The NBA Draft Lottery Karma Rankings

Here are your odds for tonight’s NBA draft lottery …


Technicality No. 1: Denver gets the higher pick in the Denver-Orlando–New York scenario; Orlando gets the lower pick; and New York gets nothing because God hates the Knicks.

Technicality No. 2: If anyone leapfrogs Detroit and the Pistons drop to no. 9 or lower, Charlotte gets that pick (so somebody needs to flag down MJ on the ninth hole and tell him he might win a lottery pick tonight).

Technicality No. 3: New Orleans only keeps its pick if it lands in the top three. Otherwise, Philly gets it thanks to the Jrue Holiday hijacking. Er, trade.

Got it? Are we good?

One more important note: Joel Embiid is going to be the first pick of the 2014 draft. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. These teams are full of it. We’re worried about his back, we’re hearing it’s bad … Hold on, I’m actually going to stand under the bull as he craps on me. It’s Smokescreen Central right now. And enough with the Oden parallels; unless Embiid’s pre-draft MRI reveals a career-threatening back issue (doubtful), NOBODY is passing on a franchise center who could easily be described as “The 7-Foot Serge Ibaka.” Stop it. He’s going first. We’re officially calling tonight’s lottery “Bleed for Embiid.”

With that stuff out of the way, let’s focus on the percentages that really matter — the 2014 Lottery Karma Rankings! It’s not about what the Ping-Pong balls say, it’s about what the Karma Gods say.

Do your boys REALLY deserve to win the lottery? Did they handle their business the right way last season? Did they embarrass themselves with a tanking fiasco? Did they make a shady trade that inadvertently affected the playoff race? Did they do anything that made you say, “They just took a poop on their fans”? Have they been so inept for so many years that their ineptitude just shouldn’t be rewarded anymore? Did they make any aggressively stupid decisions like paying Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings $78 million combined without hiring them a strong coach, or gift-wrapping a $48.5 million extension to an injured and possibly washed-up Kobe Bryant without making sure he could still play basketball three times a week? Are they owned by someone you’d describe as “an incompetent legacy kid who’d be working in a grocery store if his dad weren’t rich” or even “possibly concussed, he should seriously get his head checked out”?

And on the flip side, are they doing everything the right way? Do they have a real plan? Did they make an honest attempt to make the playoffs? Could you describe them as “exceedingly well run” and/or “just a solid, solid organization”? Did they make one or more trades that could be described as “genuinely smart” or even “stunning in its vision and scope”? Are they a franchise that makes you say, “If Embiid/Wiggins/Jabari ends up there, they’ll take care of that guy”? Have they had bad lottery luck in the past? Are they due for a lottery break? Should the Karma Gods be saying, “We feel bad, we gotta hook those guys up”?

Without further ado, the 2014 Bleed For Embiid Lottery Karma Rankings …

No Karma Whatsoever

13. Cleveland Cavaliers
I can’t decide what makes them more ineligible for karma — would you go with “two no. 1 overall picks and two other top-four picks just in the past three years, but they batted 25 percent,” or would you go with “rehired the same shaky coach they already fired, gave him a five-year deal, then fired him again after Year 1”? When Obama appoints me the Czar of Sports, I’m making this rule: “No NBA team can win the lottery two times in a 10-year span.” Much less three. It’s too bad Brick Tamland isn’t a real person, because the Cavs definitely would have hired him as their coach/GM.

12. Minnesota Timberwolves
Just for screwing up Kevin Love’s contract and letting him leave after three years (instead of locking him down for five), they’re out. Also not helping: Did you know this is ‘Sota’s 10th straight lottery? Ten straight??? From 2006 through 2011, the Timberwolves had SEVEN picks ranging between no. 2 and no. 7. They’re the real-life equivalent of your college buddy who had three kids way too early in life and now uses your fantasy football draft as an excuse to get bombed because he got out of the house for four hours.

11. Sacramento Kings
Headed for their eighth straight lottery and their sixth straight top-seven pick (unless someone leapfrogs them). I’m an NBA Republican — I don’t think we should use the lottery, year after year, to keep propping up incompetent teams. It’s a broken system. We need a “Make eight straight lotteries and you’re ineligible from getting a top-three pick” rule. Also, I still haven’t forgiven Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé from trying to steal my Entertaining As Hell Tournament idea. Let’s hope he’s not the Carlos Mencia of NBA owners.

10. Philadelphia 76ers
Put it this way: I wrote an entire column about them last March called “10 Steps to Tanking Perfection.” The Karma Gods can’t reward anyone who lost 26 straight, much less anyone who turned Michael Carter-Williams into a stat-chasing, brick-laying, award-pursuing mess who learned that it’s OK to lose as long as you throw up an 18-7-7. Even if you can’t blame Philly for taking advantage of a broken system, that doesn’t mean the Lottery Karma Gods can’t scream at them in their Soup Nazi voice, “NO KARMA FOR YOU!”

9. Orlando Magic
Come on, they already won the lottery three times! And three good ones, too: Shaq, C-Webb and Dwight. I think we’re good, Orlando.

Just for fun, here’s your lifetime NBA Lottery Winner Scoreboard: Cavaliers (4); Clippers (3); Magic (3); Bucks (2); Bulls (2); Hornets (2); Nets (2); Spurs (2); Wizards (2); 76ers (1); Blazers (1); Kings (1); Knicks (1); Raptors (1); Rockets (1); Warriors (1).

But here’s the craziest and most fascinating NBA lottery fact ever in the history of crazy and fascinating lottery facts: Through 29 NBA lotteries dating back to 1985, only one franchise ever won the NBA title with its own no. 1 overall pick. The team? San Antonio with David Robinson (two titles) and Tim Duncan (four titles, two with Robinson). How is that possible?

A Cereal Bowl of Karma Points

8. New Orleans Pelicans
Sorry, they totally botched the Chris Paul trade (and gave him to Donald Sterling, no less!), netted about 23 cents on the dollar for him, then were summarily rewarded by  the league totally rigging winning the Anthony Davis Lottery. He’s only the NBA’s third-best asset right now and the logical answer to the question, “Who’s winning the MVP trophy after LeBron and Durant are done passing it back and forth?” I think we’re good from a karma standpoint, New Orleans. Throwing a couple karma slabs your way only because I love the Brow.

7. L.A. Lakers
You gotta respect the year-to-year greatness of this franchise. Since 1958, they missed the playoffs only five times. They won only 27 games last year; that’s somehow their lowest total since 1958. They’ve never won the lottery; since 1982, they’ve never picked higher than 10th. They won 11 of the last 42 titles and appeared in 26 of the last 55 Finals. Since Elgin Baylor joined the Lakers in 1958, they’ve trotted out at least one historically great superstar in 49 of the past 56 seasons. And they’ve produced at least 3.5 million annoying fans (easily a league record).

On the other hand … they’re due to suck for a few years. Right? Why should THEY get the no-sucking-ever exemption? We’ll see if the Karma Gods think Lakers fans should suffer for a few years or not.

(By the way, if the Lakers win the lottery tonight, it will be one of the funniest Internet moments of all time and — since I’ll be appearing on live TV on ESPN — I’m just about guaranteed to get fired for what I’ll say afterward. I don’t know if this means the Lakers should get more or fewer karma points.)

6. Utah Jazz
Door A: Hire a competent coach, then re-sign Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap (two really good players).

Door B: Let Jefferson and Millsap go; trade for $20 million in Golden State’s expirings and pick up two G-State first-rounders in 2014 and 2017 that almost definitely won’t be in the lottery; then keep Ty Corbin as your coach just to make sure your team sucks enough for 2014 lottery purposes.

My verdict: I don’t think the Lottery Karma Gods loved how this played out.

A Salad Bowl of Karma Points

5. Milwaukee Bucks
Let’s be honest — the Karma Gods already threw them a solid with the whole “instead of losing your team to a superior offer from Seattle, we miraculously found two billionaire hedge fund guys who want to keep the Bucks in Milwaukee even if we’re not totally sure that Milwaukee loves professional basketball” thing. But unlike Philly, this franchise actually tried to compete — they spent money on midlevel free agents like O.J. Mayo, Gary Neal and Zaza Pachulia, overpaid Larry Sanders and made a sincere run at 40 wins and a first-round playoff sweep. Did that sincere run make any sense whatsoever? No!!!!!!!!!!!!! Absolutely not!!!! But at least they tried … right?

(Also, Viva La Greek Freak.)

(Also, this is the other “Funniest Twitter-Related Outcome” for the no. 1 pick. You know, considering they just sold the team and all … and considering we just watched the same thing happen with New Orleans two years ago.)

4. Detroit Pistons
Do you penalize them for the never-ending slew of head-scratching trades and signings, all the coaches they hired and fired, and all the money they tossed away? Or do you say, “It’s time for a fresh start for DEEEEEEE-troit basssssssketball with Andre Drummond, Stan Van Gundy and a top-three lottery pick, followed by the down-low hiring of V. Stiviano to secretly bait Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings into saying something terrible into a tape recorder so they can void both of their contracts”?

(You know what? I’m going with the latter. The NBA is more fun when the Pistons are good. They cleaned house, they’re moving forward, they made a very smart hiring with SVG, and now they deserve a break, dammit. Also, Jalen Rose would start throwing $100 bills into Indiana’s crowd tonight if his Pistons won the lottery.)

3. Denver Nuggets
Turned a high-functioning, 57-win team into a dysfunctional, 36-win team mostly through organizational incompetence. So why stick them this high? Because there’s a remote chance they could win the lottery with New York’s Ping-Pong balls (thanks to the Carmelo trade from years ago). Who has worse karma than the Knicks? Isn’t this destiny? For one night, the Nuggets get to bask in the bizarro glow of James Dolan’s basketball karma. Even if they have a 0.8 percent chance of winning, once you factor in Dolan, that jumps to 25 percent easy. I have a weird feeling about this one.

2. Boston Celtics
You gotta admit, they sold as high as possible on Pierce and Garnett (three unprotected no. 1s from Brooklyn in 2014, 2016 and 2018 plus a pick swap in 2017) and Doc Rivers (an unprotected no. 1 in 2015 that has a puncher’s chance of becoming a gem if the Sterlings fight to keep the Clippers and every Clipper decides, “I am suing to play for a different team”). You can’t execute an impromptu rebuilding plan better than that.

Also helping from a karma standpoint: As a lifelong Celtics fan, I’ve suffered through three tanking seasons (1997, 2007 and 2014) … and of those three teams, this was the only tanker that actually made me proud. They competed just about every night for Brad Stevens, blowing close game after close game because they didn’t have a crunch-time guy. It was the perfect tanking season, actually. I never felt like I had to take one of those 40-minute showers to get the stink off me. Throw in the way they handled Doc’s return, Pierce’s return and KG’s return and it’s hard to say the Celtics didn’t accrue some legitimate karma here. Then again, I’m a humongous homer.

1. Phoenix Suns
You can’t play it better than the Suns played it these past 15 months. They nailed the Jeff Hornacek and Ryan McDonough hirings. They successfully reunited the Morris twins and transformed them into NBA assets. They fleeced the Clippers with that Eric Bledsoe–Caron Butler for Jared Dudley–J.J. Redick trade, and then they pillaged none other than the Basketball Jesus with the Gerald Green–Miles Plumlee–2014 no. 1 for Luis Scola trade. They tried like hell to make the playoffs, winning 48 games and falling short on the final week (and only because they played in the West). They left themselves with four first-rounders and a buttload of 2014 cap space. They even made me say the words, “Hey, maybe Robert Sarver is turning into a good owner after all.”

What am I missing? Who played this better than the Suns? Even if they have a 1-in-200 chance of winning the 2014 lottery, at least they can sleep tonight knowing that the Lottery Karma Gods were applauding them. Well done, Phoenix.

Last note: If I have a heart attack on live TV at any point during tonight’s lottery, it’s been nice knowing you. Thanks for reading.

Filed Under: NBA, Bill Simmons, Joel Embiid, Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, julius randle, Philadelphia 76ers, Milwaukee Bucks, Detroit Pistons, Cleveland Cavaliers, Kevin Love, Orlando Magic, New Orleans Pelicans, Los Angeles Lakers, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets, 2014 NBA Draft

Bill Simmons is the founding editor of Grantland and the author of the New York Times no. 1 best seller The Book of Basketball. For every Simmons column and podcast, click here.

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