Dallas Mavericks

May 19, 2014

Draft lottery losers can still come out winners

History shows a team can win despite losing the draw.

Dreams will be made Tuesday night when the NBA holds its annual draft lottery in New York City.

Well, if you want to characterize the lottery winner as having the opportunity to choose between Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Plano’s Julius Randle as a dream.

Of course, every year everybody says this is a good draft filled with a lot of franchise-type players, and every year that turns out not to be true. And this year more pipe-dreamers await those teams looking at the draft lottery as the cure-all for the reasons they’re in the draft lottery to begin with.

There is no Patrick Ewing, Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, LeBron James or Dwight Howard awaiting the winner. So don’t get your hopes up, regardless of what you hear from the various hoop analysts.

But there are some nice pieces that can help a team or two progress and possibly not be in the draft lottery again next season.

I remember attending last year’s draft lottery in New York, and witnessing the overwhelming joy the Cleveland Cavaliers exhibited after they won the top pick in the draft. I remember everyone taking pictures with teenager Nick Gilbert — the son of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert — who was hailed as the team’s lucky charm in helping them win the draft lottery.

With that top pick the Cavs drafted Anthony Bennett. The same Anthony Bennett who started no games as a rookie on a team that was in the lottery last year, and on a team that’s back in the lottery again this year.

Some luck.

All the excuses about Bennett being hurt before the draft are legit. So why get all excited about winning the draft lottery when you seriously felt the best player in the draft was a player who had to undergo shoulder surgery?

Bennett wound up playing 52 games this season and averaged a mere 4.2 points and three rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game. And he became the first healthy No. 1 overall pick in the draft to receive no points in the Rookie of the Year voting.

Thus, while fans get all in a tizzy after their favorite team wins the draft lottery, let the winner beware. Sometimes there are as many players such as Pervis Ellison, Michael Olowokandi, Kwame Brown and Anthony Bennett awaiting the lottery winner as there is a David Robinson, Yao Ming, Allen Iverson, Shaq or LeBron.

Unless a player has a legitimate “can’t-miss franchise” tag written all over him, winning the draft lottery isn’t that big of a deal. There are always some precious gems found for those teams who don’t win this made-for-TV event.

Stephen Curry was chosen seventh in 2009, the same year Toronto chose DeMar DeRozan with the ninth pick. Paul George was the 10th selection in 2010, while the teams that drafted Russell Westbrook (fourth), Kevin Love (fifth) and Roy Hibbert (17th) in 2008 didn’t win the draft lottery.

In addition, in 2007 the folks in Seattle were all bummed out when they lost the draft lottery to Portland. The Trail Blazers used the top pick to draft Greg Oden, leaving Seattle — which moved its franchise to Oklahoma City in 2008 — having to settle for Kevin Durant.

The Dallas Mavericks didn’t win the 1998 draft lottery, but still came away with Dirk Nowitzki that year. However, the Mavs also missed out on another basketball treasure.

Unable to win the top spot in the 1996 draft lottery, the Mavs wound up with the ninth pick that year. They chose Samaki Walker. Kobe Bryant was drafted four spots later.

That’s the kind of stuff that would be trending on Twitter if it happened during today’s social media climate.

Last year, the Mavs were in the draft lottery, but traded down twice and ended up taking Shane Larkin with the 18th pick. A year later, with no impact from Larkin, they made the playoffs and had a strong first-round showing before losing to the San Antonio Spurs in seven games.

The draft lottery consists of the 14 teams that didn’t qualify for the playoffs, or the team that holds the draft rights of the team that missed the playoffs.

What fans should always remember about the draft lottery is that it’s not whether your team wins or loses Tuesday night’s event, it’s the performance of your team’s front office/ownership on draft day that matters most. You could be the biggest losers in the draft lottery and still walk away as the biggest winner.

Hibbert wasn’t even a lottery pick, and he’s worked out just fine for the Pacers. And Kobe was the very last pick of the teams that were in the 1996 draft lottery.

Imagine getting all dressed up for the lottery, then going home afterward and telling your wife that you finished dead-last. But you wound up with Kobe Bryant.

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