Five NBA Draft Lottery Thoughts, 2016 style

The NBA’s version of Socialism meets Luck took place again, the always entertaining-but-you-never-really-know-why Draft Lottery. The Philadelphia 76ers “won,” which, thanks to Dikembe Mutumbo, had all the drama of fence paint drying on a 90-degree day.

This is a landmark date, though, on the NBA calendar. One player can shift the fortunes of a franchise like no other sport, but you can’t get that franchise-changing pick without actually getting a pick and making the right decision. Philly has the “pick” part down. Now, on to the decision making. A few takeaways …

5. Masai Ujiri wins the NBA Draft for multiple teams

Ujiri was with Denver when the Carmelo Anthony to the Knicks swap was made, which gave the Nuggets pick flexibility with his current team, the Raptors, who pulled the Knicks’ 2016 pick in the Andrea Bargnani in a 2013 swap. So basically, the Knicks get no pick, his old team got to choose which was better for them, and his team that was gearing up to actually play in the conference finals when he was at the lottery still winds up with a lottery pick. That’s not bad GM’ing, even if you’re doing it against yourself in a way down the line. If you’re the Knicks, there should be no real tears. For the most part, people would probably take Carmelo Anthony over a mid-to-back-end lottery pick. Everyone wins, and everyone loses. Just the way it should be.

4. Boston is in position to put a proven star player with Brad Stevens

The Celtics, by virtue of their 100 lottery picks (estimated) over the next few years, winds up in the third spot from the Brooklyn Nets. While you can debate the overall weakness/strength of a particular draft class, the ability to move up into a top 3 pick for a moribund and terminally mediocre franchise can be a heavy pull. Boston is a playoff team and will be a playoff team next season. They’re there. But they’re missing that key, build-around type of player. Brad Stevens has done a lot of good with simply a lot of good, but the C’s will have the flexibility to give the team a proven player through a trade … or to stick with the pick and put a high draft selection on the roster. You’ve got to think the sway to compete quick, fast, and in a hurry might mean a trade. I think everyone wants to know what Brad Stevens can do with a major talent on that roster.

3. Teams should be more, not less creative with who they send to the Lottery

Part of the recent charm of the draft lottery has been the amalgam of characters sent on behalf of the teams to represent their logos during the event. Probably the best moment in Draft Lottery history, such that it’s a long time (and it’s not) has to be Dan Gilbert’s son in 2013 when the Cavs got the top pick. No one would know who Mallory Edens is if not for her appearing at the 2014 draft to represent the Milwaukee Bucks and her dad, the owner. Stuff like that is a lot more interesting than sending a general manager who looks like you just fed him a bowl of cedar mulch and told him he couldn’t get up until it was eaten and empty. Events like this, which are mostly for pomp and circumstance, need to have as much character as possible. People like Edens and Nick Gilbert give it just that. Mitch Kupchak looking like he’d rather be doing shots of paste isn’t doing it for us.

2. The last two years, failure pays, so expect more of it

Teams tanked for high lottery picks back when it seemingly was just a mathematical edge that ended in heartbreak. Now, failure has been validated twice, and in the spirit of the Sixers, has been a multi-year failure that has at least given them … this? For the first time since the lottery began, two consecutive years the team with the worst record and thus the highest percentage of getting the top pick has gotten it. Whether the draft has a player that’s a can’t miss, game changing type or if it has more ambiguity, teams go the extra mile to tank for more ping pong balls. This will only enhance the theory that it’s a good idea to do so, unfortunately.

1. The NBA has a new conspiracy on its hands

The league, which is always a little more entertaining when it has a little X-Files to it, has mostly been bereft of real controversy outside of the annual “crappy officiating in the playoffs” complaints from folks who don’t see crappy officiating all year long. Early in the day, Dikembe Mutumbo Tweeted out a congrats to the Sixers on getting the first pick, when, allegedly, the ping pong balls hadn’t even been pulled. The Tweet was promptly deleted, and who knows why? But when the Sixers wound up with the top pick, it sure looked like that BS about “only one person knowing what the results are” as the envelopes are trotted out seems like well-done manufactured crap aimed at causing drama. Now, you can take any team and give them a conspiracy reason they’re getting the top pick for the most part. From Big Market Team X to Cleveland getting two straight for “losing Lebron,” you can always find a reason the result isn’t on the up and up. But one thing is blatantly clear, and that’s the fact that these picks are done far before any show happens and that there are plenty of people that know ahead of time. Why is that? Who knows. Loose lips sink ships, though. The Truth is Out There.