Photo courtesy of Jennifer Pottheiser, Getty Images

Draft Lottery: Conspiracies Edition

The NBA Draft Lottery is tonight, which means that the entire city of Los Angeles is praying at the altar of David Stern that the Lakers keep their pick.

If the Lakers fall out of the top 3, not only does their first round pick go to the Philadelphia 76ers, they lose their 2019 first round pick to the Orlando Magic. The Lakers are one of the league’s two-most storied franchises, are run by NBA legend Magic Johnson, and play in one of the largest markets in America. Imagine the implications if they don’t keep their pick…

Well, let’s be real. You better believe the NBA won’t let that happen, especially considering the recent history of the Draft Lottery.

2016: Mutombo Gives Hinkie The Finger (Wag)

You don’t have to look back very far. Sam Hinkie should be immortalized by the city of Philadelphia. The mastermind behind “The Process” spent three years shamelessly tanking in order to land the top spot in the draft, before resigning (he was forced out) by the NBA. He was replaced by the Colangelos, on the advice of commissioner Adam Silver.

Jerry Colangelo used to be the owner of the Phoenix Suns, and according to several reports had spent years unsuccessfully trying to get back into the NBA. Naturally, eyebrows were raised when Silver played a role in getting him back into the league, but the real fire was when Dikembe Mutombo tweeted this out:

How did Mutombo know?

Take special note of the time and date. May 17th, 2016 was indeed the day of the NBA Draft Lottery, but it wasn’t until hours later that the 76ers actually won the lottery, and “The Process” was vindicated.

So how did Mutombo know that the 76ers were going to win the lottery hours before the rest of the world found out? Could it simply have been a lucky guess? Or was it because Mutombo had some inside information? It’s the latter, everyone. It’s definitely the latter.

Imagine how awful a look it would have been for Silver and the NBA if he put his buddy Colangelo in charge and the team continued to flame out. Handing him the first overall pick was the only way to make sure that didn’t happen.

The only question remaining is how did Mutombo become privy to such information?

2011, 2013, and 2014: From Wasteland to Believeland

Every NBA fan belongs to a generation. That generation is defined as the era during which a great player dominated the league. In the 80’s it was the Magic and Bird era, in the 90’s it was the Jordan era, and in the 2000’s it’s been LeBron’s era.

LeBron James could be appearing in his seventh straight NBA Finals come June. It would also be his eighth overall. He first reached the Finals in 2007 with his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers only to get unceremoniously swept by the Spurs.

After three years of falling short, he took his talents to South Beach and the Cavaliers went from being a perrenial 60 win team to a bottomfeeding 19 win team. Through a lucky midseason trade, the Cavaliers acquired the Clippers first round pick. It went on to be the first overall pick, despite just a 2.8 percent chance of winning the lottery. The team selected Kyrie Irving, who hit a three-pointer in the NBA Finals or something.

Two years later, the Cavaliers found themselves in a familiar spot, drafting first overall again, except this time they took the biggest bust in NBA history, Anthony Bennett. (Greg Oden does not deserve that title, it’s not his fault he couldn’t stay healthy, whereas Bennett was just bad.)

The basketball gods didn’t care about the Cavaliers franchise-wide incompetence and gifted the team the first overall pick again the next year too, days before LeBron James opted opt out of his contract with the Miami Heat…

The Cavs selected Andrew Wiggins, LeBron wrote a letter announcing his return to Cleveland, and went out of his way to mention some of his new Cavs teammates. Interestingly, neither Wiggins nor Bennett were mentioned.

A few weeks later they were both traded to Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love and three years later the Cavaliers are on the verge of their third straight Finals.

Anyone else find it odd that the LeBron has as much help as he does?

2012: Basketball Reasons Part II

Remember that time that the New Orleans Pelicans (known back then as the Hornets) traded Chris Paul to the Lakers, except that David Stern vetoed the trade for “basketball reasons” and Paul ended up with Los Angeles’ other team?

At the time, the Hornets were a mess. The NBA’s other 29 owners had to step in and buy the team, and as such the Hornets were owned by the NBA itself. The NBA was desperately trying to find someone to buy the team, and had just shipped out its franchise player. The team was going to mire in mediocrity and the franchise’s value was hemhorraging.

And then fate intervined. The Hornets only had a 13.7 percent chance of landing the top pick, but they did. You know, because of basketball reasons. They went on to draft Anthony Davis, still one of the league’s two best under-25 players (Giannis is the best, don’t @ me) and Tom Benson swooped in and bought the team.

Perhaps the greatest irony was that it was another fuck you from New Orleans to city of Charlotte. Remember the Hornets were originally from Charlotte, but the team moved to New Orleans. Making matters worse was that Charlotte’s new team the Bobcats had the best odds of getting the top pick, because they had set a record for worst winning percentage in league history.

Instead, the Bobcats got the second overall pick, and ended up losing their right to host the All-Star game five years later to New Orleans after the team and city spent over a combined $40 million on arena renovations… Charlotte might be the most cursed city in the NBA, and we all know how competitive Michael Jordan is. I heard Seattle is looking for a team, MJ.

2010: Guns in the Arenas

The state of Washington D.C.’s professional basketball team in 2010 should have been the city’s lowest point. Gilbert Arenas, the team’s star player, and Javaris Crittenton, his backup, played a card game on a flight leading to a dispute over $1,100.

The dispute came to a head, when Arenas and Crittenton pulled guns on each other in the locker room. Here is teammate Caron Butler’s account of the exchange:

“Hey, MF, come pick one,” said Arenas pointing to the guns he brought. “I’m going to shoot your [expletive] with one of these.”

“Oh no, you don’t need to shoot me with one of those,” retorted Crittenton. “I’ve got one right here.”

Crittenton had turned, and cocked a loaded gun, pointing it right at Arenas.

Thankfully, neither pulled the trigger and both were soon off the team. The team, in desperate need of a new identity, got the first overall pick and drafted John Wall, despite just a 7.6 percent chance of getting the top pick. Actually, you know what- thank god for the NBA helping the Wizards get John Wall.

The Wizards signature moment of the last three decades

2001: The Eastern Conference Finals

The 76ers shot 186 free throws compared to 120 for the Bucks, game 4 remains one of the most egregiously officiated games in NBA history, and oh wait…

In any case, just remember all of these happened this decade. Don’t even get me started on the Ewing draft or the Magic getting back to back first overall picks. Rest easy, Lakers fans. No way, you lose your picks.