The NBA draft lottery provides a certain appeal as it is something that fans can share at the same time as the NBA executives, players, and coaches. Outside of the security detail and officials that do the actual drawing of the numbers everyone finds out the results at the exact same time. The speculation and mystery provides the same drama that any type of lottery game provides and it is a great way to jump start the media coverage and player reports leading up to the actual draft. The intention behind the lottery is sound.
There is unfortunately a need to prevent teams from ‘tanking’ late in the year to improve a draft position. The NBA draft certainly provides some uncertainty but it is much less of crapshoot than the drafts for other sports as far fewer players are picked and a much higher percentage of high picks turn out to have solid NBA careers. The instant star power carries over to teams much more quickly as players are more visible and often have the chance to play right away where as in baseball and hockey draft picks must toil through the minor leagues and few NFL rookies join teams into starting roles.
The odds have been beaten too many times however. The system again failed this season as a mediocre Chicago team that many actually predicted to be an Eastern Conference contender at the beginning of the season wound up with the top pick. Miami ends up second and although the Heat had the worst record in the league they are just a few years removed from and NBA title and injuries and trades played a huge role in earning that record. Teams like Seattle, Minnesota, and Memphis were again penalized for trying to build teams with youth. These teams traded away star players for young talent and hoped to land a cornerstone in the draft but the lottery once again has made the climb tougher.
Several great players have emerged from the later lottery draft slots to be sure, but the struggling franchises that truly needed something to get excited about were once again victimized by the game of chance that the NBA plays to determine the draft order. There is not a good solution to this situation, but the current program has failed too often to provide what it is in place for.
Author's Note: Yes, I am a bitter Timberwolves fan.