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Why there’s a 99.3 percent chance the NBA lottery is fixed

The NBA lottery is obviously rigged. Too often – i.e., every time – the NBA’s darling team has received No. 1 pick. I don’t even need to watch tonight’s lottery to know it will happen again. It’s just so obvious who will “earn” the right to draft Anthony Davis.

Charlotte Bobcats

Odds of winning the lottery: 25 percent 100 percent

Michael Jordan was a hardliner during the lockout, and Stern will reward him. Charlotte is in danger of losing two NBA teams in a decade, but Anthony Davis would change all that. It’s better for the NBA if Michael Jordan, its greatest marketing star of all time, is watching over a contender, not arguably the worst team of all time.

Washington Wizards

Odds of winning the lottery: 19.9 percent 100 percent

John Wall, with his flashy style, could be the league’s next star. He just needs a reliable sidekick, like Anthony Davis, and his uneven play will steady. President Obama is a big basketball fan, and although he supports the Bulls, if there were reason for him to attend more Wizards games, that would draw significant attention to the NBA. Plus, the NBA has an obvious East Coast bias.

New Orleans Hornets

Odds of winning the lottery: 14.8 percent 100 percent

The NBA no longer owns the Hornets, but is still committed to keeping them in New Orleans. With their arena improvements needing approval of the state legislature in July, the Hornets could ride the Anthony Davis buzz and ensure there are no hitches. The league spent a year-and-a-half trying to sell the team without finding a buyer, so maybe Tom Benson needed a No. 1 pick thrown in the deal. David Stern has also meddled in the Hornets’ business before, in the Chris Paul trade. Davis would help Eric Gordon, and therefore Stern’s reputation, because Stern was the one who handpicked Gordon for the Hornets rather than taking the Lakers’ offer.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Odds of winning the lottery: 13.8 percent 100 percent

Cleveland deserves another top pick after LeBron James left town. Kyrie Irving alone can’t replace LeBron, but with Anthony Davis, the pair could do it. Think of the ratings a Cavaliers-Heat games would generate if both teams were good. Dan Gilbert didn’t deserve the treatment LeBron gave him, and David Stern will compensate Gilbert according – with Davis.

Sacramento Kings

Odds of winning the lottery: 7.6 percent 100 percent

The Kings are in limbo, and their negotiations for a new arena in Sacramento have fallen apart. Anthony Davis would give the Kings more leverage in their negotiations with Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. If that works, Davis could rekindle the fire of Sacramento’s passionate fan base. If not, Davis could increase the Kings’ bargaining power with a new city.

Brooklyn Nets

Odds of winning the lottery: 7.5 percent 100 percent

Moving into a new city, the Nets need a draw to attract the area’s surplus of fans and advertisers. That starts with Deron Williams, who might bail unless the Nets land Dwight Howard. The simplest way to ensure Williams and Howard play in a large market is to give the Nets the No. 1 pick, which they can deal to Orlando for Howard. Even if the Magic are still reluctant to trade Howard, they would surely have a difficult time turning down Anthony Davis.

Golden State Warriors

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.6 percent 100 percent

Joe Lacob and Peter Gruber paid $450 million for the Warriors. What do you think they were paying for? The No. 1 pick. The Warriors are likely moving to San Francisco, and a star like Anthony Davis would increase interest in the team and pave obstacles faced in the transition from Oakland. The Warriors play in an incredibly wealthy market, and Davis would allow the NBA to tap into those riches.

Toronto Raptors

Odds of winning the lottery: 3.5 percent 100 percent

David Stern is obsessed with expanding the NBA across the globe, and the Raptors are the league’s only international team. Although Canada isn’t overseas, Toronto is a valuable test case for the league’s foreign efforts. Plus, Toronto’s large international population could serve as a gateway to many more nations. All the Raptors need is Anthony Davis, and then the world will belong to the NBA.

Detroit Pistons

Odds of winning the lottery: 1.7 percent 100 percent

The Pistons have been one of the NBA’s flagship franchises, and it’s better for the league when they’re good. At their best, the Pistons led the NBA in attendance, but lately, they’ve ranked near the bottom.  There might not be another team than needs Anthony Davis more and could win right away with him. The Pistons would allow Davis to take full advantage of his individual potential, immediately become a star and reach the playoffs. Think the NBA could market that?

Portland Trail Blazers

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.8 percent 100 percent

Paul Allen has spent a lot of money on the Trail Blazers over the years and has been generally good for the league. If he’s considering selling the team, David Stern could help him receive a good offer by giving Anthony Davis to the Trail Blazers and instantly making the franchise more valuable. Portland has some of the most loyal fans in the league, but they’ve recently lost Brandon Roy to what was a career-ending injury and Greg Oden to what might be a career-ending injury. They can only take so much. The Trail Blazers would be a good caretaker for Davis, and his national popularity would have a strong base from which to grow.

Milwaukee Bucks

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.7 percent

David Stern is not fixing the lottery for Milwaukee.

Phoenix Suns

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.6 percent 100 percent

Steve Nash will be a free agent this summer, and if he leaves the Suns, they will become completely irrelevant. And his new team, likely already a power, will have diminishing returns in terms of popularity. Therefore, it makes sense to give Anthony Davis to Phoenix and entice Nash to re-sign.

Houston Rockets

Odds of winning the lottery: 0.5 percent 100 percent

Houston is America’s largest city without a playoff team, and as San Antonio nears the end of its run (maybe?), the league could start the transition of giving Texas fans another successful team to spend their money on. David Stern also owes the Rockets for nixing the original Chris Paul trade and preventing them from getting Pau Gasol. Why do you suppose the Rockets didn’t make a bigger stink about getting cheated? Stern promised them the No. 1 pick.

So, there you have it. The lottery is fixed, and if you can’t see that, you must be blind. The narrative is so glaringly obvious. We’ll just have to pick which one to remember.


  • May 30, 20122:50 pm
    by John V


    Ha! Poor Milwaukee, always stuck in lottery limbo.

  • May 30, 20122:53 pm
    by Birdman84


    Well done, Mr. Feldman.

  • May 30, 20123:10 pm
    by tarsier


    Fantastic post. Thank you for helping to point out the idiocy of the conspiracy theorists.

  • May 30, 20123:26 pm
    by brgulker


    Nicely done, Dan!

  • May 30, 20123:48 pm
    by Josh B


    Nice, I got a good laugh outta……”David Stern is not fixing the lottery for Milwaukee.”

  • May 30, 20124:48 pm
    by Haan


    Good point, Dan, but I still like Charlotte’s odds for #1 more than the official 25%.

  • May 30, 20124:55 pm
    by Alex


    I think you are 100% right about the nba lottery being fixed… so which three teams with 100 percent chance will “earn” the right for the first three picks? And i’d have a hard time believing the Pistons would ever benefit from David Stern, put us in the Milwaukee column as far as i’m concerned.

  • May 30, 20125:29 pm
    by TheDude


    I thoroughly enjoyed this. May the Stern have pity on us today.

  • May 30, 20125:45 pm
    by Jeremy


    They really should have everything done live. Imagine this: the balls drop for the #1 pick, camera’s switch between team representatives as they search to see if their “lottery ticket” matches the numbers, winning team representative nearly kicks the table over when he/she realizes they got the pick… Balls go back in and repeat…that would make for great television…

  • May 30, 20126:08 pm
    by Desolation Row


    Eh… I’m a slight conspiracy theorist. That’s why I enjoy the NBA more than college — it just feels more like real life: there’s always a feeling that someone, somewhere is pulling strings, even slightly, that benefit certain groups over others. 

    I wouldn’t knock conspiracy theories because, really, how ridiculous was it that Cleveland won the lottery the summer after losing LB23? Or that series against Cleveland in 2007? For that matter, screw Cleveland.

    I’m hoping Stern decides to recapture lost attendance in Detroit and gives it to us.

  • May 31, 20123:18 am
    by Ignarus


    awesome. deadspin/grantland hit the same theme, but not nearly as creatively. great job :)

  • May 31, 20123:55 pm
    by Scott Free


    Just because conspiracy theorists tend to find evidence that supports their theories, doesn’t mean a conspiracy doesn’t exist… but you have demonstrated the futility in claiming it.  

    Simply put, The NBA front-office has too much control over the game to be objective.  I think Feldman proved they have too much vested interest (from a variety of perspectives) in the NBA’s success NOT to interfere.

    Basketball, like everything else in this world is a business, and unlike many other sports, almost NO independent scrutiny over their practices.  I can’t say the draft is rigged.. but there is TOO large of a conflict of interest to blithely ignore the possibility, as the author has attempted.

    • May 31, 201211:49 pm
      by tarsier


      Three can keep a secret if two are dead.

      Unless Stern, or someone else, is a mastermind who has figured out how to rig the league without any help, such a conspiracy would inevitably come out. Conspiracy theorists never take into account just how hard it is to suppress something that juicy.

      They cannot give the top pick to multiple teams. So having a vested interest in every team simply means having it in none. It is, after all, a relative thing. If every scenario is one that would please the NBA, they may as well let it play out naturally and be pleased by whatever happens.

  • May 31, 20124:40 pm
    by Bob Koca


     Milwaukee 100%.  There is no reason to help out Milwaukee and thus Stern must in order to squash the growing conpiracy rumors.

  • [...] draft lottery has come and gone, fixed as obviously as it was in 1985. Now we’re starting to get a better picture of who will end up where, and we can try to [...]

  • Jun 14, 20127:24 am
    by Rawdog


    Seems power is money and money is power. The ping pong balls should be live, so everybody has a fair shot at #1.

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