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.

Luka Doncic says he’ll definitely play for Slovenia in Olympic Qualifying Tournament

Luka Doncic
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Slovenia won the last EuroBasket, in 2017.

But in a stacked European region, Slovenia hasn’t even qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Mavericks star Luka Doncic will try to change that.

Donatas Urbonas:

Slovenia got a tough draw, landing in host Lithuania’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament. Only one team from each OQT will reach the Olympics. Even Poland in the group stage will be no pushover.

But Doncic is obviously a difference-maker. Not only is he one of the world’s best players, he’s also comfortable with international style of play.

Slovenia needs him after Goran Dragic retired from the national team following the 2017 European basketball championship.

Slovenia’s first OQT game is June 24 against Angola. Dallas seems bound for a first-round loss. So, that should work. But if the Mavericks make a surprising run deep in the playoffs, Doncic could always reconsider – though he sounds quite certain now.

Giannis Antetokounmpo on playing with brothers: ‘Milwaukee, L.A., wherever – that’d be awesome’

Giannis Antetokounmpo in Bucks-Lakers
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Giannis Antetokounmpo – on the elite Bucks and nearing his super-max decision – has the NBA by the tail.

Teams are trying to impress the family-oriented superstar. Milwaukee signed his brother, Thanasis Antetokounmpo. The Lakers added another brother, Kostas Antetokounmpo. (The Knicks drafted Thanasis, but Thanasis’ tenure in New York reportedly left a sour taste in Giannis’ mouth.)

Now, Giannis – who once said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles – is singing a slightly different tune

USA Today:

Antetokounmpo:

I think that would be amazing. Obviously, we’d spend more time together, and I’m 100 percent sure my mom would love that. But if we could team up on a team – Milwaukee, L.A., wherever – that’d be awesome.

Maybe Antetokounmpo is just paying lip service to the Lakers, because they added Kostas. But at this point, that’s progress for Los Angeles.

Considering Giannis’ agent just said “everything is open,” it seems Giannis could be planting the seeds for leaving Milwaukee. He could definitely stay. But by at least mentioning other possibilities, he’d soften the blow if he chooses to depart.

Giannis’ views on loyalty have always been more complex than people realized. Tastes change. It sounds as if Giannis isn’t quite as averse to Los Angeles as he once was.

Of course, there’s a huge difference between that and actually joining the Lakers. Giannis hasn’t suddenly transformed into a totally different person.

But this quote will keep the candle of hope burning in Los Angeles.

Report: All-Star fourth quarter featured more than 15 minutes of gameplay

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One overlooked feature of the NBA’s new All-Star game format: It seemed designed to shorten the game.

Sure, the league wanted to add an interesting wrinkle to a game that had grown stale. The exact details were tweaked to honor Kobe Bryant.

But – in the era of load management – shaving a few minutes off the exhibition game should be taken as a feature, not a bug.

This year’s game ended when a team scored 24 more points than the leading team had entering the fourth quarter. The last time a team had scored 24 or fewer in All-Star quarter: 2010, when the East scored just 23 in the fourth quarter.  In the decade since – including the first three quarters Sunday – All-Star teams averaged 24 points every seven minutes.

But Sunday’s fourth quarter took a while longer than the standard 12 minutes for LeBron James‘ team to outscore Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s team, 33-22.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Defenses really turned up in the fourth quarter. Here’s how the teams’ shooting percentages changed from the first three quarters to the fourth quarter:

  • 2-pointers: 73% to 46%
  • 3-pointers: 34% to 23%

More shots being contested also led to more fouls. After attempting just 13 free throws in the first three quarters, the teams took 26 free throws in the fourth quarter.

In The Basketball Tournament, which first introduced the Elam Ending, the target score is eight more points than the leading team has at the first whistle inside four minutes. By turning off the game clock later, there’s less room for variance in gameplay length.

I suspect the NBA would have also turned off the clock later if not using the target score to honor Bryant. Because Bryant wore No. 24 last, the league has generally used that – not his other number, No. 8 – in tributes, including the All-Star jerseys.

With All-Star MVP now named for Bryant – a perfectly fitting lasting tribute – the league can alter the ending format next year.

The concept is sound. The exact execution just needs tweaking.

Bulls starting point guard Kris Dunn may be out for season with knee injury

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Bulls starting point guard Kris Dunn missed the last four games before the All-Star break with a sprained knee.

He could miss a lot more — like the rest of the season.

From K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago:

But sources said there’s a growing belief that Dunn will miss the remainder of the season with the injury, which occurred when Thaddeus Young took a charge and inadvertently crashed into Dunn’s knee on the first possession of a Jan. 31 road game against the Nets. When Dunn suffered a similar injury last season, he missed 23 games…

“Dunn still has some swelling in that knee,” coach Jim Boylen said before the Bulls lost to the Wizards on Feb. 11 in Washington, their final game before the break. “Once his swelling goes down, he will get re-scanned and re-evaluated.  But he had a lot of swelling.”

That’s less than ideal for Dunn as he heads into restricted free agency. He has averaged 7.3 points and  3.6 rebounds per game, however, his most significant contribution has been quality defense for Chicago this season.

This is the latest in a string of injuries for the Bulls. Otto Porter has only played nine games due to a broken foot. Big men Lauri Markkanen and Wendell Carter Jr. are currently sidelined due to injuries, although Carter could return after the All-Star break and Markkanen by early next month. Now Dunn.