If you are a conspiracy theorist (and those of you who are know who I am talking about), the Los Angeles Lakers will win tonight's NBA Draft Lottery. The Draft Lottery, the results of which will be broadcast this evening at 8 p.m. on ESPN, is the annual event that determines which of the biggest losers in the NBA gets to pick first, second and third in this June's NBA Draft.
Conspiracy and NBA Draft Lottery is nothing new. Claims of the NBA rigging the event to meet its own needs go back all the way to the first Lottery in 1985, when then commissioner David Stern felt around for the envelope with the bent corner or the hot envelope (microwaved before the event, maybe?) and plucked the New York Knicks card out of the bin and awarded them the right to pick Patrick Ewing first in that year's draft, thus restoring basketball glory to the city of New York. Wow, that sentence was long. I think it worked, though.
More recently, folks have decried the Lottery as fixed almost annually. In 2011, the Washington Wizards won to compensate the franchise for their owner dying. The next year, the Cleveland Cavalier snagged the top spot so owner Dan Gilbert would feel better about losing LeBron to the Miami Heat. And two years ago, the New Orleans Pelicans getting the right to select Anthony Davis first overall was seen as a reward for Tom Benson taking the Pels (then the Hornets) off the NBA's hands for a tidy $338 million the previous year.
There's always someone there to see the dark side of every event. So tonight, there's no more obvious team to be awarded the number one overall pick on June 26 than the Lakers. The most popular team in the NBA has had a miserable last 15 months. Two leg injuries to top star Kobe Bryant sandwiched around a first round playoff sweep last year and a franchise record for losses this past season. Surely, this can't go on and new commissioner Adam Silver is just the guy to fix it by granting the Lakers, who have nobody but themselves to blame for their current woes, the number one pick. Perfect, right? Never mind the Milwaukee Bucks, who lost more than any other team this year, or the Philadelphia 76ers, who lost 26 in a row this year. The Lakers fix has to be in, right? At least a top three pick, right?
You know what? If the Lakers win it, I don't care. I don't care who wins. I've sat on the edge of my Eames Chair ottoman for the last several years begging the basketball gods to give the first overall pick (or at least a top three pick) to the Wizards. But tonight I just don't care because for the first time since 2008, the Washington Wizards have no chance of winning the NBA Draft Lottery. Zero. None. Zilch. Not a chance at all.
Last year the Wizards were the biggest lottery winner out there, moving up from eighth to third to ultimately snag Otto Porter with the number three pick on draft night. But this year, there’s no shot at all. And that’s because we mercifully are no longer involved in this desperation exercise as a playoff team. And it feels really good.
Sure, it won’t feel good on draft night, when future stars (or busts) are being picked by the lottery teams and we're sitting idly by waiting our turn. In fact it won’t feel good on draft night when we get out of the lottery (or top 14) picks because the Wizards don’t own a single first round pick at all, having traded our pick this year to acquire Marcin Gortat before the start of the 2013-2014 season, a move that will either lock up a quality starting center for years to come or amount to a one year rental. Ball’s in Ernie Grunfeld’s court on that one.
But tonight, when the results of the lottery are announced on ESPN, there will be no anguish or joy for me at all and honestly, I’m perfectly fine with that. I’m actually perfectly fine never sitting through this process again. I’d love to just keep making the playoffs every year. Although I do think it would be funny if the Lakers win. We'll know in about two hours.