I’ve been having an unfortunate amount of fun with ESPN’s NBA Lottery Machine. In the last couple of weeks, I’ve been late to meetings, late to work and just generally less thoughtful and productive as I had been before I started playing god for 4 seconds at a time … assuring myself that the next time I’d do better … then playing god again. In my haze of absolute power, I have seen the Cleveland Cavaliers built swiftly into an exciting, young team brimming with talent. I have also seen them grudgingly accept that their best draft options may be a European SF/PF and a Turkish C who was ineligible to play at Kentucky this year making both of them unseen (and, thus, season ticket killing) if not unknown commodities.
But what playing Lottery Machine has taught me is that the Cavs gain little more than losing by … well, losing. Over the last week, it seems like most of the drumming on about how we need to end up with the worst record in the league (and, therefore, a staggeringly better 25% chance at the top pick, instead of our second-worst and dream killing 20%) has been replaced by the very real fact that the worst team has only won the lottery twice since 1994 (even though, yes, one of those was us in 2003…) but both points seem to miss what might be a large part of the point going forward.
First, let’s talk about my turns on the Lottery Machine. My first go at the machine was like a magical wonderland of destiny creation. Of the 10 times I played, the Cavs (then with the worst record in the league) wound up with the #1 pick six of the ten times … and once in those ten times the Clippers pick (2.8% chance of winning) came in at number 3 … That is, of course, the dream scenario for a Cavaliers fan heading into the draft and something that, should it happen, would absolutely destroy the NBA because no one would believe that the lottery wasn’t fixed to save post-LeBron basketball in Cleveland (the secret being that the NBA doesn’t really care about saving basketball in Cleveland so, if two top-4 picks happen, David Stern is not going to be celebrating. He’s going to be slamming his hand in his office door over and over and over again).
On my second trip to the Lottery Machine, though, the bottom dropped out. The Cavs, still with the league’s worst record only got the top pick twice in the ten times I tried and routinely ended up with #4 and #8 (where, at the time, they had us picking Perry Jones with the fourth pick and I started slamming my hand in my office door over and over and over again. Perry Jones III has since decided to return to Baylor for his sophomore year).
Just today, I returned to the machine – with the Cavs now proudly owning only the second-worst record in the league at 18-63 – and got these results in my ten tries: 2&8, 2&8, 4&8, 3&8, 1&2, 5&8, 3&8, 2&8, 1&9, and 4&8. I could basically live with all but 3 of these – 2 of them get us the top pick – while 1 of them gives us the first and second picks in the draft (a scenario in which I will likely need a defibrillator and David Stern will have chewed off and swallowed one of his hands).
What does all of this mean? Very little. It’s not the real draft lottery. But, as I saw the number of times the Cavs got shut out of their/our beloved #1 pick (i.e. Kyrie Irving) even with the worst record, I started to see some benefit in finally … for once in this season … some benefit in finally not losing.
First, it gave me deep personal satisfaction when we won game number 18. This is the game that separated us from our league-worst tie with the T-Wolves, but it also meant that the 2010-11 Cavs are not as bad – at least according to their record – as the 2002-03 Cavs. In a previous post, I named the teams Team Ricky (02-03 after Ricky Davis) and Team Hicky (10-11 after The Hickson) and argued that, even though this year’s squad was reeking like the interior of a car where a dead fish is stuck in the glove compartment and the car is left to sit in 90 degree sun and bunch of people vomit in the car and use it for a bathroom and then eat the fish and then vomit in it some more (or something …) – even though all that, Team Ricky was the worse team. Team Ricky was the epitome of a bad Cavs team in my head and I didn’t want to give that very dear memory away.
Now, I don’t have to. Thank you, Team Hicky.
Second … and there’s a lot of ways you can go with this … I happen to think it’s only good when you see some guys who might be on our roster next year play better basketball. Will that better basketball cost us a better player (which you could argue would make next year’s team more better than having a roster of players who finally understand how to play a little defense, go after loose balls and rebounds and attempt, on the offensive end, to put the ball in the basket with greater frequency than failure … and that might be the case) but we’ll never know. Getting the #1 pick is not something that is actually in any of our control. Given that, I do believe a little in the possibility that these players – many of whom we’ll see again next year – can only benefit by putting the pieces together in finding out how to win a game in the NBA here and there.
Let’s be done with the losing. At least for this year.