Conspiracy theorists have cried foul following the NBA’s annual draft lottery since its inception in 1985, when the Knicks won the right to select Patrick Ewing first overall on 7 to 1 odds.
Last year, the suspicion stemmed from the fact that the NBA temporarily owned the New Orleans Hornets (now Pelicans) during a transition to current franchise owner Tom Benson, and the league wanted to maximize the value of the team by rigging the lottery in New Orleans’ favor.
Call me crazy, but I trust that the NBA does not rig the system it uses to determine which teams draft first, second and third. If the league really wanted to fix things, the Knicks would have picked first again at least once since taking Ewing, and smaller-market cities such as Portland and Milwaukee wouldn’t have won the lottery in past 10 years.
But let’s face it, nothing will stop the mistrust for a system meant to keep teams from tanking in order to secure the top pick. So rather than keep fighting it, I’m gonna do all of those suspicious sports fans a favor and offer convenient reasons for all 14 teams who could wind up with the No. 1 pick after tonight’s lottery (8:30 p.m. on ESPN) as to why the NBA would want them to pick first. (Note: I don’t subscribe to any of these theories).
Just like in 2004 with Dwight Howard and 1992 with Shaquille O’Neal, the league is giving Orlando a franchise center (Nerlens Noel) on a silver platter.
The NBA allegedly looked after Michael Jordan in the ’90s with a secret gambling suspension, and they’ll help him now that he’s an owner of a moribund franchise.
NBA Commissioner David Stern is building the supporting cast for LeBron James, who can opt out of his deal next year, that the team’s owner never could.
Attendance is down at US Airways Center and the league will want to keep things copacetic in one of its top media markets, especially one on the West Coast.
New Orleans Pelicans
That all-new Pelicans merchandise isn’t going to sell itself. What better way to help matters than to encourage fans to buy the top overall pick’s jersey?
Similar to what happened last year, the league will reward a new ownership group with a gift-wrapped top draft choice. Welcome to the NBA, indeed.
Detroit has won championships in each of the last three decades. If the league wants to extend that streak to four, adding a top pick is a good start.
If the NBA is going to steal some spotlight from the Redskins’ and Nationals’ young stars, it’s going to need to pair another top pick with John Wall in D.C.
They’re due. The T-Wolves have never won the draft lottery even though they have missed the postseason 16 times in 24 seasons of existence.
Portland Trail Blazers
The NBA wants to reward a smaller-market team whose fans are among the most loyal in the league by helping them build a perennial playoff contender.
With all of the major sports teams in Philly — the Phillies, Eagles and Flyers — on the decline, the commissioner must feel bad for The City of Brotherly Love.
Stern refuses to give up on Toronto despite the fact that it has trouble luring free agents to Canada. At least draft picks have little choice in the matter.
The commissioner wants owner Mark Cuban ... oh, forget it! Stern wouldn’t toss Cuban a life raft in the middle of the ocean. Maybe the lottery isn’t rigged.
With one more high-end young player, the league is setting up the Jazz to take over for Oklahoma City as the NBA’s small-market superpower in a few years.
Scott Fontana, amNY’s sports editor, can be reached at email@example.com.