In it to lose it

In 2019, the NBA decided to change its draft order policy, giving the teams with the three worst overall records the same, 14%, chance at the number one pick. However, this would not be the first time the NBA changed it’s draft order policy.

First, in 1966, the order was decided by a coin flip. Then, by the pulling of an envelope from a hopper; this gave all non-playoff teams an equal chance at the top pick. The league would then change the policy three more times before the current policy introduced in 2019.

It was a terrible year for New York Knicks fans. With franchise star, Kristaps Porzingis, out for the season with a torn ACL, no one expected much from the Knicks this season. What they expected less, was that Porzingis would be traded in the middle of the season.

The trade changed everything. It changed the landscape of New York basketball, it changed the whole landscape of the NBA. Instead of a promising future led by the Latvian big man, dubbed “the unicorn,” the Knicks were left with Dennis Smith Jr., a point guard they could have drafted a few years back, instead selecting French scrub, Frank Ntilikina, and a whole load of cash–$74.6 million, to be exact.

And for what you ask? Nothing. The Knicks, unsurprisingly, did end up with the worst record in the NBA, finishing at a mesmerizing 17-65, the same record they finished with in 2015, the year they famously drafted, and booed, Porzingis. 

But what is surprising is how the Knicks did not end up with the number one overall pick. This is not a team that was tanking. This was a team that desperately needed help. They needed help and Duke superstar, the most highly anticipated basketball player since LeBron James, Zion Williamson, was willing to help them. Only the NBA could stand in the Knicks way!

Remember how I said the old lottery system, which had been around since 1993, came to an end in 2019? Did you wonder what was changed in 2019? Everything.

What was once a 25% chance at the number pick was now a 14% chance–the same chance as the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Phoenix Suns, the second and third worst teams in the NBA for the 2019 season. Although under the new lottery rules the Knicks could not drop out of the top five, the number one pick is what they and their desperate fanbase wanted, what they needed… but it was not what they got. 

The Knicks would end up with the number three overall pick in the draft, selecting Williamson’s teammate, wing, R.J. Barrett, while the Pelicans, who finished with a respectable 33 wins in 2019, were awarded Williamson, as they now look to waste yet another generational talents’ career. 

The Knicks did not get Kevin Durant or Kyrie Irving, as the world expected them to. The Knicks did not get Zion Williamson as they were meant to… because they deserved it; deserved it a lot more than the 33-49 Pelicans, that is.

It seems there is only one way around this, and it has been done countless times before, the NBA must change the lottery system yet again. Yes, the new system combats tanking, but worse, it combats teams, like the Knicks, who can change their whole direction with one pick but instead are sent into a constant cycle of misery and disaster.

If commissioner Adam Silver, a New York native, can change the lottery system yet again, possibly to give the worst team an 18% chance at the first pick, teams like the Knicks, the Suns, and the Cavs can finally break out from their constant history of losing basketball games. Changing the lottery system from the one introduced in 2019 will give a small advantage to small market teams and losing franchises who continuously miss out on big name free agents. This will make the NBA more competitive and will make basketball fun again.