Crystal ball – Five 2016 sporting predictions

It’s easy to look back at the end of the year and think about the predictions that should have been made in the world of sport. Here are five headlines you will see in 2016.

Foxes secure Champions League berth – Leicester City’s hot start to the season has shocked the most seasoned of football experts. What they have shown is that chemistry, not money is crucial to success. Jamie Vardy has 2016demonstrated why he might be the most important player in the league and his calmness under pressure will be crucial in the second half of the season. Leicester have never finished higher than eighth in the Premier League so the scene is set for them to rewrite history.

Warriors create history – Will they, won’t they? Will they, won’t they? They will. The 95-96 Bulls record will be no longer at the end of the season. The Warriors are 29-2 at the time of writing and the Bulls were 25-3 on the same date in 1996. When every player who is currently active in the NBA has retired Steph Curry is going to be the best of the lot and it is this dominance that is going to help lead the Warriors to single digit losses.

CUBS ARE WORLD CHAMPIONS – The last time the Cubs won the World Series the toaster hadn’t been invented, the Titanic was years from sinking and the Fitzroy Football Club were the powerhouse of the VFL. A lot has changed in 108 years (although I wouldn’t object to a return of the Roy Boys) but Cubs fans still wait. A better than expected 2015 saw the Cubs reach the NLCS before being swept by the Mets. The addition of John Lackey and Jason Heyward to a club who are a year more experienced makes them favourites for the N.L Central. The Royals showed in 2014 that playoff experience will help the second time around and for Cubs fans this means one thing – sweet sweet relief.

Awesome foursome – Saturday the first of October 2016 marks the day that the Hawthorn Football Club will become the greatest VFL/AFL team I’ve seen in my life. At the moment that is a mantle that belongs to Brisbane but a fourth straight flag to the men in Brown and Gold signifies a changing of the guard. Nobody has exploited Hawthorn and there isn’t an area of the game where they are noticeably lagging behind their opponents. They know when they need to win and they know how to force themselves into a winning position. No wonder they’re a happy team at Hawthorn.

Boomers win first Olympic medal –  It’s the same old story every four years for Australian basketball. The Boomers should win an Olympic medal, they lose a game they shouldn’t and fall into the wrong side of the draw. Three 4th place finishes (1988, 1996, 2000) later and it feels like the Boomers are ready. NBA champions, high draft picks and dominant domestic players will make up what is likely to be the most experienced team Australia have ever seen. The spotlight has shone on this playing group for the last decade in varying forms and they are going to use it to their advantage. A team that is likely to feature two number one draft picks is going to be in the conversation as the games enter their final weekend. More importantly one of the most frustrating streaks in Australian sport is about to be broken.




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.