May 30th, 2012
Is the NBA draft lottery fixed? The answer to that question is nearly impossible to prove, but it is now completely fair to ask (if it wasn’t already).
The New Orleans Hornets jumped from No. 4 to No. 1 in this lottery. They were the only team to jump up in order from the bounce of the ping-pong balls.
They entered the 2012 lottery with a 13.7 percent chance of winning the No. 1 overall selection. This trailed the Cavaliers’ 13.8, Wizards’ 19.9 and the Bobcats’ 25 percent.
Those are not astronomical odds, but of all the teams to make the jump, there is not one that would have opened up the league to more speculation and criticism than the Hornets.
Until very recently, the NBA owned the Hornets.
They bought them in 2010 after former owner George Shinn was unable to find a local buyer. This was an unprecedented move for the league, but it wanted to keep the Hornets in New Orleans.
After taking over ownership, the league did the best it could to make the franchise as attractive as possible to buyers.
They didn’t find one for well over a year. Then, as this season began winding down, it was announced that New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson beat out two other groups for the right to purchase the club.
So what exactly generated this new interest? It doesn’t take a team of conspirators to come up with the idea that there was a whispered promise that the Hornets would be guaranteed to land the No. 1 pick.
This is also not the first time that the No. 1 overall selection has been won under curious circumstances.
Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers won the No. 1 selection with a 13.8 percent chance of doing so. That came in the season following Cleveland’s devastating loss of LeBron James in free agency.
In the 2007 lottery, the Seattle Sonics made the jump from No. 5 to No. 2, and that was a draft in which the first two picks were considered gold—Greg Oden and Kevin Durant sat atop draft boards.
That was also the year that Clay Bennett had just purchased the Sonics, and that entire situation fell into a giant mess of controversy.
These are just two recent examples, and I’m sure there are people ready to cite others.
There isn’t likely to ever be a definitive answer to the question of lottery fixing, but as long as curious cases like this keep arising, the questions will only grow in number and intensity.
Check out the full draft order on the NBA’s official website.
Read more New Orleans Hornets news on BleacherReport.com
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