Going into last night’s draft, the New Orleans Hornets had a 13.7% chance of getting the #1 pick. By the end of it, the Hornets beat out the Cleveland Cavaliers (13.8%), the Washington Wizards (19.9%), and favorite the Charlotte Bobcats (25%) and got the #1 pick, which will be Kentucky Center Anthony Davis. New Orleans Saints owner and future Hornets Owner Tom Benson was at the event. The reason I say future is because he doesn’t own the team yet, the NBA still does, which is a good reason why many fans are up in arms crying out the dreaded word no commissioner wants to hear: fixed.
In late 2010, the New Orleans Hornets were going bankrupt, so the NBA decided to purchase the franchise, which caused immediate speculation amongst fans as how the NBA can own a team without creating a potential conflict of interest. Move forward a few months during the NBA off-season where a trade agreement was met between the Hornets, the Houston Rockets and the Los Angeles Lakers. The Lakers would get Hornets point guard Chris Paul. The Rockets would get Lakers center Pau Gasol. The Hornets would get Lamar Odom, Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic, and a draft pick. Looking at this trade, one would assume that the Hornets got the best of this deal. Yes they would lose their best player and biggest star in Chris Paul, but they would receive a plethora of talent and could’ve become one of the deepest teams in the league. But all David Stern saw was one of the NBA’s biggest stars going from a small market team in the Hornets and going to one of the biggest market teams in the Lakers, where Paul would play along with fellow big star, Kobe Bryant. Due to pressure from other small market owners, namely Cleveland Cavalier owner Dan Gilbert, who lost his big star LeBron James the year prior, Stern decided to veto the trade. Soon after the veto, another trade was agreed upon, this time between the Los Angeles Clippers and the Hornets. Clippers got Paul, and in return, the Hornets got Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman, and Al-Farouq Aminu. This was approved by Stern and how did this turn out? Well the Clippers went to the Western Conference Semi-Finals for only the second time in franchise history. On the other end of the spectrum, Gordon only played 9 games, Kaman produced decent numbers (13 ppg, 7 rpg) and the Hornets tied for the 3rd worst record in the league. Now look back at that vetoed trade. Yes Odom may have played like he did with Dallas, but with Scola, Martin and Dragic, they could’ve easily gone at least .500.
So what better way to make up for that mistake than to give the Hornets the first overall pick and an immediate impact player and starter in Anthony Davis. Any second now, Tom Benson will become the new owner of the Hornets, and boy did he a received a nice welcoming gift. It also doesn’t help David Stern’s image that the new owner of the Hornets also owns the Saints, who are currently going though apocalyptic levels of bad press with ‘bounty gate’ and the continued stalemate in contract negotiations with franchise star Drew Brees.
This isn’t the first time that the NBA Draft Lottery has drawn conspiracy theorists out of hiding. The very first lottery caused an immediate uproar as the New York Knicks, Stern’s hometown team, won the lottery and got future hall of famer Patrick Ewing. In the 2003 Draft Lottery, the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were tied with the worst record, got the first pick and Akron’s own LeBron James. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls, with just a 1.7% chance of getting the first pick, won the lottery and drafted Chicago’s own Derrick Rose. Cleveland, one year after ‘The Decision’ and the departure of LeBron James got the first pick and rookie of the year Kyrie Irving. So if you’re going with the what team would make the greatest story motif, it should come as no shock that the Hornets won the Draft Lottery.
Do I believe the Draft was fixed? At first my answer was an immediate NO. Then I saw this image today.
Apparently, this was taken BEFORE the Draft ran on ESPN. The exact time this picture was taken hasn’t been disclosed yet. Maybe Davis knew the results shortly before the Lottery aired. Maybe he bought every lottery teams’ hat to see which one looked best on him and this picture was taken the day he wore the Hornets’ hat. If this was indeed taken before the results were determined, that’s only going to fuel those conspiracy theorists, and David Stern and the NBA only have themselves to blame for they way they’ve mishandled the Hornets ever since they bought them.