Top Five NBA Draft Lottery Conspiracies

The NBA has gotten a reputation of being a league of conspiracies, especially after this year’s NBA Finals & playoffs. As we saw in the playoffs, there were a lot of questionable calls (or no calls) by referees. The NBA has a history of being a league full of conspiracies. With the NBA Draft on Thursday, I will examine the top five NBA Draft Lottery Consipiracies…

5. Orlando Magic back-to-back Number One Picks (1992 & 1993).

The Orlando Magic came into the NBA as an expansion franchise in 1989. Their first three seasons were horrible and they missed the playoffs each year. The Magic finished the ‘91-‘92 season with the second worst record behind Minnesota. Orlando somehow beat out the T-Wolves for the number one pick which would allow the Magic to take some guy out of LSU named Shaquille O’Neal. O’Neal was considered one of three “can’t miss” prospects in that draft class.

It was apparent that Shaq would be the “next big thing” for the NBA as they just watched Michael Jordan complete a three-peat and would retire before the ‘93-94 season.

Somehow, the Magic landed the number one pick in the 1993 NBA Draft lottery, even though they finished in 9th place in the East. NBA Commissioner David Stern obviously set something up here, trying to create his next dynasty. The Magic would take Chris Webber (Michigan) with the top pick in 1993 but would trade Webber to Golden State for the number three pick, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway. Penny & Shaq would take the Magic to the NBA Finals during the ‘94-‘95 season, but couldn’t bring home the title.

4. Cleveland takes Ohio native

If you follow the NBA at all, you know this story. How fitting that a high school star from Akron, Ohio comes out for the NBA Draft and it just so “happens” that his in-state team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, get the first pick that season?

For years, Cleveland had struggled, finishing in the lower half of the Eastern Conference every year since the ’98-’99 season. Cleveland and the Denver Nuggets ended the ’02-’03 season tied with the worst record in the NBA at 17-65.

In what turned out to be possibly one of the best draft classes ever, Cleveland received the number one pick and would take Ohio’s own LeBron James. James revitalized the franchise by taking them to the playoffs four-straight seasons, including an NBA Finals appearance.

3. Chicago’s Next Superstar

Bulls’ fans may not be happy with my decision to put this one in the top five or believe this one but look at the evidence…

The Chicago Bulls franchise had been one of the cornerstone franchises for the NBA in the 1990’s. That all fell apart as Michael Jordan retired (again) after his sixth title with the Bulls and head coach Phil Jackson would depart after the ’97-‘98 season. The Bulls would miss the postseason seven times and couldn’t make it back to the Eastern Conference Finals.

That all changed in 2008 as the NBA handed the Bulls an early Christmas present. The Bulls entered the NBA draft lottery with only a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery, which they ultimately won. Of course, Commissioner Stern wanted to bring the Bulls back to life by giving them a star player. The Bulls would use the 2008 top pick to draft Chicago native, Derrick Rose. Rose would bring the Bulls back to its glory days, leading them to the playoffs in his first season. He would also win the league’s MVP award in 2011, cementing his superstar status.

2. The Aftermath of “The Decision”

On July 8, 2010, LeBron James decided he would leave his hometown Cleveland Cavaliers to go play for the Miami Heat. The Cavs would see a significant decrease without James as they went from 1st place finishers in James’ last season with the team to last place in the East. They would finish the ’10-‘11 season with a record of 19-63, second worst in the league.

The Cavs would have a 19.9% chance at grabbing the number one pick for the 2011 NBA draft. They would get the number one pick, jumping over a 17-65 Minnesota T-Wolves team. Even Timberwolves GM David Kahn started believing the conspiracies after the Cavs won the lottery by saying “This league has a habit, and I am just going to say habit, of producing some pretty incredible story lines.” I’m sure everyone remembers Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert’s 14-year-old son who represented the Cavs during the draft lottery.

1. Basketball is back in the Big Apple

1985 was the first year of the NBA Draft Lottery, in order to prevent teams from losing in order to receive the number one pick the following year. In the ’84-‘85 season, two teams finished tied with the NBA’s worst record at 22-60, the Indiana Pacers and Golden State Warriors. The New York Knicks finished with the league’s third worst record and managed to win the NBA’s first Draft Lottery.

There was no question that Georgetown center Patrick Ewing was the consensus number one pick. Many suggested that the NBA fixed the lottery in its inaugural year as a way to put Ewing, one of the best college basketball players of all time, to New York, the biggest television market with one of the league’s flagship franchises.

Some believe that Stern somehow marked the Knicks envelope so he would know which one it was.

Looking Ahead

Some also believe this year’s NBA Draft Lottery is a conspiracy to help the New Orleans Hornets, who had a 13.7% chance to win the top pick. Ironically, the Hornets got the number one pick in 2012 after the Chris Paul trade fiasco and Saints’ owner Tom Benson did the league a favor by buying the franchise from the league. The Hornets are likely to take Kentucky center Anthony Davis, who won a championship in New Orleans.

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