Who Deserves to Win the Lottery?

Only three times in the history of the NBA Draft Lottery has the team with the worst odds come away with the top prize. That shows right there that losing the most games is dramatically different than actually deserving the reward.

In the now 20 year old Draft Lottery only three times has the team with worst record (and highest odds) won the top pick.

In the very first lottery the New Jersey Nets won the right to draft Derrick Coleman after having the worst record and it brought them moderate success. Then in back-to-back years the Cleveland Cavaliers (LeBron James) and Orlando Magic (Dwight Howard) won the lottery, both brought home a superstar that led them to the NBA Finals very shortly after. As a matter of fact, seven times in the history of the lottery the player drafted No.1 led his team from the basement of the NBA to the Finals in less than five years. Only one, Tim Duncan, won the Finals in that scenario, but simply getting there shows dramatic growth.

Winning the lottery is not the golden ticket to winning games; the other 13 teams that won the lottery stayed perennial losers or enjoyed continued mediocrity. The key is it brings a franchise hope and potential for the future. Which team will karma bring hope, which team will work the odds to potentially bring home the next star and a chance at rising from the basement next?

Who deserves to win the lottery?

Cleveland Cavaliers

This is pretty obvious. The Cavaliers were stripped of their most talented player in form of a one hour infomercial known as “The Decision.” Since then they made efforts to improve by adding a quality coach and even competing through the first 19-20 games of the season. After they faced their formerly beloved star turned nemesis for the first time not only was the talent issue highlighted, but their will and heart were surgically removed.

They now have the task of rebuilding from scratch and they are placing all their eggs in a very light basket. If they are rewarded with a top two pick, then it may be worth making the move to swap Mo Williams for Baron Davis and acquire another lottery pick. They may be able to find one game-changing type player in 2011, but the odds of finding two may not be as good. The draft has talent, just not as much talent normally seen taken in the first 14 picks.

The Cavaliers are also positioned well with two lottery picks, which means they have more chances for ping-pong balls to bounce their way. In a karmic world the Cavaliers would find a way to win not only the top pick, but another in the top five as well. They, more than any other team deserve luck to be on their side and an influx of talent.

Utah Jazz

It may be hard to sell this, but the Jazz may have lost more than the above mentioned Cavaliers. Their (now former) All-Star point guard by all accounts started an internal mutiny to get rid of their (now former) legendary head coach Jerry Sloan. Shortly after it seemed the Jazz brass had buyer’s remorse and quickly flipped Williams in a trade to gather some young talent and another lottery pick in this year’s draft.

The Jazz are a classy organization who made a mistake, righted it and now are in position to allow the karma gods to make a judgment on their situation. The team clearly has more talent than the Cavaliers, but at the end of the day they both are minus a superstar in a league that is run by its superstars.

Another key in favor of the Jazz to consider, they have always been a place for All-Star point guards call home. After John Stockton retired in came Williams ready to take the mantle, but now they do not have a point guard of the future in a year where the best prospect happens to be a point guard.


As mentioned above, the team with highest odds does not necessarily win the lottery. Only three times has the worst team won the lottery, but the teams with highest chances based on history are those in the second, third and fifth slots. Those slots have won the lottery a combined 13 times, below is the history of the lottery winners by the odds.

Odds Times Won
Most 3
Second 4
Third 4
Fourth 0
Fifth 5
Sixth 2
Seventh 1
Eighth 0
Ninth 1
Tenth 0
Eleventh 1

This year teams like Washington, Cleveland (via Los Angeles) and Milwaukee can make history as the first ever in that slot to win the lottery. A few years ago Chicago made history from the ninth slot, they were rewarded with this year’s NBA MVP in Derrick Rose. Can another team make history this year?

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