Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Is/Was the NBA draft lottery rigged? Depends on who you root for...

The multi-million dollar question this time of year is: Is the NBA lottery rigged?

The correct answer is NO, and I'm inclined to believe it NOW.  However, "back in the day," or when it counts, you better believe I'd argue YES.  People like me who were Patrick Ewing fans and were/are New York Knick fans remember 1985 fondly.  The New York Knicks were the winner of the lottery in 1985 and selected Georgetown University standout Patrick Ewing, with their first overall pick.  Conspiracy theorists believe that the NBA had rigged the lottery so that the Knicks would be assured to get the first pick.  Back then envelopes were used to determine the picking order.  This method was highly criticized, and replaced by the weighted lottery system in 1990.

Was the envelope method flawed?  You be the judge.  Have you seen this video? 

Check it out.  Why would Pat O'Brien (i.e. the announcer) say the 7 sealed envelopes will be "gingerly placed"?  I don't know about you, but my eyes tell me that when the envelopes are placed in the drum, one of them gets "slammed" against the drum and a corner is bent.  Further, when David Stern pulls the envelope, from the drum, you can see that the envelope he selects has a bent corner, when it's pulled from the drum.  Looks a little fishy to me, but I'm a was a  Ewing fan so I didn't care.

Now think about the current system as to how the draft order is determined.

According to Wikipedia: To determine the winner, fourteen ping pong balls numbered 1–14 are placed in a standard lottery machine and four balls are randomly selected from the lot. Just as in most traditional lotteries, the order in which the numbers are drawn is not important. That is, 1-2-3-4 is considered to be the same as 4-3-2-1. So although there is a total of 24 (4!) orders in which the balls numbered 1-2-3-4 can be picked, they are all treated as the same outcome. In doing this, the permutation of 4 balls from 14 becomes the combination of 4 balls from 14. That is, the total of 24,024 (14! / 10!, or 14x13x12x11) possible permutations is reduced by a factor of 24, to 1,001 combinations (or 14! / (10! x 4!)). Of these, 1 outcome is disregarded and 1,000 outcomes are distributed among the 14 non-playoff NBA teams. The combination 11-12-13-14 (in any order that those numbers are drawn) is not assigned and it is ignored if drawn; this has never occurred in practice.

The lottery is conducted with witnesses verifying that all 14 balls are represented once as they are placed in the lottery machine. The balls are placed in the machine for 20 seconds to randomize prior to having the first ball drawn. The remaining three balls are drawn at 10-second intervals. NBA officials determine which team holds the winning combination and that franchise is awarded the #1 overall draft pick. The four balls are returned to the machine and the process is repeated to determine the second and third picks. In the event that a combination belongs to a team that has already won its pick (or if the one unassigned combination comes up), the round is repeated until a unique winner is determined. When the first three teams have been determined, the remaining picks are given out based on regular season record with the worst teams getting the highest picks. This assures each team that it can drop no more than three spots from its projected draft position.

Well, that's all fine and good.  I just don't understand why the public can't watch the ping-pong balls go into the machine and get selected.  I realize that I'm a natural skeptic ~ but if everything is as described, I'm willing to take the time to see the NBA draft lottery ping pong ball process with my own eyes.

Another year I found interesting was 2003.  I'm from Ohio and was living in Cleveland for many years, so of course I knew about LeBron James.  Actually, I could have been living in a van down by the river, and I probably would've known about him.  Regardless, in 2003, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 1st pick in the NBA Draft and ultimately took LeBron James.  All I'm saying is that I knew that Cleveland would have the first pick in the draft, when I saw the actual placement of personnel from the various teams.  You had the Knicks in the back (i.e. I could be wrong, but I doubt it), but Gordon Gund was sitting in a prime location very close to the podium.  I found that interesting since he's blind, and his prime real estate definitely made it easier for him to make it to the podium.  The minute I saw the seating chart I knew the Cavs would have Lebron.  I swear on my life...

Just something to think about since the NBA lottery is tonight...  By the way, I never did like ping pong...

The NBA draft lottery is tonight at 8PM.


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