There will be plenty of in-depth and serious Draft Lottery coverage today, but indulge me for a moment in a thought experiment, and consider a draft that isn’t decided by wins and losses and a somewhat transparent lottery, but on who absolutely needs a higher position in the draft, and who most deserves to turn their respective team around. Of course, as Clint Eastwood declares in Unforgiven, “Deserve’s got nothing to do with it, kid.”
Let’s say teams drafted not on merit, or the luck of a ping-pong ball’s bounce, but on something resembling some crude form of justice. Leaving aside the large possibility that players like Nerlens Noel or Ben McLemore aren’t going to single-handedly turn a franchise within a year’s time, the NBA Draft serves as a yearly tiny hope that the rich won’t get richer, and that perennially pitiful squads will take that first crucial step in turning things around. Using a rigorously critical-scientific approach, I’ve ranked which teams deserve that coveted #1 pick from most to least.
1. Charlotte Bobcats
This shouldn’t even be close. The Bobcats are kind of like a nerd who gets picked on in high school that becomes a nerd who gets picked on in college that transforms into a guy who can’t pay his mortgage and doesn’t know how to use soap. This franchise is just bleak. Kemba Walker is feisty enough and the tenacity of Michael Kidd-Gilcrhist can only be admired, but this is just a depressing operation doubling as some kind of Shakespearean humility lesson for Michael Jordan. Following the Bobcats is like watching Midnight Cowboy with someone you hate. It’s not easy. If any group of fans deserves hope it is the Bobcats faithful, whom I know must exist.
2. Toronto Raptors
Another mess, though at least they have a (comparatively) storied past and the fading nostalgia of Vince Carter in his prime as well as Chris Bosh. The Raptors can use all the help they can get with something of a schizophrenic game plan.
3. Orlando Magic
The Orlando Magic deserve the top pick based merely on the agony a certain All-Star center inflicted on their collective psyche for over a year. They have a few good pieces and a coach that showed flashes of really getting through to his hopelessly outmatched team this past season, and hey, a successful team in Orlando can only be good for the league as a counterweight to the giants in Miami.
4. Sacramento Kings
Based once again on recompense for mental anguish, the Kings deserve a break, though I’m hesitant to put them any higher than 4th since they have been stockpiling high draft picks for what seems an eternity without any great leap forward. I tend to look at the Kings like a bizarre world version of the Thunder, but one that could benefit from owners that actually care about the team.
5. Minnesota Timberwolves
The Timberwolves are another tragic what-if story from last season. A wonderfully strange roster full of mercurial talent and an improving star are derailed by injuries pretty much from top to bottom. Minnesota has been aching to return to winning since Kevin Garnett bolted. On the other hand, what they should really do is take their 5th Pick in the We Deserve It Draft and package it with Derrick Williams and try to trade for some long-range bombers or maybe for not Luke Ridnour.
6. Philadelphia 76ers
Our boys from Philly have really been through the ringer. The Andrew Bynum saga. The Curse of Doug Collins in Year 3. Julius Irving isn’t going to save them. But they do have the good fortune to have more than a few NBA quality talents, which knocks them down some pegs in this draft. Heck, they took the Celtics to 7 games last year. The Bobcats got to the playoffs once!
7. Utah Jazz
A high pick in the draft is not going to fix rotations and developing young talent. Much as it would be nice for the Jazz and their armada of bigs to have put it all together, I can’t say they deserve it.
8. Phoenix Suns
The Suns are a classy organization but it’s hard to feel that bad about the path the franchise has taken lately. Much of it seems self-inflicted (signing Scola and Beasley? Lindsay Hunter as coach?), and not anything that a healthy dose of pretend justice would fix. Goran Dragic is a stud though, and at least Eric Gordon wanted to play for them.
9. Washington Wizards
A few years ago the Wizards thought trading a high draft pick for Mike Miller and Randy Foye would make them into contenders. That is such a sad thing to consider. But they’ve pulled themselves out of that darkness and have a team that would most certainly have stolen at least one game from the Heat, unlike the hapless 8th seeded Bucks. The Wizards have John Wall. The Wizards don’t deserve #1.
10. Portland Trail Blazers
The curse of Sam Bowie and Greg Oden and the knees of Brandon Roy make this a popular choice for a team that deserves some luck, but the Blazers already have a talented core, especially in All-Star types like LaMarcus Aldridge and Damian Lillard. I’m sure Portland fans feel the pain of so many first round exits and busted draft picks, but this team has been competent much more than not, and they also hosted the most touching event in recent NBA history when Mo Cheeks helped a nervous little girl finish singing the National Anthem. Also, the Bobcats have been to the playoffs once.
11. Detroit Pistons
Things went to hell remarkably fast for the Pistons, but man, they were good for a while and you can’t really say their fans have toiled in the same kind of existential nightmares that Charlotte or Toronto have recently. They are some serviceable guards and a nice Free Agent or two away from the glory of the 6th seed in the Eastern Conference. They were also gifted Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, both of whom fell right into their Motown laps.
12. Cleveland Cavaliers
The Cavaliers don’t deserve the #1 pick. They already have Kyrie Irving and Kyrie Irving is going to drag Cleveland back to post-LeBron relevance one crunch-time clutch shot at a time.
13. Dallas Mavericks
Until this year, the Mavs had some ridiculous amount of fifty win seasons. Two years ago they won a championship as a jump shooting team of spare parts led by the notoriously soft choke artist Dirk Nowitzki. The Mavericks have had it real good for a long time and they have an owner and a coach who take care of business. They’ll be fine.
14. New Orleans Pelicans
The Pelicans got the #1 pick last year. They used it correctly and drafted Anthony Davis. Then they did something real strange and drafted Austin Rivers. You had your chance at the top of the We Deserve It Draft, Pelicans!
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