Blogtable: Who Gets The No. 1 Pick?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.

Fixing the lottery | A 2013 highlight | One bold prediction for ’14


The latest on fixing the Draft lottery: Does the system need fixing?

Steve Aschburner, Fixing? Most systems, this one included, always can stand some tweaking, if not outright fixing. But “the wheel” approach we’ve been hearing about is a horrible idea. It doesn’t tilt toward helping the truly needy teams – the ones, in many cases, that don’t benefit from sunshine, great night life, big market size and other factors favored by NBA free agents. A boost to the league’s downtrodden is a good thing, even if – like the national programs we value as a society – some teams have turned what was meant as a temporary safety net into a permanent hammock. Besides – and this is a big besides – asking fans to embrace a 30-year timeline for anything in these short-attention-span lives is doomed to fail. “The wheel” instantly would become the best argument for contraction, just to speed up everyone’s shot at a No. 1. As for tweaking what we have now, I’d break it into tiers – if you’re the league’s 17th best team (barely missing the playoffs), you don’t have any business angling for the top overall pick. So how ’bout the worst seven teams compete for picks 1-7 and the next seven go into a separate hopper for picks 8-14? Boost the odds, too, for the overall worst team (or maybe three worst). There, done.

Fran Blinebury, Wheels, schmeels.  Let the nerds keep taking over and pretty soon we’ll be left with algorithms, SportVU camera replays and no live games.  In these days of 19 year olds in the draft, tanking for the lottery is usually a sucker’s bet, but go for it if you want.  Leave it alone.

Jeff Caplan, I don’t get too worked up about this. If you want to ditch the lottery, then go back to how it used to be, how all the other major pro sports leagues do it — worst picks first.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIt obviously needs fixing because the team that finishes with the worst record — usually earned through actual bad play, not taking a dive — rarely gets the No. 1 pick. That is the biggest problem, not the perception that teams are tanking, a discussion that has ramped up only because the 2014 draft looks so good from a distance. There are very few other years when a team would think about losing on purpose to get the second or third pick. But this idea about establishing a 30-year rotation for the order of the first round creates more problems than it solves. Combine records from the last two seasons to determine the number of ping-pong balls, a better gauge of who really needs the draft help. Add levels in the lottery draw so that teams can move up only so far. There are several options to tweak the process. But no 30-year plan.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comI like the idea of basing lottery odds on cumulative record over the last three seasons. That will reduce the incentive for a one-season tank job. If the rest of this season were to go the way it has (in terms of team winning percentages), the Sixers would have only the 10th best odds via that rule, and Charlotte would still have the best, even as a playoff team.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comNo. There’s nothing wrong with the lottery. And all of these people opposed to lousy teams getting a get-out-of-jail-free card via the Draft have clearly not paid attention to how risky a proposition that can be (the hits and misses in Lotteryville have been well documented over the years, no need to bring up the Darkos and Kwames and Olowokandis over the years). This idea that all teams are just dying to tank one season so they can get the No. 1 pick is an insult to all of the teams that put in the work to win in the here and now and don’t get caught up in the dream game that is the lottery. Who says the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in any Draft is going to be the franchise-savior the so-called experts believe him to be? It’s rubbish. My issue is not with the system itself but the teams bent on doing whatever they can to roll the dice on that system. It’s like me, twice a week, dropping cash on those lottery tickets that will get me to early retirement. The smart franchises figure out a way to fight, scrap and claw their way to the top (see Portland and Indiana, and even Phoenix this season), with or without the aid of the lottery picks everyone seems to think are so vital to an immediate turnaround. It’s called smart people working hard and creating a culture of success by doing it the hard way, the old-fashioned way. There’s always a little luck involved — some player ends up being better than expected, some injury opens the door for someone you didn’t expect to contribute, etc. — as there is with anything good that happens in life. Change the system all you want. Someone will always be there to try and manipulate it to their advantage. Nothing will ever change that.

Lang Whitaker, All Ball blog: The only change that I think might be interesting would be ditching the lottery altogether and just assigning the picks in inverse order of wins, similar to the way it’s done in the NFL. But to be honest, I like the way the NBA’s system works now. You can lose all the games you want and try to get that No. 1 pick, but you can’t control the bouncing balls. This gives teams a bit of an incentive to at least attempt to win even as they lose as many games as possible. It also ensures that the NBA Draft Lottery remains a singular event in sports. Where else does so much ride on a completely random event that’s televised live and can literally change the face of a franchise? Is it fair? Maybe not completely fair. But it’s definitely fun.

Davide Chinellato, NBA Italia: I don’t think the lottery needs fixing. I mean, it’s OK to reconsider the procedures after a bit, but I think this system works. The team with the worst record should probably have a little more chances to get the #1 pick, but let’s leave it at that small change.

XiBin Yang, NBA ChinaI think we should make some changes. The league could add some formulas into the pingpong ball percentages to get a draft pick. If one team had a better winning percentage than past year, they deserve to get a higher probability of a better position in the draft. That could make this league more competitive.


  1. Karlo Garcia says:

    The draft does not need fixing.It is what it is.

  2. fan says:

    All teams that don’t make the playoffs should get the same odds of winning the lottery. This keeps all teams competitive while still having the chance to rebuild. Could potentially shorten rebuilds as well

  3. James Adams says:

    Why not just give the same % in the lottery to every team that doesn’t make the playoffs? If it was that way there wouldn’t be teams tanking for the worst record!

  4. J says:

    Worst picks first!

  5. maorinash says:

    It’s funny, not one of these dudes actually commented on who they thought would get the number 1 lottery pick. Title is a tad misleading.

  6. pokie says:

    Go back to worst to best. I don’t like reading and hearing all this talk about gaming the system. From whatever angle. With the Rookies now slotted into short term first contracts it makes sense now. If a franchise is tanking to secure a high pick they’re probably not being being run by anyone who could turn them around anyway. That pick walks away after his Rookie contract is over. He can decide where he wants to play. On the flip-side, If a franchise is legitimately struggling they’re more likely to get a player who can help turn things around, A face to bring the crowds back. If you’re like me and you can remember the league before the lottery, it seemed like every town had at least one much beloved player on their squad that they got on the down side of their fortunes that came in like a ray of hope. Some of these players turned their franchises around. Being drafted by a team that needed them put those players in a position to evolve from good players to great players. This league, and every team in it, has and always will always need great players. It would be nice to see the next batch go where they are most needed to raise the spirits of beleaguered fans and strengthen the overall landscape of the NBA.

  7. Sedare says:

    Wheel will not work.
    2016 – Hornets have the top pick. The top prospect is a freshman. Does not declare. Does not want to be on the Hornets.
    2017 – Cavs have the top pick. Top prospect from the last year is a sophomore. Does not declare. Does not want to be in Cleveland.
    2018 – Lakers have top pick. After Junior year, he declares to join LA.

    Its only going to create a drama filled declarefest when a popular team has a high pick.

  8. hopeman says:

    what happened in new york since the 1994 finals ?
    nothing, parasytes players, strange experiments. (isaiah tomas, before that the salary cap locked by parasytes, now the carmelo anthony franchise killer thing.)
    sad and pathetic

  9. okc2014 says:

    Milwakee should get the 1st pick. Then Utah.

  10. M says:

    yesss! howard-cooper and schuhmann. this is by far the best idea i have heard in this debate

    simply cannot find any advantage in this wheel idea. frankly, think its complete bull****.
    still the system is not perfect: see one-year tanking, or franchises getting nr1 picks course their franchiseplayer is injured (san antonio) and go all the way to the title in the next year.

    the reason for the whole system of bad teams picking first is to help those teams get back up to create a more competetive league. the adding of the lottery was one step against tanking, feels like its time to take the next to get closer to the goal of helping bad teams.

    personally, combining 3 years of records sounds good to me, to long to be bad on purpose for some teams, just long enough so teams that are really bad get what they need.

    please nba, if someone in charge reads this, consider that instead of that wheel thing.

  11. buekaiser says:

    Just to add to my Knicks frustration, all you need to do is look at the top teams in the league and check out who their top players are and how they were acquired, you will see that “surprisingly” drafting wisely, and holding on to some of those
    players picked in the draft seem to propel good teams to success, granted adding a quality free agent or two to a team
    that drafts wisely (Miami) works too, but drafting poorly and loading up your team with cost prohibitive free agents cripples your team going forward. Sorry, just feel a need to vent, as the future for the Knicks looks as bleak as the present.

  12. buekaiser says:

    Denver, which owns the Knicks 1st rd.pick unprotected I might add (Knicks=geniuses) will await the Knicks spinning the wheel and winning (losing) the 1st pick in this Phat draft and hand it over with a red ribbon to the Nuggets. The only reason the Knicks have a 1st round pick next year,is because it is against league rules to give away your 1st rd.pick 2 years in a row,
    but sure enough in 2016 the Knicks did manage to again give away their 1st rd.pick to Toronto for the savior of their organization Bargnani, I’ll get back to you as to who gets their 1st rd.pick in 2018!

  13. Pakyaw says:

    The cavs will be in Guinness book for most high # draft picks for next decade..

    • allaroundballer says:

      And look at them, irving and bennet. They’re unlike westbrook-durant, curry-thompson or love-rubio. The coach and management have to work on their prospects. Another samples are james and kobe. They were coming from different draft position. Now both are megastar. No guarantee, let the system alone. There’s no such perfect system anyway