FanPost

Why doesn't the NBA air the lottery drawing live?

As probably all of you know today is the day in which the NBA unveils the draft order for the teams selecting in the lottery. They make it a fun little halftime event in which representatives from each team sit at a desk marked with their team's logo and hold some lucky item while someone from the NBA (Stern or Silver I think) opens envelopes for the order of the picks. Commercial breaks are strategically inserted throughout, most notably immediately before and after the 3rd pick is disclosed. What could a curmudgeonly Blazer fan like myself dislike about this?

Well, for starters there's the other half of this in which the picks are actually decided. From what I have read it takes place in a sterile room with some representatives from the NBA along with a potential figure from each lottery team who elects to be present. The 'lottery' takes place much as its name would indicate, as a lotto style ping pong ball machine with balls numbered 1-14 is setup and run by a 3rd party NBA contractor who handles the logistics and prevents tampering.

This creates 1001 possible combinations as four balls are selected with the order of selection being relevant (i.e. 11-12-13-14 is not the same as 14-13-12-11) but only 1000 combos are assigned to teams as winners (in the event the 1001st combo is drawn its just a do over). Every team is given a certain number of winning combinations ranging from 250 to 5 (25% chance at winning down to 0.5%) based on reverse winning percentage and any tie breakers that were previously held. The 3rd party then runs the machine and gets the combo for the first pick, reloads and repeats for the 2nd and does the same again for the 3rd. In the event that a combo belonging to a team that has already won a top 3 pick is drawn, the selection is just re-run (just like if the 1001st combo is picked).

I get that the NBA wants to have this semi-pompous thing where a non-playoff team gets to be a winner for the day with everyone starting out full of hope. Everything ends with the top 2 picks being announced in a moment filled with tense drama for both fan bases (especially the year they drew for the LeBron pick as Memphis got #2 in the drawing on a pick they owed to Detroit with only #1 protection. They went from LeBron to nothing with the opening of an envelope). That said, this procedure has unnecessarily left room for conspiracy theories to run rampant as the average fan doesn't understand how this all takes place. Opening things up to the public view would do a lot of damage to the 'lottery is rigged' talk (I understand most of it on this site is tongue in cheek at least), but it could also serve to create just as dramatic moments.

First, by tweaking whatever algorithm/process assigns the combos to disallow a single team to hold all fourteen combos that contain the same first three numbers along with 1-14 as the fourth and you create a situation in which the team getting the pick hangs on that final ping pong ball for every selection! It gives the people commentating something more to discuss than "oh the Bucks are picking right as expected" as they can now show and commentate updated odds on every team's chances right up until the 4th ball is selected (after returning from commercials of course). This can happen with all 3 picks, and the reps from all the selected teams can still have their moment to shine with a brief interview while the machine is being reloaded and whatnot. Finally at the end they can show the final draft order before going back to the game being played.

Of course there is one serious drawback to this, which is the possibility that the selection keeps pulling numbers that need to be re-run (i.e. 1001st combo or one owned by a team already picked). This is extremely unlikely for the 1st pick, but with the 2nd and 3rd it becomes variably more likely depending on which team's have been selected. So it is impossible to guarantee that the entire event will fit neatly in a halftime slot, but if the above suggestion about assigning the combos is used then at least the misses should provide drama and something to discuss while the machine is reloaded as some team(s) would have been one ball away from having the selection being drawn for.

Anyhow, what do you folks think? Am I the only one who would prefer to sit around and nerd out on probabilities or do you think this sounds entertaining as well? Do you prefer the current method, or maybe think the NBA will never accept such a grand idea because then they could no longer cloak their evil lottery rigging ways? Any ideas of your own to spice up this quasi-game 7 for non-playoff teams?

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