On Tuesday night, a number of dreams were cast to the winds while others were shattered. The NBA Draft Lottery took place and the Boston Celtics came away with the number one overall pick. The same Celtics franchise that opened the Eastern Conference Finals at home against the reigning champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The same Celtics team that finished the regular season with the most victories in the Eastern Conference, thus garnering the number one seed and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The same home court advantage that helped them beat the Washington Wizards on Sunday.
That Celtics team. That team is going to get the number one pick in the 2017 draft followed by the Los Angeles Lakers and (yes, again) the Philadelphia 76ers. The lottery is for losers, by that I mean losing teams. The Lakers and 76ers COMBINED, won one more game than the Celtics did last season (54-53). COMBINED. The lottery is for losers, there’s no reason for fans to cheer.
The top two players in this year’s draft class -Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball- are guards. Very good guards, talented basketball players without a doubt, but guards all the same. Not Kobe Bryant and Jason Kidd-type guards, i.e. game changers. One-and-done, 20-year old guards that will most likely play on losing teams full of other 20-somethings forced into losing following the exhilaration of being the belle of the lottery ball. Getting excited about your team getting a lottery pick is like being happy you only broke your arm in the fall. Sure it could have been worse but you have a broken arm. How is that a good thing?
The 76ers with the addition of another player fresh off an NCAA tournament appearance or in the case of Fultz, no so much, will not be better. In fact, it’s safe to say they will be worse. Fans are still waiting to see last year’s first overall pick Ben Simmons play his first game after a year off with an injury.
How many lottery picks will it take to both satisfy hungry fan bases and actually win games? Don’t ask Minnesota and Sacramento, both of those teams are regular visitors to the lottery and haven’t made the playoffs in over a decade. The last time either team was good was when they fielded starting lineups of veteran players a la Kevin Garnett, Sam Cassell, latrell Sprewell and Chris Webber, Vlade Divac and Mike Bibby. Rookies don’t win championships. The lottery is for losers. No really that’s how you get in it in the first place. Lose games (or some say “tank”) and you can find your front office and fans praying (in some cases literally) for the right to draft a 21-year old not named Magic Johnson, Shaq or Lebron James. In other words, if you don’t get that once-in-a-lifetime transformative player (only Lebron came straight from high school on that short list) you’re a shoe-in to be back where you started.
This weekend’s conference finals will be between four teams that are currently being led by former lottery picks. That is the logic behind the love of the NBA Draft Lottery: One day we too can be playing for a trip to the finals like Golden State and Cleveland. Good luck with that science. Steph Curry (3 years), Draymond Green (4 years) and Klay Thompson (3 years) all played college ball for longer than a few semesters.
The lottery is for losers, just ask the Celtics leading scorer Isaiah Thomas, the furthest thing from a lottery pick. Thomas was selected last overall in 2011.