The Draft Lottery and its Conspiracies

by May 19, 2009

by Marcel Mutoni

Ever since the first NBA Draft Lottery, the infamous 1985 episode in which the Knicks landed the top pick (Patrick Ewing), conspiracy theorists have been convinced that the whole thing is rigged.

History and logic, however, don’t seem to agree. The worst team (or the perceived League darlings) don’t always emerge winners in the annual lottery.

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

When the NBA lottery unfolds Tuesday in an NBA Entertainment studio at Secaucus, N.J., it has to be rigged, right? Surely, the NBA wants to send Griffin home or hold back the team with the worst record (in this case, Sacramento) or adhere to a conspiracy theory to be named later?

This year, the Grizzlies have the sixth-best chance (a 7.5 percent probability) of winning the lottery. And that isn’t as bad as it might seem. Only twice have teams with the worst record won the lottery since the current format began in 1994. Since then, the No. 6 team won the lottery as many times as the team with the most Ping-Pong ball combinations has, with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2005 and Portland Trail Blazers in 2007 winning from the sixth spot. So if the Griz, who have never won the lottery, come up big this time, no one can blame the NBA. It’s the system that’ll continue to come under fire.

“We’ve made great, great advances,” NBA commissioner David Stern once said regarding the league’s controversial lottery, “and the conspiracy theories haven’t made the same advances.”

One of the League’s basement dwellers will be given a ray of hope tonight in New Jersey, with Blake Griffin being the proverbial savior. Fans of the OKC Thunder are hoping and praying that the conspiracy theorists are right.