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Is the NBA Draft Lottery Rigged?!


It’s a question that many ask, and many people are absolutely convinced of their answer. It makes sense doesn’t it? I mean, there’s a lot of money on the line here, billions of dollars just in TV rights, why wouldn’t those in charge fix the results to generate maximum revenue? And they’re always so secretive about it, they don’t show the actual process live. It’s behind closed doors, which gives them plenty of opportunity to just fabricate the results. And now, in perhaps the most obvious situation yet, the Cleveland Cavaliers have once again received the number 1 pick in the draft, the third time in only FOUR YEARS. That’s just ridiculous. Isn’t it obvious that they’re rigging it?

Well… no. It’s not that simple. Despite all the questions about the validity of the Draft Lottery, I still firmly believe that it’s done in earnest.
The first claim touted by NBA conspiracy theorists is that it’s always so obvious why they pick each team to get the number 1 draft each year. When the Hornets got it, that was the NBA trying to sell off its expansion franchise. When the Cavaliers got it back in ’03 it was so that home-town Ohio hero LeBron James could go to his team. When Chicago got it in ’08, it was similarly so that Derrick Rose could go to his home town. And now we’re back in Cleveland, and the NBA men in black are trying something. Are they trying to make up for them losing LeBron, or are they trying to persuade the King to come back to Cleveland. But wait, it’s not just NBA, over in NFL some power-that-be ensured that Cleveland picked up star player Johnny Manziel to further persuade LeBron to come back to his dreary, sad, title-less home state.
Well again, the truth isn’t as simple as that. As it turns out, each year, there’s a good reason why every single Lottery team should get the number 1 pick, I’ll show you. Look at this years draft.
Bucks: Poor Milwaukee, they don’t really have much to offer in the most boring city in America, they need all the help they can get.
76ers: Hey, this team earned it! They lost so bad this year, they’ve got to get the first pick. Philadelphia needs something to look forward next year, they deserve it. There will be no going thirsty in Pennsylvania because this tank is full.
Magic: This is a large market team, but they haven’t been enjoying much large market success, and the fans of Orlando are still spiteful over losing Dwight Howard, the least Silver can do is give them the first pick in the draft.
Jazz: Trey Burke needs somebody to catch rebounds and pass to him, and the draft is the best place to find that person. That and John Stockton threatened Silver with death if nobody avenged him missing the game winning in the finals against Michael Jordan after he hit the shot.
Celtics: The Celtics didn’t make the playoffs are you kidding me?! A New England team not contending for a championship?? IS that possible?! This has to be stopped! Otherwise we’ll have Rondo rampage the streets of Boston.
Lakers: The Lakers not making the playoffs? That’s just as ridiculous. Kobe Bryant can still shoot a basketball (apparently), so he’s got another title run in him. First pick in the draft should get this superpower team back on track like Silver needs them to be.
Kings: Silver just wants to see if it’s possible to p*ss off the people of Seattle so much that the State of Washington literally disconnects from the United States and joins the Alaskans.
Pistons: Silver: “Come on guys, lets see if we can make them pull another Miličić! Hahahahahha, classic Pistons.”
Actually I can’t think of a proper reason why they’d pick the Pistons. There’s be no reason to think there’s a conspiracy if the Pistons win… but that’s just what they expect you think!
Cavaliers: Well I’ve already explained the reasons for the Cavaliers.
Pelicans: Silver just wants to see if it’s actually possible that a team with an NBA D-League nickname can amount to something in the big boys league.
Nuggets: Silver just wants to make the Knicks pay for trading all those picks for Carmelo.
Timberwolves: It’s a last ditch attempt to keep the order and have Kevin Love waste away his NBA career in the land of 10 000 lakes.
Suns: This one is a warning to show that tanking DOES NOT WORK. Just to prove the point we give the best team in the lottery the pick. They played the best, they earned it.
Hawks: Atlanta is a great city that hasn’t had an NBA championship in the 46 years the Hawks have resided in Atlanta… wait… the Hawks… MADE THE PLAYOFFS? Okay what the hell is wrong with the Eastern Conference? Come on!

That’s fair reason for every single team in the lottery to get the first pick.
The other element of the lottery that makes many so suspicious is the private way they do it. They refuse to televise the actual drawing of the ping pong balls, so there’s no real evidence that they play fair. But if you’ve ever looked up how they do it, you’d understand. It is literally as boring as watching ping pong balls bounce around. Then you’ve got to dig your way through the 1000 different number combinations to find which team belongs to the numbers you just picked. Then you have to do it 2 more times. And if you pick out the same team twice, which happens more than you’d think, you have to do it all again. Boring. It’s almost as boring as actually watching a game between the Bucks and the 76ers and both teams are trying their hardest NOT to get the ball in the hoop. Thank god they don’t put it on the television, seriously. They do have team executives and media are allowed in the room, so there’s plenty of 3rd party witnesses to the event, but they don’t show it to the public.

And finally, in the most unique of circumstances to date, the Cleveland Cavaliers have won their third number 1 pick in 4 years. That’s just outrageous, they’re making it way too obvious now, their love for Cleveland. Now, before I get into the math, just think about it. If they were rigging this thing, would they really think it’s a smart idea to give the Cavaliers ANOTHER number 1 pick. That’s just putting the writing on the wall, their much more clever than that. Anyway. If you do the math and figure out the probability, the chances of Cleveland getting 3 out of 4 number one picks is actually HIGHER than the probability of the Suns winning this years lottery, and equal to the Timberwolves’ chances. It doesn’t seem so unlikely now! The odds are about 1 in 183. By comparison, the odds of going to jail in Monopoly by rolling 3 doubles in a row is 1 in 216. The Cavaliers’ odds in the last 4 years were 19.9%, 13.8% (didn’t win 1st pick), 15.6% and 1.7%. Really, this is the only year where the Cavaliers shouldn’t have won a top 3 pick. It’s not THAT unreasonable.

I personally imagine that every official and owner in the room (except Dan Gilbert) was kicking themselves when the Cavaliers’ numbers were drawn. Silver has come in and hoping to popularise the league further, it’s going to be very difficult to play down conspiracy theories now. I find it highly unlikely that they would pull this stunt if they were in control of the ping pong balls, for that exact reason. It doesn’t make any sense for them to do this, but of course, nothing will ever convince the post hoc reasoning of conspiracy theorists.

In Chris Paul we trust,


About Jack Neubecker

Jack Neubecker is a Science/Mathematics student with a fascination for how analytics and statistics informs decision-making in professional sports. In an abusive relationship with the Los Angeles Clippers, deals with the pain through an affair with the Dallas Mavericks and Kristaps Porzingis. Host, producer and writer for the Point Forward NBA Podcast. When playing games of pickup, Jack can post you up before looking for the fadeaway or the dream-shake, size you up on the perimeter or facilitate in a pinch. Think a combination of Dirk Nowitzki and Rudy Gay. Thing-Doer. Inventor of the computer, penicillin, lying and irony. Twitter: @jackneubecker

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This entry was posted on May 22, 2014 by in Uncategorized.
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