right direction now.

President Donald Trump awarding Medal of Freedom to NBA star Bob Cousy

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WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is set to present basketball legend Bob Cousy (KOO’-zee) with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The award is being handed out Thursday. It celebrates individuals with a wide range of achievements and is the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The 91-year-old Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame member played for the Boston Celtics from 1950 to 1963. He won six league championships and the 1957 MVP title.

Cousy is also known for speaking out against racism. He was an ardent supporter of black teammates who faced discrimination during the civil rights movement.

Cousy will be the second person to receive the award this year from Trump. Golfer Tiger Woods received the honor in May.

Report: Shelly Sterling, members of Clippers organization heard Donald Sterling audio in advance and didn’t act

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In 2014, published audio of a racist rant by then-Clippers owner Donald Sterling rocked the country.

It shouldn’t have. Sterling’s racism and sexism were well-established by then. But few cared. The audio poured gasoline on the fire and moved people to act. I wish it didn’t require that. But it did.

What if the audio didn’t become public through TMZ? Apparently, there might have been opportunity for another outcome.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The fact is Shelly and several people in the Clippers organization heard the recording and decided not to act on it or weren’t appalled enough to act on it. Maybe they didn’t understand how big a splash this tape could make.

It’s unclear when Shelly Sterling (Donald’s wife) and other members of the Clippers organization heard the audio. Maybe it was while TMZ was doing due diligence. If so, it was probably too late to change the course of history.

But perhaps it was when V. Stiviano – Donald’s girlfriend who made the original recording and was being sued by Shelly – was still the only one in possession of it. Stiviano was clearly upset with how things were going financially between her and the Sterlings. For the right price, maybe the audio would have gone away before becoming public.

I’m glad it didn’t happen that way. The world is better off knowing exactly who Donald Sterling is.

Yet, this leads to an incredible “what if?” What if the people who heard the audio in advance understood the magnitude, acted in Sterling’s best interest and paid to have the audio kept secret? Would Sterling still own the Clippers today?

Kyle Kuzma scores on own basket in Team USA-Australia game (video)

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The Lakers are desperate at center. They might even need Kyle Kuzma to play the position. He’ll have to work on, among other things, rebounding.

At least it usually won’t go as poorly as this play in Team USA’s exhibition win over Australia.