NBA draft lottery fuels conspiracy theories | Basketball | CBC Sports

NBANBA draft lottery fuels conspiracy theories

Posted: Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 06:51 PM

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Head Coach Monty Williams of the New Orleans Hornets holds up the winning card during the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery on Wednesday. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images) Head Coach Monty Williams of the New Orleans Hornets holds up the winning card during the 2012 NBA Draft Lottery on Wednesday. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Wednesday was NBA Draft Lottery day, and NBA fans watched yet another conspiracy theory evolve when the New Orleans Hornets made the unlikely jump to land the first pick in the draft and take Kentucky's Anthony Davis.
On Tuesday afternoon I happened upon this New York Knicks t-shirt in a Yonge Street store and impulsively bought it.

It wasn't until Wednesday morning that I realized that there may have been stars, symmetry, fate and all that other stuff involved in the purchase.

Wednesday was NBA Draft Lottery day, and as a salute to the frozen envelope conspiracy theory that delivered Patrick Ewing to the Knicks in 1985, I opted to wear the shirt. Then like clockwork, hours later, NBA fans watched yet another conspiracy theory evolve when the New Orleans Hornets made the unlikely jump to land the first pick in the draft and take Kentucky's Anthony Davis.

Of course to a rational person, my new Knicks tee is a pointless side story to another ridiculous tale of the NBA's historical bend towards Roswell-type conspiracy theories. The thing is, many NBA fans aren't necessarily rational people. And for good reason: When you consider some of the league's stories and the circumstances of them over the years, you understand why.

This time, the theory is that the Hornets (league-owned, in the process of sale to Saints owner Tom Benson) gift-wrapped the No. 1 pick as either a) incentive or b) a big thank you kiss for Benson buying the team and keeping it in New Orleans, to which the league has been admirably committed -- albeit to a fault -- since the horrors of Hurricane Katrina.

For added suspicion, everyone still has the memory fresh in mind of David Stern vetoing Chris Paul's trade to the Lakers in December. For added bonus, the Hornets will also pick 10th in this draft.

The reaction was swift and predictable. On Twitter, ESPN's Bill Simmons compared the NBA to the WWE. Meanwhile, one team executive told Yahoo!'s Adrian Wojnarowski that "this is a joke."

Either way, this is David Stern's NBA right now. Charlotte's former team screwed Charlotte's current team -- who despite a historically inept 7-59 record -- failed to secure the first pick and the unibrowed one, the safest bet in the draft. If it's not a conspiracy theory, maybe higher powers were out to punish Bobcats owner Michael Jordan for screwing things up the last time he had a say in a No. 1 selection -- Kwame Brown.
The Brooklyn Nets had a bad day as well, losing their No. 6 pick from this season's Gerald Wallace trade with Portland (Their pick was top-three protected, so moving up in the fashion New Orleans did would have got them good news amid reports Deron Williams won't re-sign with them unless they somehow acquire Dwight Howard).

The Raptors unsurprisingly stayed put at eighth, leading president & GM Bryan Colangelo to unsurprisingly use the word "flexibility" regarding what Toronto will do with the pick. Many feel a trade may be coming, and given the Raps' needs and the talent in the top 10, there's a very good chance that could happen.

Top-10 mock

Having said that, here's an early top-10 mock. Although keep in mind how much will change in terms of stock, workouts and trade discussions before the June 28 draft:

1. New Orleans: Anthony Davis, 6-10 PF, Kentucky (Signed, sealed, delivered)
2. Charlotte: Thomas Robinson, 6-9 PF, Kansas (Bobcats need size)
3. Washington: Andre Drummond, 7-0 C, Connecticut
4. Cleveland: Bradley Beal, 6-4 SG, Florida
5. Sacramento: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, 6-7 SF, Kentucky
6. Portland: Jared Sullinger, 6-10 PF-C, Ohio State (Sullinger may be a stretch this high, but the Blazers need something inside)
7. Golden St.: Harrison Barnes, 6-8 SF, North Carolina (Stock has dropped but he won't go too low)
8. Toronto: Jeremy Lamb, 6-5 SG, Connecticut (If the Raps aren't picking for someone else, this is their best option likely available in this spot in terms of need)
9. Detroit: John Henson, 6-9, PF, North Carolina
10. New Orleans: Damian Lillard 6-2 PG, Weber State  (Hornets still also need a point guard in the wake of Paul's departure and this is their man)

The Canadian to keep an eye on as pre-draft workouts evolve is St. Bonaventure's Andrew Nicholson of Mississauga. Pegged as a mid-first rounder, he could move up as many have labelled him with a sleeper tag.

Spurs seem like team to beat

While getting caught up in the idea of a Heat-Thunder NBA Finals this year, it became easy for me to pay less attention to the San Antonio Spurs. I won't say I forgot them because you'd never dismiss a team, a system and a coach as successful the past decade-plus as Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, the Spurs and head coach Gregg Popovich.
When Phil Jackson marginalized them by referring to their first championship in 1999 as an "asterisk title" because it was a lockout season (sound familiar?), he obviously didn't know three more titles would follow and the comment would be invalidated.

Of course, San Antonio didn't have Parker or Ginobili then, and it was still David Robinson's team despite the rapid emergence of Duncan.

What Pop and company developed since then has been the subject of much debate, mostly stupid.

Are they an NBA dynasty because they never won back-to-back titles? In an age of flash, image and a public with the attention span of gnats, does this fundamentally rock-solid four-time titlist belong in the pantheon of greats alongside the Lakers?
But back to now. Maybe it was because they were knocked out by Memphis in the first round last year as a No. 1 seed that we thought they were finished. Maybe there is truth in the talk that Parker's been a better player since his marriage to Eva Longoria ended and he's no longer a staple on TMZ.

Whatever it is, they're playing at a level right now -- 20 straight wins through Tuesday -- even they haven't demonstrated in the past with their fundamental, ball-movement system.

The reason they are doing it is because in addition to the savvy vets, the youthful quickness in Daniel Green and Kawhi Leonard are a much-needed upgrade from last season.

And no matter how you slice it, Popovich is the best coach in the NBA. Forget the entertainment value of the surly quotes; no coach in the league can make adjustments and pull down the proverbial pants of another good coach as effectively (Scott Brooks' hack-a-Splitter foolishness notwithstanding).

Appreciate it. Whatever happens next, you probably won't see a team that plays the game this way again for a very, very long time, if ever. Like Martin Brodeur in the Stanley Cup final, take a good look at it and thank the sports Gods you were able to see it.

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