Lottery allows NBA teams to dream

BY foxsports • May 16, 2011

The Minnesota Timberwolves finished with an NBA-worst 17 wins, remain unsure who their point guard will be and might experience a coaching change.

Other than that, the organization is rock solid.

The Cleveland Cavaliers were spurned by LeBron James on national television, suffered countless injuries to key players, and then tied an American pro sports record with 26 consecutive defeats.

Other than that, it's been a barrel of laughs.

The Toronto Raptors lost Chris Bosh to free agency, lacked a consistent low-post threat and can't really be certain anyone on the team is a true leader.

Other than that, things are clearly headed in the right direction.

For one night, those three teams and others like them have a renewed sense of hope. They know that a lucky bounce of a ping-pong ball can restore the faith of their fans, create some needed buzz and alter the course of the franchise forever. (Hey, dare to dream, right?)

Welcome to the NBA draft lottery, where bad is good and worse is better.

Well, most of the time. It sometimes seems like winning meaningless games at the end of the season increases your chances to claim the No. 1 overall pick.

For instance, guess who finished with the worst record in the NBA in 2009-10?

The answer is New Jersey.

Guess who finished with the second-worst record? The answer is Minnesota.

And guess who won the lottery? Yep, Washington, which shared the fourth-worst record but landed John Wall, anyway.

Philadelphia, which owned the sixth-worst record, picked second. Meanwhile, the poor Nets and Timberwolves finished third and fourth, respectively, in draft order.

Interestingly, Sacramento may have landed the most talented rookie of the class (DeMarcus Cousins), and the Kings picked fifth.

What makes all of this even more disheartening is the fact the 76ers were the only team drafting in the top nine to make the playoffs. Everyone else is back in the lottery (except the Nets, but only because they shipped the pick to Utah in the Deron Williams deal).

So, what's the point?

The point is there is no point. In the NBA draft lottery, up is down and down is sideways — and unless there's a guy named Shaquille O'Neal, Dwight Howard or LeBron James available, it typically doesn't really matter who wins, who loses or who picks where.

Ready for No. 1?

As for this year's lottery, there is no clear-cut top prize. The name being mentioned most belongs to former Duke point guard Kyrie Irving, a great kid with super athleticism and a clear understanding of how to run a team.

But he played all of 11 college games, suffering a major toe injury early in the season before returning for the NCAA tournament.

Still, that was enough for Irving to draw favorable comparisons to everyone from Wall to Steve Nash to Chris Paul — and if Irving is anything like those guys, you're gonna want him on your team.

"He's the guy most everybody likes best," said one NBA scout. "Will he change the direction of your team by himself? Probably not right away. But he and another good young player might."

The only player who seems to be challenging Irving for the top spot is former Arizona forward Derrick Williams. He too is a super athlete, possessing an NBA-ready body with excellent strength near the basket and an improving perimeter game.

But no one is really sure if he's a power forward or a small forward, or if he's forever stuck somewhere in between.

It's why Williams appears slightly less-coveted than Irving, as most scouts refuse to say Williams will be anything more than a solid NBA player. "He could be great for a long time," said one scout, "but I'm not about to go on record predicting it."

After that, this draft appears to be a mish-mash of international hopefuls and college underclassmen who may or may not be ready.

That's not to say it will be a bad draft. Some talent evaluators actually believe it's fairly deep, with immediate contributors potentially available well into the second round. Of course, that's just their best guesses.

The bottom line is no one knows a whole lot, and that almost makes winning this year's lottery not really that important at all.

Just don't tell that to the winners. Because when you're playing the lottery, it may be the only title you capture in quite some time.

Unless, of course, you get to try again next year.

Follow Sam Amico on Twitter @SamAmicoFSO


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