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NBA Draft Lottery 2016: Regardless of what happens to the Utah Jazz, let's hope the Los Angeles Lakers get screwed

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Root for the underdogs. Always. And always know who your enemies are.

Harry How/Getty Images

Last night we saw an excellent game in game one of the Western Conference Finals. The NBA Playoffs continue tonight with another underdog going out on the road, this time out East. Will we see a similar finish, or is this going to be a case where the more popular team wins? Does this relate to the NBA Draft Lottery at all? While it's going to be tough for some unpopular teams, like the Utah Jazz, to win -- at least there's a probability that the popular teams can lose as well.

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Today's the big day, the NBA Draft Lottery. The Utah Jazz have the 12th best chances in this 14 team game of chance. And after looking at both the odds and lotto history, I don't think we need to go crazy. Play it cool, Jazz fans. Of course, this means I am trying to curry the favor of whatever Gods there are (if any) that govern Sports probabilities. I'm wearing my Dante Exum t-shirt under my "work-a-day" clothes. Are you guys doing anything superstitious today?

I love you B.F. Skinner, no matter what that bad Noam Chomsky had to say!

As for the Jazz, and the lotto -- they really haven't been in it that much since the reforms made in 1985 (The Patrick Ewing Draft). In short:

  • [2004] The Jazz had the 14th seed in the lotto and finished with the 14th pick (Kris Humphries)
  • [2005] The Jazz had the 4th seed in the lotto, and got bumped to 6th, then traded up (Deron Williams)
  • [2006] The Jazz had the 14th seed in the lotto, and finished with the 14th pick (Ronnie Brewer)
  • [2010] The Jazz had the 9th seed in the lotto (New York Knicks pick), and finished with the 9th pick (Gordon Hayward)
  • [2011 a] The Jazz had the 6th seed in the lotto (New Jersey Nets pick), and finished with the 3rd pick (Enes Kanter)
  • [2011 b] The Jazz had the 12th seed in the lotto, and finished with the 12th pick (Alec Burks)
  • [2012] The Golden State Warriors are unashamed tankers and prevented the Jazz from getting a lotto pick this year, and I don't really get why Jazz fans Old (first round exits to GSW twice) or new (Mark Jackson tanking era onwards) could ever support them. Ever. Know who your enemies are.
  • [2013] The Jazz had the 14th seed in the lotto, and finished with the 14th pick, then traded up (Trey Burke)
  • [2014] The Jazz had the 4th seed in the lotto, and got bumped to the 5th (Dante Exum)
  • [2015] The Jazz had the 12th seed in the lotto, and finished with the 12th pick (Trey Lyles)

All in all, the Jazz dropped as a result of the lottery twice (once in a 26 win season, and once in a 25 win season), and jumped some teams only once (the Kanter year with the Nets pick). They traded up twice, but for the most part have just landed where they should have according to the pre-lottery standings.

If you look at the probabilities in a pie chart for this year you get this:

DB 1913 - NBA Draft Lottery 2016 Utah Jazz Odds

So, it's very unlikely that the Jazz will get a Top 3 pick (2.5% total), and very likely that the team picks at #12 (93.5%). There's a 3.9% chance the Jazz drop back. If we use rounding, and those two things under 5% turn into 0% this means expect another #12 pick this year.

But if we're looking at "Karma" (and honestly, the Western interpretation of it is vastly different than the actual Eastern term), the Jazz are two down and one up, and are due to rise if we are looking for balance. But if we're looking at math, overall the Jazz are +/- 0.0 in Draft Seed - Draft Spot. So we are in balance already. Utah, over the 9 years with this current lotto system (2004, 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011 x2, 2013, 2014, 2015) average to a 9.89th pick in the draft. (#3, #5, #6, #9, #12, #12, #14, #14, #14) However, with Dennis Lindsey at the helm, it's not a sure thing that the Jazz will keep the player at that draft spot, moves can be made.

And I think we'll see much more excitement at the NBA Draft than we will for Jazz fans at the NBA Draft Lottery.

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So last night the under dog Oklahoma City Thunder took it to the heavily favored, media adored, and self-aggrandizing Golden State Warriors in their own gym with a come from behind victory. Russell Westbrook went into star player mode and his 19 third quarter points helped his team more than a missed call in the fourth quarter did. He finished with 27 points, 12 assists, 7 steals, 6 rebounds, 2 made threes, and went to the line 14 times against the defending champs.

This is stellar behavior, you know, it's what you expect from a star. Kevin Durant shot poorly, but made a big shot in the fourth, so I guess you have to keep shooting -- even if it means scoring 26 points off of 30 FGA. Probably the biggest positive difference maker was Steven Adams who hustled his way to 16 and 12, with 2 blocks, and went 6/9 from the free throw line -- coolly hitting two after getting fouled on the way to the rack on a broken play late in the game.

Golden State had a great game plan of attacking Enes Kanter when he was on defense, and while it is de rigueur to make fun of him, he did get his stuff collected enough in the fourth to end up finishing the game +2 in +/-. I expect Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson, and the refs to be in their finest form in Game 2. It would be nearly impossible to see the Dubs go down 0-2 in this series.

Tonight the Eastern Conference Finals begins between the Toronto Raptors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. I like the idea of Toronto making it this far, this is like their 1992 Utah Jazz season. They've never been here before, ever. The kids in high school right now who are Raptors fans are likely to grow up to be life-long Raptors fans like the people in my Generation X group are with the Jazz. It's an exciting time for them.

Or it would be if some people could give them some respect. The major media outlets do not -- which is another similarity between the Raps and Jazz in this regard.

Of course, CBS had this to reply with.

It's still a weak excuse if you ask me -- I can only imagine that Utah would be clowned on if this level of tech and social media existed back in the early 90s.

Go Underdogs!

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I can't really avoid talking more about the Draft and Lotto though. Here's some good reads, if you are up for it:

Ziller is always great. Also, do you hate the Los Angeles Lakers? Then read about the possibilities of them getting screwed over in this article. Keeping in the family, Seth Rosenthal has this great video on how the Lakers can get screwed.

Moving on, who should the Utah Jazz select if they do win the #1 pick?

My man Zach Reynolds goes over every lotto team, and this is what he had to say on behalf of our Jazz:

A series of injuries limited the success Utah could have, and the team wound up ninth in the West. With Dante Exum set to return, the team could use an impact talent at either forward slot. Simmons would likely be the pick, freeing Exum and Hayward to run off screens and create secondary offense from the wings.

- Zach Reynolds, The Lottery Mafia, 2016

I agree with the sentiment, somewhat. I don't think the team needs to jump for the best guard in the draft -- you want a player who is going to be a star when you pick #1. Ben Simmons seems to be that guy, and that may mean having to precipitate making other moves down the line. If there was a sure thing at SG or even SF I think that would complicate the decision, but it's pretty clear to me. On a team without any stars you need to at least find one if you plan on winning playoff games.

But some people ("some people"? Really, Amar?) think that teams today do not even try to win regular season games. At all. And that creates an unfair playing field -- during the season and during the off-season.

The quote is taken from the Yahoo! Sports article by Kelly Dwyer, where he himself is quoting the Los Angeles Daily News reporter Mark Medina:

Medina: What do you think of the current NBA lottery system?

Vandeweghe: "The first thing is, the lottery is not supposed to incentivize losing. In theory, it's supposed to help the teams with the worst record. That's the whole purpose behind it. It's been constructed in different ways and changed a variety of times over the course and adjusted as needed. But those are the two tenets to keep in mind."

Medina: Have there been any recent league proposals to change it?

Vandeweghe:: "Nothing recently. I don't think see anything imminent. A year and a half ago, there was a lot of momentum for change. We brought some thoughts to the Board of Governors. The majority of the owners were in favor of change. But a change really takes a super majority. So we barely missed that. I don't know what has happened in between that. We've focused on different areas. I would assume it hasn't really changed that much."

Read the Ball Don't Lie piece and/or the LA Daily News piece. It's clear that some people don't like the system that is in place and want changes. But I think that being good at drafting means that you will eventually no longer be in the lotto every year. If you are bad you'll keep being sent there. Similarly, people don't like the "Hack-a-____" strategy. Well, if those guys were good at making their free throws then the other team wouldn't be so keen on sending them there. Sure, you may not like how it affects the game, but it doesn't ensure victory one way or the other. Either get better at drafting and win games, or get better at free throws and win games. If you continue to suck, expect to never advance out of where you are.

The system is broken. But so are some of the teams.

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I don't know what's going to happen for the team tonight when the lotto goes down (watch on TV, 6 p.m. MT, on ESPN). But I do know that the legion of 2nd round picks the Utah Jazz currently hold (#42, #52, #60) do not add up to much in the big picture -- as Tankathon gives the Jazz a 12th best NBA Draft Power Ranking, and that's largely because of the 12th seed in the lotto.

DB 1913 - NBA Draft Lottery 2016 Tankathon Ranking

A little luck can change that ranking significantly, but I'm not going to get my hopes up. And in this business you can either rely on luck, or work hard and achieve success that way. I think the Jazz are aiming to be movers and shakers this off-season -- and their assets will be what leads the way. Yes, they have cap space in a year where most teams do. But they also have easily digestible contracts (Trey Burke, Tibor Pleiss, for starters), foreign players (Ante Tomic), and picks (picks! picks!!) that can help swing a deal.

This is going to be a busy off-season for the NBA, and especially the Utah Jazz. And really, the gears for that machine start tonight.

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Last, but most importantly, our Utah Jazz president Steve Starks had this to say:

Bravo! Let's send all of our positive thoughts -- draft luck can really change a franchise quickly. Just ask the Orlando Magic and Cleveland Cavaliers.

In a star studded league if you can get a Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, Penny Hardaway, or Kyrie Irving (or Anthony Bennett or Andrew Wiggins) then you should be a few steps ahead of everyone else. Of course, even if you do win the lotto, doesn't mean you'll ever win a championship.

Ask the New York Knicks and Patrick Ewing.

GO JAZZ GO!