Why NBA Lottery Does Not Matter

NBAFor the second year in a row, and for the third time in four years, the hard-to-watch and often baffling Cleveland Cavaliers will make the first selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. Luckily, for fans and teams alike, the lottery does not matter and the outcome of the bouncing balls and where they landed will play very little role or have any type of real consequences or outcome on the 2014 season or beyond.

With the first pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers have a wide variety of players to choose from. Joel Embiid, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Aaron Gordon are all solid players. The truth is, any one of these guys would make for a solid first overall pick and, most likely, their impact will be felt in the NBA in the coming years. They are four extremely talented prospects who all bring different skill sets to the table and will likely all have promising NBA careers, but in the end, none of them are sure bets. Just like the lottery, it is a gamble. Every year, teams are looking for the next LeBron, but like the search for Bobby Fischer, the quest mostly leads to empty roads, sad situations, unfulfilled outcomes, and a longer, drawn out search for “the next.”

Chances are that any of these college standouts will be a better selection than Cleveland’s Anthony Bennett who was last year’s number one overall pick, and averaged a whopping 4.2 ppg while pulling down just 3.0 rebounds per game this past season. The Cavaliers rolled the dice and, so far, they have come up empty. However, based on the talent coming out in this year’s draft, it would take a failure of epic proportions for the Cavaliers to mess this one up. Closing their eyes and picking one of four or five names out of a hat could net the team a superstar this year. It may even be more effective than taking the next two months to break down a player’s game, as it may cause the team to read too much into the overall decision. Vertical leap, shuttle runs, agility skill tests and shooting drills are all measured, but in the end, nobody measures killer instinct and a player’s mental drive.

There is also good news for the Bucks, 76ers, Magic, and Jazz, who own the following four picks. No matter who the team before them selects, a very good player will be left standing. This is a big reason why the does not matter. Though the Cavaliers grabbed the first overall pick, the teams that lost the lottery will still come out way ahead. Take science and tests out of the equation, and what is left are very good basketball players. All have their strengths and all have their weakness. It is a matter of mostly luck to find the player who will continue to progress and cut down on their so-called weaknesses.

Yes, many in the basketball world felt great disappointment as the Cavaliers again won the first overall pick, despite their 1.7 percent chance, but fans should have no fear or question how long the Cavs’ LeBron James karma can continue. If the Cavs pick Joel Embiid, the 7’0 center from Kansas, the following teams will not be crying in the Gatorade cooler after missing out on the next great one as the draft board will still have potential stars in the making. Fellow Jayhawk Andrew Wiggins would make for a solid number two pick, but just in case teams are not excited about the 6’8 guard who averaged 17.1 ppg and was once hailed as “The Next Lebron,” then Duke’s Jabari Parker, who is considered the draft’s most NBA-ready prospect, or Arizona’s Aaron Gordon, who nearly tested off the charts in his NBA combine workouts, would make sense.

The talent is strong and runs deep in this year’s NBA draft, so despite the Cleveland Cavaliers again winning the lottery, the truth is that it does not matter. There is a plethora of talented players and, while Embiid may have the highest upside, the NBA has already recycled many players with great potential and “upside.” He may be special, but nobody can predict the future and nobody knows what will become of players, so before anyone cries that their team missed out on the first overall pick, it is worth noting that players like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul and hundreds of other great players were not chosen first overall.

Commentary by Johnny Caito

Sports Illustrated
Chicago Tribune

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