Only the Worst Should Get a Shot

The Washington Post Sunday - - Nbasunday -

Af­ter a re­cent loss to Char­lotte in which he sat starters Paul Pierce and Al Jef­fer­son in the fourth quar­ter, Bos­ton Celtics Coach Doc Rivers vol­un­teered, “I was not tank­ing.”

For­tu­nately for Rivers, Hous­ton Rock­ets Coach Jeff Van Gundy has cre­ated a pro­posal that could quash ac­cu­sa­tions that teams are in­ten­tion­ally los­ing games to win the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft: Let all 30 teams have a shot. He was se­ri­ous. He should hush. Van Gundy re­ally wants to see the San An­to­nio Spurs pos­si­bly have a start­ing front line of Tim Dun­can and Greg Oden? Yep, that’s com­pet­i­tive bal­ance. His idea sounds even more lu­di­crous when the two teams on his coach­ing ré­sumé gained fran­chise cen­ters by be­ing aw­ful (the Knicks drafted Pa­trick Ewing in 1985 and the Rock­ets took Yao Ming in 2002).

Bad teams and their fans need some hope of im­prove­ment. The lot­tery gives the worst teams a bet­ter chance, not a guar­an­tee at se­cur­ing the top pick. Since 1990, just three teams that fin­ished with the worst record have won the lot­tery. And those wary that Bos­ton is tak­ing a late-sea­son nose dive to catch Mem­phis in the stand­ings are over­look­ing the ob­vi­ous — the Celtics may al­ready have se­cured their draft po­si­tion. They had an 18-game los­ing streak this sea­son. The last three teams to lose at least 15 in a row in a sea­son went on to win the lot­tery (in­clud­ing Van Gundy’s Rock­ets).

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