May 21, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; The NBA playoff logo lies on the floor of game five between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76ers of the Eastern Conference semifinals of the 2012 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Draft Paradox: The NBA's worst teams are rewarded with the Kentucky Wildcats best players and nobody wins.

Since John Calipari’s arrival on UK’s campus, the NBA Draft has been must-see TV. He’s put 21 players in thus far with seven (7) being lottery picks with six (6) of them being of the “one and done” variety. With 2013 NBA Draft fast approaching (June 27), I’ve grown tired of the parity that comes with being a high draft pick; a lottery pick, if you will.

For those who do not know, the Lottery is composed of the fourteen (14) worst teams in the NBA who, via a lottery pick not unlike what is done in state lotteries, are fighting for the chance to select a draft pick from among the best college players. Coincidentally this practice is very similar to the format of the NCAA Tournament where the #1 seeds play the #16 seeds, #2-#15, and so on. So in both cases, the relationship is like this: as with the NCAA Tournament, the worst teams play the best teams and with the NBA Draft Lottery, the worst teams draft the best players. Guess who loses in that scenario? Yep, you guessed it…the players. It’s always the players.

Ignore the fact that these underachieving NBA teams are turning teenagers into instant millionaires; any system that rewards the worst with the best is flawed on a fundamental level. Make no mistake, the NBA is a money driven, revenue chasing business that cares only about their bottom line, and while I understand that, doing that at the expense, often times, of top tier talent is hardly successful.

There’s a reason why teams are terrible and seldom is because of the players, rather you typically need to look no further than the coaching staff and/or ownership.

A few members of the media comment, and in the case of Charles Barkley, lament that these players are coming out too early based on their physical and mental maturity in that neither are developed enough to succeed in the NBA. He has taken aim more at the 2013 Draft than any other as far as Kentucky is concerned. And as much as I hate to say it, he has some validity to that point. Of the two “one and done” entrants from Kentucky, Nerlens Noel absolutely belongs. Archie Goodwin doesn’t.

It’s unreasonable to expect a teen, no matter how good they were in High School or College, to carry a franchise as a Rookie so allowing the worst teams to draft the best players in order to turn your franchise around in a pipe dream.

But since the draft is around the corner, I decided to compare the “one and done” former Kentucky Wildcats who declared early and were drafted in the NBA lottery, to see how they and their team fared in the inherently one sided deal that is rewarding bad franchise with top talent.
College Statistics:

2009-2010 Player PPG RPG APG SPG BPG Record
John Wall 16.6 4.3 6.5 1.8 0.5 35-3
DeMarcus Cousins 15.1 9.8 1 1 0.9 35-3
2010-2011 Brandon Knight 17.3 4 4.2 0.7 0.2 29-9
2011-2012 Anthony Davis 14.2 10.4 1.3 1.3 4.7 38-2
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist 11.9 7.4 1.9 1 0.9 38-2

NBA Rookie Season:

2010-2011 Player Pick Team Record PPG RPG APG SPG BPG
John Wall #1 Washington Wizards 26-56 (23-59) 16.4 4.6 8.3 1.8 0.5
DeMarcus Cousins #5 Sacramento Kings 25-57 (24-58) 14.1 8.6 2.5 1 0.8
2011-2012 Brandon Knight #8 Detroit Pistons 30-52 (25-41) 12.8 3.3 4 0.8 0.1
2012-2013 Anthony Davis #1 New Orleans Hornets 21-45 (25-55) 13.5 8.2 1 1.2 1.8
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist #2 Charlotte Bobcats 7-59 (21-61) 9 5.8 1.5 0.7 0.9

As you can see, the immediate impact on the records of the teams is negligible at best. Only two (Davis and MKG) showed any improvement, with the rest losing at least one additional game from the prior season. Still though, even with the 14 game win improvement for the Charlotte Bobcats, they still only won 21 games during MKG’s rookie season.
But never mind the win totals of any of the former Wildcats during their rookie NBA seasons, the mental impact that comes with having to endure 40+ loss seasons is brutal to their psyche and during this stage in their adjustment to and development in the NBA, what’s primarily accomplished is that the owners are putting asses in seats.
The greedy monster is getting fed and these teenage rookies are the main course.
So of course the owners are happy, though they’d never say that publicly but player development always takes a backseat to the almighty dollar in the NBA.
This year we have two Wildcats who should hear their names called in the June 27th NBA Draft but only one, Nerlens Noel, is projected among the Top 3 picks. During his injury shortened freshman season at Kentucky, he sealed his fate for the Lottery.

Nerlens Noel 10.5 9.5 1.6 2.1 4.4 21-12

And in case you are wondering, the 2013 NBA Lottery order looks like this:

The NBA draft lottery order has been finalized, with four ties being broken Friday in a drawing by the league in New York City. The draft lottery will be held on May 21, and the draft itself will be held on June 27. Here are the results of the drawings:
* Detroit (29-53) won a tiebreaker with Washington.
* Philadelphia (34-48) won a tiebreaker with Toronto.
* Houston (45-37) won a tiebreaker with Chicago and the L.A. Lakers; the Lakers then won a tie-breaker with Chicago.
* L.A. Clippers (56-26) won a tiebreaker with Memphis.

Only the top three picks will be selected through the draft lottery, with the remainder being selected based on the final record of the non-lottery teams. The Orlando Magic are at the top of the lottery board with a 250 out of 1000 chance to land the first pick, followed by the Charlotte Bobcats (199), Cleveland Cavaliers (156), and Phoenix Suns (119). The full draft order, and lottery chances are as follows:

Orlando Magic (250) 20-62
Charlotte Bobcats (199) 21-61
Cleveland Cavaliers (156) 24-58
Phoenix Suns (119) 25-57
New Orleans Pelicans (88) 27-55
Sacramento Kings (63) 28-54
Detroit Pistons (36) 29-53
Washington Wizards (35) 29-53
Minnesota Timberwolves (17) 31-51
Portland Trail Blazers (11) 33-49
Philadelphia 76ers (8) 34-48
Toronto Raptors (7) 34-48
Dallas Mavericks (6) 41-41
Utah Jazz (5) 43-39

So, barring a statistical anomaly that would allow either Dallas or Utah to steal the #1 Overall pick, our beloved Nerlens Noel could be a member of the one of the three (3) worst teams in the NBA.
That’s some reward for being the best player in college basketball, right? Again, I’m aware he’ll make millions but it doesn’t set well with me. The kids who excel should be given an opportunity to develop a reasonable pace and not start their NBA career in the fire. At least let them get in the frying pan for a season.

Will the format ever change? I doubt it.

If the format changed what could it look like?  How about giving each team the same number balls in the hopper and let the selections fall where they may.

Does that mean that the NBA Champion team could end up with the #1 Overall pick?  It sure does but that’s a chance worth taking.

Is that the worst circumstance for the player?  On the contrary, it’s the best possible scenario for the player.

The rich may get richer, like Nick Saban does with EVERY recruiting class at Alabama, but the benefit to the player and franchise will be felt for years to come.

As it is, the top players will never find themselves in a position to learn the NBA game before having to shoulder the load for their team.

Perhaps staying in school for another year wouldn’t have hurt some of the “one and done” players but they’re adults making adult decisions who are being guided by adults who care nothing about their best interest.

It’s time for a change.

What say you, Big Blue Nation?  Are you tired of seeing the best of the Blue and White going to garbage teams?  Is it time to protect the players more than the bottom line?

How would you do it?!


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