By: Bob Licht, @hortonhomers
May 25, 2012
The NBA Draft has morphed into a lottery event where even the worst team in league history is not guaranteed the top overall pick.
Is this fair? Is this justified? Is this even practical in todays NBA where One and Done college prospects are essentially playing a season of minor league basketball in preparation for the start of their professional careers?
Lets look back at the history of the NBA Draft to see how the Hornets might fare if these systems were in place today.
1947-65: TERRITORIAL PICKS
In the league's early years, when teams were struggling to include fan bases, the draft included territorial picks. Before the start of the draft, a team could forfeit its first-round pick and instead select a player from its immediate area. The idea was this local player would help draw larger crowds.
In 1956, the Celtics used a territorial pick to select Tom Heinsohn from Holy Cross in nearby Worcester, Mass. He went on to average 18.6 points and 8.8 rebounds, helping the Celtics to eight NBA championships in his nine-year career.
IF TERRITORIAL PICKS EXISTED FOR THE HORNETS IN 2012:
Scanning players from the SECwe can all likely come up with a star or two from that conference who might influence ticket sales. Aside from Kentuckys bevy of likely 1st rounders there is also this guy:
Arnett Moultrie, Mississippi State. 6-11 225. 21 years old. Averaged 16.4 ppg/10.5 rpg. Long and athletic big man who transferred from UTEP and sat out the 2010-11 season.
1966-84: COIN FLIP
In 1966, the league adopted a coin flip between the last-place finishers in each of its two divisions to determine which team would open the draft. This system remained in place until the first lottery in 1985. The remaining teams picked in inverse order of their won-lost records.
In 1979, the 31-51 Chicago Bulls lost a coin flip with the 26-56 New Orleans Jazz. So, the Jazz would have had the 1st pick and a chance to draftwait for itEarvin Magic Johnson. But the Jazz had to compensate the Lakers for having signed Los Angeles free agent Gail Goodrich and did so with three draft picks, including New Orleans' first round pick in 1979. This became the No. 1 pick after the coin toss, which in turn became Magic Johnson out of Michigan State.
The next season, led by their rookie guard, the Lakers became NBA champions for the second time since moving to Los Angeles. Oh yes, and the New Orleans Jazz became the Utah Jazz.
IF THE COIN FLIP EXISTED FOR THE HORNETS IN 2012:
Okay, lets all take a deep breath after re-reading the Magic Johnson was almost a New Orleans Jazz story. Okay. Now, if the coin flip rules were in place today the Hornets (21-45) and last in the Western Conference would be in a coin toss with the 7-59 Charlotte Bobcats, last in the East. Under these rules the WORST the Bees could pick is 2nd overall. Most Mock Drafts list a pair of Kentucky stars as the top two prospects in this draft.
1985: THE FIRST LOTTERY
Under the system adopted prior to the 1985 NBA Draft, the NBA Lottery determined the order of selection for the non-playoff teams (or the teams holding their picks through trades) for the first round only. Teams picked in inverse order of their records in the second round in all succeeding rounds.
In 1985, the jackpot of the very first NBA draft lottery was 7-0 Georgetown center Patrick Ewing. All seven teams that didn't make the playoffs had an equal chance of landing the No.1 pick and thereby, Ewing. A lucky bounce of the ping pong balls made the New York Knicks the first draft lottery winner and then-general manager (and Hall of Famer) Dave DeBusschere rose from his seat with a celebratory fist pump.
New York selected Ewing with the first overall pick in the 1985 draft and Ewing went on to play 15 seasons for the Knicks, leading them to the playoffs 13 times.
IF ONLY 7 TEAMS WERE INVOLVED IN THE LOTTERY FOR THE HORNETS IN 2012:
Well, lets see. Today the number has doubled to 14 non-playoff teams. In addition, there is no Patrick Ewing in this years draft. But, if only 7 teams were involved and the Hornets had TWO of those picks their chances of earning at least one of the top 3 picks would be greatly enhanced. I vote to eliminate the bottom seven lottery teams and allow the Hornets a 2 in 7 chance (29%) of getting the top pick.
1987-Present: TOP THREE TEAMS
Under a procedural change adopted by the Board of Governors in October of 1986, the Lottery determined the order of selection for the first three teams only. The remaining non-playoff teams selected in inverse order of their regular season records. Therefore, the team with the worst record in the league was assured of picking no worse than fourth, the team with the second-worst record no worse than fifth and so on.
In 1987, the Clippers finished with a league-worst 12-70 record, but didn't strike it lucky in the lottery and under the new rules, wound up with the fourth pick. The Spurs, who had the fourth-worst record at 28-54 struck gold with Navy center David Robinson at No. 1. Only one of the three worst teams that year wound up with one of the top three picks -- New Jersey, which picked Ohio State guard Dennis Hopson.
In 1988, again only one of the three worst teams wound up with one of the top three picks, but at least this time, the Clippers' lowest winning percentage paid off and L.A. won the draft lottery. The Clippers used the No. 1 pick on Kansas forward Danny Manning.
1989-Present: JUST TWO ROUNDS
In the early years of the draft, teams would select players until they ran out of prospects. The 1960 draft went 21 rounds. By 1974, it had stabilized to 10 rounds, which held up until 1985, when the draft was shortened to seven rounds. By agreement with the National Basketball Players' Association, the drafts from 1989 onward have been limited to two rounds, which gives undrafted players the chance to try out for any team.
Since the draft went to two rounds, eight second-round picks have gone on to become All-Stars: Jazz guard Jeff Hornacek (1992), Pistons forward Dennis Rodman (1992), Lakers guard Cedric Ceballos (1995), Raptors center Antonio Davis (2001), Bucks guard Michael Redd (2004), Wizards guard Gilbert Arenas (2005), Spurs guard Manu Ginobili (2005) and Sonics forward Rashard Lewis (2005). In 2003, Detroit's Ben Wallace and Indiana's Brad Miller became the first undrafted players to make the All-Star team.
SINCE GOING TO JUST TWO ROUNDS:
Since the Hornets second season of existence the NBA Draft has been just two rounds. Their best second round choices have been (in no particular order):
Malik Rose (44th overall, 96) - Drexel
Brandon Bass (33rd overall, 05) LSU
Marcus Thornton (43rd overall, 09) LSU (trade w/Miami)
1990-Present: WEIGHTED LOTTERY SYSTEM
In a further refinement in October of 1989, the Board of Governors adopted a weighted system beginning with the 1990 NBA Draft Lottery, which included 11 teams due to expansion. The team with the worst record during the regular season received 11 chances at the top pick (out of a total of 66), the second-worst team got 10 chances and the team with the best record among the non-playoff clubs got one chance.
The Magic defied the new lottery odds by winning the No. 1 pick two years in a row. In 1992, the weighted system worked in their favor as they parlayed the second-worst record (21-61) into LSU center Shaquille O'Neal. O'Neal helped Orlando make a 20-win improvement and the Magic just missed the playoffs at .500 in 1993. With just one chance out of 66, the Magic scored the No. 1 pick yet again and selected Michigan forward Chris Webber, trading him immediately to the Warriors for the draft rights to the No. 3 pick, Memphis guard Penny Hardaway and three future draft picks.
IF THE PREVIOUS WEIGHTED LOTTERY SYSTEM WERE IN EFFECT FOR THE HORNETS IN 2012:
The Hornets would have better odds than Orlando did in 1993 (0.15 percent) of getting the #1 overall pick. Thats all I got.
*THE NBA BOARD OF GOVERNORS MODIFIED THE LOTTERY SYSTEM IN 1994 TO INCREASE THE CHANCES OF TEAMS WITH THE WORST RECORDS WINNING ONE OF THE TOP 3 PICKS, WHILE DECREASING THE CHANCES OF TEAMS W/THE BEST RECORDS.
**FROM 1996-2003 THERE WAS A 13-TEAM LOTTERY
***SINCE 2004 THERE HAS BEEN A 14-TEAM LOTTERY
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