NBA Rumor: Draft Lottery

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“We’re going to get this ball rolling,” said Jamin Dershowitz, the NBA’s assistant general counsel, an unintentional pun that kicked off one of the league’s most elaborate—and perhaps a little absurd—postseason events. The NBA draft lottery has been around since 1985, back when David Stern, annoyed at a handful of teams openly losing to secure a better place in the draft order, pushed through a new system. It has evolved since then, from envelopes to ping pong balls, weighted odds to flatter ones, but for nearly four decades the lottery has been a big night on the NBA calendar.

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Here’s how it works: Fourteen ping pong balls are slid into a plastic container and sent into motion by air pumped through the bottom. The balls—each one weighed, measured and certified by SmartPlay, a lottery integrity company and sealed in a zip tied case—are inserted one at a time by Peter Rosenbaum, a partner at Ernst & Young. There are 1,001 possible four-digit combinations, with the three teams with the worst record—Orlando, Houston and Detroit—getting 140 apiece. The drawing itself is carefully curated: each ball is vacuumed out at precise ten-second intervals, prompted by an NBA official standing on the opposite side of the room—with his back turned.

It’s just after 5:30 CT when the doors to the drawing room, located this year inside the McCormack Place Convention Center are flung open. Each team sends in one representative. They range from high ranking executives (New Orleans’s David Griffin, Washington’s Tommy Sheppard) to behind the scenes staffers (Clay Allen, the Rockets General Counsel, John Kehriotis, one of Sacramento’s minority owners). For years the NBA has allowed a few members of the media—SI was one of them—in to observe. Electronic devices, from cell phones to digital recorders, are checked at the door. Byron Spruell, the president of league operations, emcees the event, which is overseen by members of NBA security.

The drawing continued. 2 … 7 … 14 … 9. Sam Presti, Oklahoma City’s top exec, sat motionless. In his pocket were two rocks. One a gift from his seven-year old son, Nicholas, two years ago, another an emerald green crystal given to him by his wife more recently. Nicholas’s rock normally sits on Presti’s desk in Oklahoma. He takes it with him on walks or, in this case, whenever he needs a little luck. Presti’s last trip to the drawing room was in 2009, when the Thunder jumped up one spot, positioning the team to draft a dynamic guard from Arizona State named James Harden. This time around, Oklahoma City jumped from fourth to second, guaranteeing the Thunder, which added Josh Giddey to a growing young core last season, another blue chip prospect. As Presti noted earlier in the day, ““Luck plays a much bigger role in all of our lives than we’d like to admit.”

Mark Berman: #Rockets GM Rafael Stone says he’ll listen to other general managers who express interest in trading for the third-overall pick: “If there’s something that makes sense for both teams it’ll get done.” pic.twitter.com/Wyhr5amax2

Weltman said he believes there are “a lot of elite level prospects” at the top of the draft, and the team will do its due diligence. “I do feel that as [these top prospects] start to make the rounds, teams will start to fall in love with guys, which is what generally happens,” Weltman said. “And generally leverage will kind of unfold from there, but I know we’ll have a lot of interesting discussions with teams. Obviously we don’t go into this thing looking to trade our pick. “We look to add a really talented, young, high-character guy to our talent base and our roster. I have no expectations on it. Obviously, we’ll continue to do our work. This really doesn’t change much of the way that we’ll approach the draft. We’re just really excited to be able to fall in love with somebody and pick that player.”

Pritchard added that since the Pacers didn’t get the No. 1 pick, they’ll keep all of their options open, including the chance to move into the top five. “We’ve got cap space. We’ve got a good pick,” Pritchard said. ” … We liked the fifth pick better, but we like the sixth pick. “The gamut of what we can do is wide and wider than I’ve ever seen ever in my time in this league, and I like that because now we get to get on the board and look at every scenario. There won’t be one. There won’t be two. There might 50 things we’ll look (at) up on the board, and that’s when you can be aggressive.”

Wrapping up with some minutiae: as it turns out, the Pistons and Cavaliers got lucky twice on lottery night. The way the lottery works is that the league draws combinations for the first four slots in order, with any team repeats being thrown out and re-drawn. According to a source with knowledge of the proceedings, the NBA had to draw six times for four slots, with the order being Detroit, then Houston, then Detroit again, then Cleveland, Cleveland again, and finally, Toronto. Conspiracy theorists, do your worst.

But here’s the thing: The Cavs are finally in position where there’s no wrong answer. “It’s a tremendous opportunity. I think it really positions us well,” Altman said. “When we started this a few years back we talked about building through the draft and creating sustainable success. There’s some real game-changers at the top of this draft, but also it puts us in a position to capitalize on different opportunities. When you look at our young core, we’re in good shape from a talent perspective and we’re going to have another large injection of talent coming soon. At the top of this draft there’s size, there’s athleticism, there’s talent, so we’re really happy.

Tuesday’s result changes … everything. “I didn’t think it would be the third pick, but we always knew we were going to add another young talented player in this draft and then go from there,” Altman said. “What we always try to do is create a pathway for success. It won’t be any different with this young man. The difference is these players, this high level, they’re really talented and can play right away. We might have to do some internal adjustment to how we gauge what we wanted to do right out of the gate, but we still want to supplement that four that we talked about. The difference is there could be a game changer where we’re picking.

So desperate, Gansey contemplated bringing his 2016 championship ring for good luck. Only he didn’t want that with him for a week of scouting in Chicago. Instead, he brought his three-year-old son Griffin’s favorite toy — Super Wings Jerome. It was on the table as the placards were revealed one by one. Anxiousness filled the room. Eventually, the Thunder were revealed at No. 6. That meant the Cavs had moved into the top 4. Gansey delightedly slammed his fist on the table and the rest of the contingent celebrated. Altman looked on with excitement as the TV coverage went to commercial. “That damn commercial break felt so long,” a source said.

Rockets open to trading No. 2 draft pick

It’s the first top pick for the franchise since center Bob Lanier out of St. Bonaventure University in 1970 “Obviously we get to add another wing player to the restoration process,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver told reporters. “We’re excited to be in this position. But it means that we’ve got a lot of work to do and we’re going to be diligent about it. But it always helps to be able to add the number one pick.” Rockets general manager Rafael Stone told reporters after the lottery that he was open to trading the No. 2 pick. “We don’t want to foreclose anything,” he said. “We’re open to a trade.”

Cavaliers also interested in trading lottery pick

The NBA hasn’t seen very many high lottery picks traded in the recent future, but this lottery could be different with several teams interested in trading for a more established player. “There are multiple teams, I’m told: Cleveland, Minnesota, Houston, who are going to be very aggressive if they’re in the top of this lottery with perhaps putting those picks in trades to bring back young veteran players or All-Star caliber players to accelerate their rebuilds,” said Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN shortly before the draft.

The Oklahoma City Thunder, who have 19 first-round picks through 2027, have three first-round draft selections in 2021. They landed the No. 6 pick in the lottery. Complete lottery results: 1. Detroit Pistons 2. Houston Rockets 3. Cleveland Cavaliers 4. Toronto Raptors 5. Orlando Magic 6. Oklahoma City Thunder 7. Golden State Warriors 8. Orlando Magic 9. Sacramento Kings 10. New Orleans Pelicans 11. Charlotte Hornets 12. San Antonio Spurs 13. Indiana Pacers 14. Golden State Warriors

Regardless, there’s no doubt the Timberwolves will take the major victory anyway, as landing the No. 1 pick gives the franchise a ton of flexibility, be it to acquire their next franchise cornerstone to fit alongside Karl-Anthony Towns and D’Angelo Russell or to trade down for multiple assets. What’s interesting is that even with the huge win in this year’s draft lottery, the Wolves still hold the honor of statistically being the unluckiest team in lottery history. That’s how bad their luck had been before this year.

With Minnesota moving up for the first time, that leaves just the Dallas Mavericks, the Detroit Pistons, the Denver Nuggets and the Miami Heat as the only teams who have never moved up from their pre-lottery position. On the other side of the spectrum, the three luckiest teams in lottery history are the Philadelphia 76ers, the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Charlotte Hornets, who have moved up eight times and three times apiece respectively.

They consider Lacob unusually lucky, for various reasons. He told them, semi-facetiously, something to the effect of: “I don’t do lotteries. I do championships.” When ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne asked Lacob about that cheeky line, he chuckled. “This is gonna be like the ‘light years’ thing,” Lacob said. “I did say that. But when you’re in last place, you shouldn’t really have much to say.” Stephen Curry was the next and obvious choice. He had one request, Golden State higher-ups said: Ask Klay first. Thompson apparently passed.

“We couldn’t be more pleased to land the first overall pick in this year’s draft, marking only the second time in franchise history,” said Timberwolves President of Basketball Operations Gersson Rosas. “We are excited for the possibilities ahead of us to bring in a high caliber player now that we secured the first overall selection. As a front office, we are proud of what we’ve built here in Minnesota so far and we are looking forward to continuing to build upon that foundation in this year’s draft.”

“I’m glad I could represent for the state of Minnesota at the draft lottery the same way we plan to show out for our fans when we get back on the court,” said Timberwolves guard D’Angelo Russell. “The number one pick is exciting to have, it makes me think back to when Karl and I got drafted 1,2 in the 2015 draft. There’s so much buzz and energy during the draft as a player and I really look forward to seeing what Gersson and the front office will do to build upon our 2020-21 roster with this pick. I know we’re ready to compete and I can’t wait to see who joins us next.”
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January 29, 2023 | 7:45 am EST Update

Anthony Davis rips officiating after loss to Celtics: 'We got cheated'

“As much as you try not to put it on the officiating, it’s becoming increasingly difficult,” Ham said. “There’s a bunch of stuff we could have did better in this game, but for the most part, we competed our behinds off, played the right way, played together, stayed aggressive, playing down, playing in the paint. And it’s unfortunate that the game ends off a play like that.” “We got cheated,” forward Anthony Davis said.
“He fouled him. He fouled him. Clearly. Clearly,” said Davis, who had 16 points and 10 rebounds in his second game back from injury. “It’s bulls—. But at the end of the day, like, it’s unacceptable. And I guarantee nothing is gonna happen to the refs. We got cheated tonight, honestly. It’s a blatant foul. Pat [Beverly] got all ball on I think Brown — Jaylen Brown. They call a foul. And Bron gets smacked across the arm [and they don’t]. It’s unacceptable, to be honest. The refs were bad. They were bad tonight.”
Sources not authorized to speak publicly said the Lakers were quickly informed by NBA officiating staff after the game that a foul should’ve been called on the play. Later, crew chief Eric Lewis said the officials should’ve whistled a foul. “There was contact,” he told a pool reporter. “At the time, during the game, we did not see a foul. The crew missed the play.”
Storyline: Officiating Complaints