New Orleans grabs top pick in NBA lottery

Let the NBA mock drafts begin. New Orleans will grab Anthony Davis, and then we’ll see if Micheal Jordan snags Michael Kidd-Gilchrist as Chad Ford predicts, or whether he goes with Thomas Robinson as predicted in the USA Today mock draft.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

Lucas: Cavs tanked to get LeBron

Former Cavs coach John Lucas claims that the franchise tanked the 2002-03 season to try to get LeBron James.

“They trade all our guys away and we go real young, and the goal was to get LeBron and also to sell the team,” Lucas told AOL FanHouse. “I didn’t have a chance. … You can’t fault the Cavaliers for wanting to get LeBron. It was hard to get free agents to come there.”

The Cavaliers finished the 2002-03 season with a 17-65 record, tied with the Denver Nuggets for the worst record in the NBA. Cleveland won the NBA’s draft lottery and selected James with the No. 1 pick. Lucas was fired midway through that season.

Gordon Gund, who was then the team’s principal owner but is now a minority owner of the Cavs, denied Lucas’ claims. He also told the Web site that the Cavaliers weren’t for sale during that season. The team didn’t get sold until 2005.

“You don’t try to get the No. 1 pick,” Gund told AOL Fanhouse. “That’s why the lottery was designed. To not allow that. We had a young team that we were developing. … We did not tank the season. … To lose to get LeBron James, we would never do that. I wouldn’t do that. I couldn’t do that.

“In the very last game of the season, we had nothing to gain and we were in sole possession of last place [in the NBA]. But we beat [the Toronto Raptors] and that left us tied with Denver [at 17-65]. … The chances of getting the first pick were only [22.5 percent].”

While tanking at the end of the season is rather commonplace in the NBA, tanking an entire season has been, to this point, unheard of. Even the worst franchises would like to make the playoffs for the first half of the season. It’s not until after the All-Star Game that we generally start seeing teams give up trying to win.

Gund has a point about the Cavs winning the final game of the season, but I’d bet that the Cleveland front office was upset after that victory, as it decreased the chances that the team would win the lottery. It’s not like the GM tells the players to lose games. The players go out and try to win. Like Herm Edwards says, “You PLAY to WIN the GAME!” When teams tank, the front office simply puts the team in the worst position to win. They shut down semi-injured stars and they start giving minutes to young players so they can “evaluate what they have.” They don’t go in the locker room and tell the players to lose the game.

Don’t kid yourself, we’re going to see tanking at the end of this season. John Wall is far and away the best prospect in this summer’s draft, and teams that are out of the playoff hunt will be tripping over each other trying to lose to increase the chances that they’ll win the #1 overall pick in the lottery. The lottery is supposed to eliminate tanking, but even though the chances of winning the #1 pick only increase incrementally with every loss, they still increase. There is still incentive to lose, so teams will lose.

For the ’03 Cavs, there was no upside to winning games late in the season. Every loss meant that they were that much closer to getting LeBron. This is why the lottery system is broken.

The only way to fix it is to give every non-playoff team an equal shot at the #1 pick. This is the way that it used to be, and under such a system, a fringe playoff team will sometimes win the lottery. So be it. Why are we so focused on rewarding incompetence?

Decade Debate: 10 Best Second Round NBA Picks

Teams expect to find someone who can contribute in the first round of the NBA Draft, but once the second round arrives, general managers have to dig through the leftovers, hoping to find a diamond in the rough. And seemingly every year, a second round pick emerges as a quality starter. Sometimes he even develops into a star. As part of our Decade Debate series, here is a list of the NBA’s top 10 second round picks of the last ten years.

10. Chris Douglas-Roberts (2008, pick #40)

Not only was CDR (the player, not the recordable compact disc) one of the most efficient scorers in the nation during his junior year at Memphis, he was also a consensus first team All-America selection and the C-USA Male Athlete of the Year. He hit 54% from the field and 41% from long range. Yet this wasn’t enough to convince an NBA team to pick him in the first round. The biggest knock on him was his lack of strength, but he has gained 10 lbs since college and after a quiet rookie campaign, he’s averaging 17-5-2 and has started 15 of 17 games for the Nets. Yes, the Nets suck, but still. At the very least it looks like he’s capable of being a sixth man for a contender, and that’s a great find in the second round.

Read the rest of this entry »

Decade Debate: 10 Best Late-First Round NBA Picks

In any NBA Draft, after the top few picks are gone, things start to get dicey. Things get even sketchier once the draft hits the late-first round, and teams are lucky if they can find a starter-quality player, much less an All-Star. As part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here are the NBA’s top 10 picks from the late-first round (pick #16 or later) in the last ten years. Players are ranked in order of talent and accomplishment, and the later the pick, the better.

10. Kevin Martin (drafted #26 by the Kings in ’04)

Martin is one of the best scorers in the league. Before a broken hand derailed his 2009-10 campaign, he was averaging 31-5-3 and was nailing 45% of his 3PT attempts. The Kings got him late in the first because he played at Western Carolina and has busted form on his jumper. Hey, it goes in, and that’s all that matters.

9. David Lee (drafted #30 by the Knicks in ’05)

Say what you will about Isiah Thomas the GM. Zeke the scout had an eye for talent. Lee averaged a double-double in his second season, and as Mike D’Antoni implemented his up-tempo attack, Lee’s numbers grew to 16-12 (on 55% shooting) last season. He’s bound to get a fat contract next summer, but how much are his numbers inflated playing for D’Antoni?

8. Josh Smith (drafted #17 by the Hawks in ’04)

Let’s see — “J-Smoove” has posted four straight years of 15+ points and 7+ rebounds, plus at least 2.8 blocks in three of his last four seasons, and he’s just 23 since he entered the league straight out of high school. If he is able to fulfill his potential, he’ll surely move up this list. Versatile enough to play either forward position, Smith is coming into his own this season, averaging 16-9-4 with 2.8 blocks through 18 games. It helps that he’s not jacking the outside shot like he used to.

Read the rest of this entry »

Decade Debate: 10 Biggest NBA Draft Blunders

The single most important thing to do when rebuilding an NBA franchise is to find good players in the draft. Young players are cheap, and if a team finds a good one, they’ll likely have them at a bargain for the first few years of his career. As a part of our ongoing Decade Debate series, here is a list of draft picks from the ’00s that…um…didn’t work out so well. I’ll rank them in order of magnitude of the blunder, which takes into account the talent of the pick as well as the players that the team passed up.

10. The Grizzlies select Mike Conley (#4), passing on Jeff Green and Joakim Noah.

Conley has played better of late, and may eventually prove to be a good pick, but he certainly hasn’t had the kind of consistency that the Grizzlies hoped for when they took him with at #4 in the 2007 draft. What’s funny is that GM Chris Wallace made this pick when the Grizzlies still had Pau Gasol on the roster. Then he traded Gasol, and now he’s drafting for size (Hasheem Thabeet, DeMarre Carroll). What’s even funnier is that he’s still the GM in Memphis.

9. The Knicks select Jordan Hill (#8), passing on Brandon Jennings and Ty Lawson.

When it became clear that the Knicks might miss out on Stephen Curry, they settled on Hill as their fallback option. Jennings is the current ROY frontrunner, while Hill is seeing regular DNP-CDs. Even at the time, the pick was strange since Hill plays the same position as current double-double machine David Lee and Mike D’Antoni is dying to find a point guard that can run his offense. While Jennings may not have the pass-first mentality of Steve Nash, he can certainly push the ball and find open people. Were the Knicks worried about Jennings being a ball-dominant guard when they hope to add a ball-dominant small forward named LeBron next summer? Even if Jennings wasn’t the right fit, what about Lawson, who is getting 21 minutes per game on a good Denver squad? This Hill pick was not Donnie Walsh’s finest hour, but as a sometimes-proud Bucks fan, I couldn’t be happier that Jennings fell in Milwaukee’s lap.

8. The Pistons select Rodney White (#9), passing on Joe Johnson.

This blunder is overshadowed by another pick from the same draft (’01, we’ll get to it), but it’s ponderous nonetheless. Johnson was picked at #10. At the time, the Pistons’ top four players were Jerry Stackhouse, Corliss Williamson, Clifford Robinson, Chucky Atkins and Ben Wallace. I think Joe Johnson could have found a place on that team.

7. The Raptors select Rafael Araujo (#8), passing on Andre Iguodala, Andris Biedrins and Al Jefferson.

The list of big man busts is extensive, and back in ’04 the Raptors were looking for a center to protect Chris Bosh at power forward. They could have had Biedrins (#11) or Jefferson (#15), but took the BYU product instead. It’s a shame, because Biedrins would be a perfect fit for the up tempo style the Raptors want to play. Iggy would look pretty good at off guard as well.

Read the rest of this entry »

Related Posts