The draft lottery must die

Since 1985 only 4 teams with the worst record in the NBA have had the first pick in the draft. In the NHL the worst team has had the first pick 6 times since 1995. 10/50 or 2/10 or 20%. However you write it the draft lottery needs to be done away with.

I’m not mad that a team I support didn’t win the lottery. I’m mad because teams who don’t deserve the top pick are being given opportune access to players who should be going to other franchises so that the league can have an even distribution of talent. At least in theory.

The Edmonton Oilers won Connor McDavid thanks to the draft lottery

The Edmonton Oilers won Connor McDavid thanks to the draft lottery

If you’re an Edmonton Oilers fan you are more than welcome to dispute this claim. Partly because you haven’t made the playoffs since 2005-2006 and partly because you won Connor McDavid this morning. Congratulations, you’ve won something that isn’t rightfully yours, but I digress.

Professional athletes want to win more than anything else in the world. If you’re not on a winning team the only way you can win is by adding talent, be it through the draft, free agency or trades. Free agents don’t go to clubs where they aren’t going to win, if they are good enough to be attracting interest then they are going to be going to a team who are already a playoff team or in playoff contention. Trades are more successful, but the worse you are the more you are going to be asked to give up. It isn’t nice, but it’s a fact of life. The draft is where the answers are. The worse you are the better your access to the top of the talent pool. Drafting is a science, and the only way to get it right is to have people who are experts in it on the books of your organisation (looking at you Melbourne Football Club).

What if teams lose games on purpose to increase their draft positions? They’re going to do the same thing if there is a lottery. The closer you are to the bottom the more balls you are going to have. Why not rid the potential for teams who truly don’t deserve it (the Cleveland Cavaliers of 2014 spring to mind) and give the worst team in the league the opportunity for light at the end of the tunnel by giving them the top pick in the draft?

Sport should be a level playing field yet everyone knows it isn’t. Draft orders should be variable based only on the results on the playing surface. That means you need to be the worst to get the best. If you’ve ever been on a team at any level who are losing then you know that it feels miserable and nobody is thinking “gee I hope we lose so we can get a kid who won’t fix everything overnight”. The idea of tanking is lunacy despite the fact that teams have been fined for it before.

Where is the hope for poor teams if they aren’t offered the chance for things to get better? All the draft lottery does it shows that the leagues who choose to have one don’t value a level playing field.

Are they rigged? No, but the Oilers having four top picks since 2010 and the Cavaliers three since 2011 is reason enough to leave a bad taste in fans mouths.

More importantly it’s a great reason for leagues who use a lottery to wake up and give their worst performing franchises the opportunities they deserve.

 

 

 

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