I mentioned this last season, but I want to reiterate this point again this season…
I hate the ESPN NBA Draft Lottery Machine. All it does is reinforce just how cruel the NBA lottery can be. You have a terrible team coming off a tough and frustrating season, and the only thing that can lift your spirits is the ability to draft a phenomenal young talent who can help reshape your franchise.
That’s not how it always works, though. Instead, you might see a borderline playoff team like Milwaukee or Houston jump into the top 3, bolstering their already modestly talented rosters while leaving the hurting franchises to lick their wounds while picking up only slightly better than moderately talented players. Hey, there’s always next year, right?
Of course, a little optimism goes a long way. After all, as Brendan Bowers points out over at Cleveland.com, the Cavaliers have pretty good odds of becoming the first team since the 1993 Orlando Magic to win the top pick in the lottery in back to back seasons:
The Cavaliers will look to do specifically that on May 30th, however, and they’ll do so with a 13.8 percent chance of picking first again this season. Markedly better than the 1.5 percent number Orlando cashed in on just about twenty years ago, with the potential for a similar Point Guard and Center combination in Kyrie Irving and Anthony Davis looming in the balance. As a result of all that tanking, the Cavaliers currently have the third best chance of any team since Orlando to win the Lottery in successive seasons.
So with Brendan’s positivity in the back of my mind, I decided to see just how easily the Cavaliers can win the lottery this season. The results did not turn out as I was hoping.
Last year, when the Cavaliers had the #2 and #8 spots in the lottery, it took me 7 attempts for the Cavaliers to win the top spot. With the Cavaliers sitting at #3 this year and holding just a 13.8% at the top pick, I braced myself for an even longer wait.
My first attempt saw the Washington Wizards win the top pick and take Anthony Davis. Charlotte was next, taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist. Cleveland came in 3rd and took Bradley Beal. Ok, not a bad start to this thing.
My 2nd attempt gave the top pick to the Sacramento Kings, who took Davis. In fact, all 50 attempts had the first pick taking Davis no matter what, so I’m going to stop repeating that point. If a team picked first, they took Anthony Davis. So Sacramento won the lottery, and Cleveland came in 2nd and took MKG. Feeling even better.
My 3rd attempt was a setback. The Brooklyn Nets won the lottery. Washington took MKG second, and Charlotte took Beal 3rd. This left the Cavaliers at #4 and ESPN has them taking Andre Drummond over Harrison Barnes. I’m not crazy about either player, but I would definitely take Barnes over Drummond. This is the first attempt I’m not happy with (a feeling I would soon get used to).
Finally, on my 4th attempt, the Cavaliers. At 13.8% odds, the Cavaliers should win the top spot roughly every 7 attempts or so. I’m way ahead of schedule here, and I’m really liking the way this lottery machine is panning out so far.
Instead, that was the best I would feel in this. It would also be the last time the Cavaliers won the lottery in my trial of 50 attempts. That’s right, despite having 13.8% odds of winning the lottery, I only achieved that outcome 2% of the times. Houston, who was the best team to miss the playoffs and thus has the lowest odds of winning, won the same number of times as the Cavaliers.
Toronto, the team who served as Cavalier kryptonite this year and ended up with the #8 spot in the lottery, won the top pick 8 times. So despite their 3.5% odds of winning, they achieved that goal 16% of the times in my limited trial. New Orleans, the team tied in record with the Cavaliers, won it 7 times. Sacramento, who beat the Lakers on the last night of the season to drop below Cleveland and New Orleans in the lottery standings, won it 8 times. Charlotte, the team with the best odds, won it 10 times.
So what was the final breakdown of the Cavaliers’ results in this trial? Surely, since they missed the #1 pick so many times they had a bunch of 2nd picks and MKG picks, right? Did I mention yet how much I hate the lottery machine?
The Cavaliers earned the top pick just once, the second pick 6 times, the third pick 7 times, the fourth pick 19 times, the fifth pick 12 times, and the absolute worst case scenario sixth pick 5 times. That’s right, the Cavaliers only picked in the top 3 a total of 14 times out of 50 scenarios.
As for the players the draft lottery had them taking in the 50 attempts, as previously mentioned, the Cavaliers only got Anthony Davis once (2%). They selected my next favorite pick, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 7 times (14%). I’ve mentioned this before, but there are only 3 players I absolutely covet in this draft. The third one is Bradley Beal, and the Cavaliers got him a respectable 17 times (34%). The Cavaliers managed to land Davis, MKG, or Beal a total of 25 times, or exactly 50% of the trials. That sounds decent, but when you consider the Cavaliers are in 3rd position, that becomes a little more disheartening.
The Cavaliers took Andre Drummond the most (20 times total). For a team that needs scoring from the wings so desperately, a luxury pick like Drummond (and I use the word ‘luxury’ very lightly here) is less than desirable for my idea of how to rebuild this team. The Cavaliers took Harrison Barnes just 5 times out of the 50 scenarios. He might not be the player some thought he would be, but he’s certainly a much bigger need than Drummond.
So what are we to learn from this? Probably not much. You can pull these scenarios 500 million times, and the results still won’t mean anything. The only thing that matters is that one time the numbers are run. At that point, the results are real and statistics don’t mean anything.
Also, just because the ESPN Lottery Machine says the Cavaliers will take Drummond over Barnes or the Hornets would take Thomas Robinson over MKG, that doesn’t mean that’s what would actually happen. Trying to pre-determine how this will shake out is next to impossible.
So take these results with a grain of salt. It was created to allow fans to have fun playing with the different scenarios and seeing how hard (or easy if you’re a Toronto fan, evidently) it is to have your favorite team win the top pick.
And if you do believe these results are telling us something, then my advice would be to take solace in the fact that Nick Gilbert will likely be representing the team once again and I will be nowhere near the lottery. With Nick Gilbert’s good luck charm aura, maybe we have nothing to fear. What’s not to like?