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Lottery Time

Next Tuesday, May 20th, marks the annual ritual of ping-pong ball counting to determine the future of the NBA.  In case you're not familiar with the standings and odds, here is the list of teams and number of combinations they'll each have out of 1000:

  1. Miami Heat    250
  2. Seattle Supersonics 199
  3. Minnesota Timberwolves 138
  4. Memphis Grizzlies 137
  5. New York Knicks 76
  6. Los Angeles Clippers 75
  7. Milwaukee Bucks 43
  8. Charlotte Bobcats 28
  9. Chicago Bulls 17
  10. New Jersey Nets 11
  11. Indiana Pacers 8
  12. Sacramento Kings 7
  13. Portland Trail Blazers 6
  14. Golden State Warriors 5

As you can see, the odds of another Portland leap into the Top 3 are tiny.  Which is good.  Because I'm here to state, even as a Blazer fan who bleeds red and black and desires nothing so much as another championship in Portland, I do not want those picks.  Of course it would be nifty for the Blazers to get one.  We'd be in far better position for talent and trades.  But you'll have a hard time convincing me it's better for the strength, credibility, and health of this league for a team like Portland to nab a Top 3 pick over Minnesota or Seattle or even the Knicks.  As a Blazer fan I am not afraid to say that would be a travesty.  I am not afraid to bring up again that having 14 teams eligible for the number one pick is silly and that the lottery should be two-tiered, with only the seven worst teams getting chances at the top three spots.  Sure the chances are small for any individual team from the 8-14 slots to move up, but taken collectively those teams have 82 chances, which puts them as a group in 5th place overall this year.  It doesn't seem right for the Warriors, Blazers, Kings, Pacers, Nets, Bulls, and Bobcats to be sandwiched in between the Grizzlies and Knicks in terms of lottery probability.  None of those teams should get a high pick.  All of them (save perhaps the Kings) have a higher future potential than any of the worst five teams.  What the heck are those names doing in there?

Of course there's a temptation to say, "Whatever is good for the Blazers is what's right."  You can think of 100 reasons why Blazer fans are longer-suffering, why our team is more noble and deserving of luck, why our close misses (among all of those league-wide) should all of a sudden be turned into wild success by this bouncing ball of fate.  But you know what?  Talk to a Bucks fan about that, or a 'Wolves fan, or a Sonics fan.  They haven't suffered also?  They haven't dealt with close calls and dashed hopes?  There's no nobility in any of those franchises?  How would an outcome which put Portland's name above theirs be better in the grand scheme of things?

I am not a hypocrite.  I realize that this lottery system brought Greg Oden to Portland.  But I hasten to point out that we, too, were a bottom-seven team when that happened.  There's no conflict between that event and the assertion that only the worst teams should have a shot at #1.  I made this claim when Portland was in the worst tier and the system potentially worked to their disadvantage.  I stick by it when Portland is in the better tier and it could conceivably work to their great advantage.  It just...shouldn't...happen.

Would I take the pick if Portland wins it?  Of course...I'd have to.  Would I celebrate?  Part of me would.  But part of me would also think that's a real shame and somewhat of a crock.  If a team with the brightest cadre of young stars in the league gets one more while some of these other teams limp along in misery something isn't right.  You may say they made their own beds, which is true, but they're supposed to be able to find a way out of them as well.  Theoretically the draft is their vehicle.  It would be a shame if our fortune got in the way of that. 

--Dave (blazersub@yahoo.com)