The Lottery. A place where statistics can only do so much. A team can certainly improve their odds of success by aiming for a truly horrendous regular season record, but without fate smiling on you come draft night a 10 win season is far from a guarantee of your franchise securing one of the top 3 picks.
Cast your mind back a year ago when the Chicago Bulls snatched the number 1 pick when statistically they had a pretty pathetic 1.7% chance of doing so. It was the second biggest upset in draft history behind Orlando’s 1.5% number 1 pick in 1993. All of this serves as a reminder that the lottery is named so for a reason. Anything could happen and probably will.
Obtaining the top pick is only part of the problem. No player is a guaranteed sure fire thing coming in to the draft and even the most highly praised prospect can fail to make it in the NBA. And herein lays the major obstacle for GMs around the League: how do you establish which players have the long term potential to become stars based on relatively little information which cannot possibly figure out how well equipped a player is to make the step up into the league? There is no crystal ball. Just ask the teams who have seemingly squandered the top pick in the past.
People say that ‘you are better lucky than good’ and no where is this more apparent than on draft night. The difficulty in predicting a player’s potential is illustrated by the fact that numerous current All Stars were drafted outside the top 10, some out of the second round and some go un-drafted only later to excel when given the chance.
It can go both ways. Top prospects fail and off the radar players make it big. The drafts ability to surprise and fluctuate is illustrated by the number 17th pick in the 2005 draft, Danny Granger. Drafted out of New Mexico College, Granger was far from an elite prospect, always likely to get taken in the lower first round.
Yet, 4 years down the line, Granger has become the Pacers go to guy and the man that the franchise is seeking to build around for future success. He is that good. Averaging 25.1 points per game this season, Granger is one of the premier scorers in the league who continues to improve, consistently getting better every year. His stellar play this year has been rewarded with an All Star nod, and it would not be too brave to suggest that this will certainly not be the last.
A 6-8, 228 lbs, forward who can play the 2, 3 and even the 4, Granger is the manifestation of versatility, a man who can help his team in any which way, seamlessly moving around the court to fill gaps left by injuries and his team mates inadequacies.
In Danny Granger the Pacers have their franchise player and now its about getting him the help that he can lead into the postseason. Indiana will be hoping that they will replicate their good fortune in taking Granger when they enter the draft this year. They may only hold a 0.7% chance of taking the 1st overall pick, but as drafts of previous years have shown, this does not mean they will not luck out or choose wisely lower down the board.
This year’s board is far from loaded, with only one prospect, Oklahoma’s Blake Griffin, an apparently certified star in the making (ESPN labelled him a ‘young Carlos Boozer. But with hops.’). Everyone else in the lottery occupies a GM’s nightmare grey zone: no doubt talented, but unproven, inconsistent, too small etc. Many of these players are as likely to slide to ignominy as they are to succeed.
As GMs know, you are better lucky than good.
Welcome to lotteryland.