Cohen: Win-Win Situation
By Josh Cohen
August 28, 2012
ORLANDO -- While generally inexperienced and unproven, the “new” Orlando Magic are eager to prove detractors wrong.
The remaining members from last year’s team, including Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick and Glen Davis, want to substantiate their value with Dwight Howard no longer running the show.
Those acquired in the four-team blockbuster trade earlier this month, including Arron Afflalo, covet the opportunity to carry more spotlight without a concrete superstar in town.
And for the rookies like Maurice Harkless and Andrew Nicholson, they have a chance to make a quick statement considering they are likely to get considerable playing time immediately.
Many critics, however, are assuming the Magic will suffer immensely with Howard about 2,500 miles west. ESPN, for instance, believes Orlando will finish with the second worst record in the Eastern Conference this upcoming season.
Everyone’s forecast is different. Honestly, it’s irrelevant and inconsequential. The Magic will play as well as they possibly can and try to embrace their rebuilding process.
We all know by now future flexibility, including a plethora of draft picks and salary cap space to make a strong push for impending free agents over the next few summers, is the solution to evolving into a championship team.
Regardless of the outcome this season, Orlando is in a favorable position moving forward.
If the Magic do prove the cynics wrong, on one hand, and exceed expectations which would essentially suggest Orlando contended for a playoff spot or even better advanced to the postseason, it would prove they can succeed without Howard.
Though finishing stronger than projected would deny the Magic from landing a very high draft pick, a booming campaign would generate plenty of optimism. It would insinuate that the young players flourished. And even without a generous lottery pick (let’s say top five), the Magic can utilize salary cap space to make further improvements.
If they do struggle, on the other hand, in the first season of the post-Howard era, the Magic can rely on both a high draft pick next June and cap space to make drastic changes to the roster.
If you peek around the league, you will notice that several teams that don’t expect to reach the playoffs or advance far if they should quality next season are not in position to entice forthcoming free agents to reposition to their cities.
And for those that do have cap space, let’s face it, those teams are not in markets that will attract star players (sorry Portland, Toronto, Detroit, Charlotte, Utah, etc. etc.).
The big markets, including New York, Brooklyn, both Los Angeles teams, Chicago and Miami, are well over the cap for the next couple of years and won’t be able to lure in any marquee free agents like they were able to do in 2010.
We have seen in the past that Orlando is an idyllic destination for star talent. Every time the Magic have had sufficient cap space to reload the roster, they have been successful. Warm weather all year long, no state income tax, a perfect environment to raise children and a brand new arena are tempting reasons for any NBA All-Star to consider Orlando.
The Magic’s flexibility will allow General Manager Rob Hennigan to craft a team that is sustainable through the draft and free agency. We must all be patient as the process develops.
FIXING THE DRAFT LOTTERY SYSTEM
The above details accurately assess the Magic’s position as they inch toward recovery after trading a superstar.
One pressing issue that will likely be discussed at various points this upcoming season is in relation to the draft lottery process.
Let’s say, for instance, the Magic exceed expectations and rather than end up with the second worst record in the East like ESPN projects, they end up with a better record than nine other teams in the league. This would imply that Orlando has the 10th best chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.
Grant it, only three times since the NBA adopted a weighted lottery system in 1990 has the team with the worst overall record and highest percent chance of securing the No. 1 overall pick actually won the lottery (Nets in ’90, Cavs in ’03, Magic in ’04).
However, only six times in this same time span has a team that finished better than at least five other teams in the league won the lottery and received the No. 1 overall pick.
While some would imply that it’s only rational for teams that suffered greatly to have a better opportunity at attaining the No. 1 pick, one could propose that this system rewards losing too much.
It was very evident last season that Charlotte purposely tried to be in the best possible position to land the No. 1 pick and get Anthony Davis. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the plan backfired and in a one-star draft, the Bobcats got the No. 2 selection.
While extremely simplistic, the NFL’s system (record determines draft order) markedly rewards losing. That indisputably is not an appropriate solution to the puzzle.
Here is my proposal:
Forget records and ping pong balls to determine draft order, teams should play for the right to get the No. 1 pick and subsequent picks after that.
While playoff teams compete for an NBA championship, non-playoff teams should compete for draft order.
Formatted as a one-game elimination tournament, the 14 teams that did not qualify for the postseason play until there is one team standing. The winner of the bracket earns the No. 1 pick; the runner-up gets the No 2 pick, etc. etc.
One problem that would arise is the fact that it may be a bit meaningless for forthcoming free agents to play hard for teams they may not be playing for next season.
Others would claim that the teams that had better records among the non-playoff teams would have a more favorable chance of getting higher picks since they were more competitive compared to the teams at the very bottom. This, however, could be somewhat resolved by allowing the team that had a worse record in each matchup to have home-court advantage.
Implementing such a process would not only provide a tangible way to determine draft order, but it would also be extremely entertaining.
Just think back to last season. Imagine if the 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs competed in one of these tournaments and at stake was Kentucky’s Davis. Fans of these teams would be cheering as if every game was Game 7 of the NBA Finals.
While certainly better than some of the alternatives, the current draft lottery system has some flaws. It would be more relieving to know that a team was able to launch back into the playoff picture based on their accomplishment on the court rather than getting lottery lucky or abusing losing in any way.
Wouldn't this method be a win-win situation? Literally.
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