Last night the nation was introduced to the 2014 Fab Frosh Draft Class, as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle made their national television debuts on the fifth night of the 2013-14 college basketball season.
None of them disappointed:
Julius Randle posted 27 points and 13 rebounds (along with 8 turnovers), looking like a young (and quicker and more explosive) Zach Randolph in the 2nd-half. He showed an impressive handle and drive game where he was always able to come back to his right-shoulder (left hand) and finish inside. He also showed the ability to jackknife and move the ball around while finishing inside against taller defenders (like 6-10 long-armed Adreian Payne).
Jabari Parker came out on fire, scoring 19 of his game-high 27 points in the 1st-half to go along with 9 rebounds on 9-18 shooting and 4-7 behind the arc. He showed good vision, a tight handle and a silky smooth shot while making an assortment of jumpers (both off-the-dribble and catch&shoot) and drives that showcased more athletic ability than perhaps was expected from him.
Andrew Wiggins didn’t initially show the same offensive polish Parker did but he didn’t over-handle and quietly picked his spots scoring on quick cuts, runouts and post-ups inside when matched up with a smaller guard. He showed a nice drive-game and spin-move arsenal in the lane. He showed he could run like a gazelle and get off the floor as quickly as anyone. When the game was in the balance, with Kansas leading 83-81 with 1:33 to play, Wiggins showed more of his game – swinging the momentum by first hitting a step-back 20-footer from the wing and then finishing with an emphatic dunk in transition while also being fouled by Parker (who fouled out on the play).
Jazz Draft Lottery Odds
With the Jazz playing historically bad basketball at 0-8, they appear to be in the driver’s seat to finish with the league’s worst record and in prime position to land the #1 pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. While fans spent the night binge-tweeting about Parker and Wiggins, it’s far from a foregone conclusion one of them will be on the 2014-15 Jazz roster. Here’s a quick refresher on the NBA draft lottery.
The team with the worst-record does have the best chance to obtain the #1-overall pick – as well as the highest percentage of securing a top-3 pick. However, “best chance” doesn’t necessarily mean a “good chance.” Here are the probabilities:
1. The team with the worst-record has a 25% chance at the #1-overall pick – also meaning they have a 75% chance of not having the #1 pick.
2. The team with the worst-record has a 64.3% chance of having a top-3 pick – also meaning they have a 35.7% chance (better than 1-in-3) of falling to the 4th-pick.
The 25% and 64.3% chances are better than any other team possessing a single lottery pick – but they are not sure-fire bets, and it’s slightly disconcerting that you have a better chance picking 4th than picking 1st.
NBA Draft Lottery History
In 1993, the NBA adopted the system presently used today for the Draft Lottery. In the 20 Draft Lotteries since, the average draft position for the team with the worst-overall record was 2.7. While that is higher than the average draft position of the 2nd-worst (3.6) and 3rd-worst (3.3) teams – you’re still taking the backseat. In a draft you absolutely can’t blow, you’d obviously rather be at #1 where you pick the guy you like best instead of at #2 or #3 where you’re taking the guy the top team(s) like the least.
Here are the percentages for teams with the 1st, 2nd, 3rd…ect.-worst records finishing with the #1-overall pick. (Note: #1 = Worst record; #2 = 2nd-worst record, ect. Additionally, several times picks 2-9 have varying odds if teams finished tied with the same record, but the theoretical percentages for the worst-overall record never changed).
Percentages of the Top-9 Worst Teams Picking #1-Overall (1993-2013)
The 10% for the worst team is most startling. The team with the worst-overall record has ended up with the first-overall pick only twice in the past 20 years and not since 2004. The worst-team also ended up with the #2-pick eight times – resulting in a 50/50 outcome of drawing a top-2 pick (with 2014 potentially a Parker/Wiggins draft).
Jabari Parker certainly looked as close to an NBA-ready franchise player as we’ve seen in recent years. Andrew Wiggins showed the athletic ability and franchise-type potential that he was billed to have and Randle showed all-star PF potential. Based off what we’ve seen of those two so far (which isn’t much) I would be ecstatic if the Jazz can add a Parker or Wiggins next year and a season of terrible Jazz basketball would be more than worth it.
With that said, last night’s games don’t change my opinion for a second that the Jazz made a mistake this past offseason assembling a poo-poo platter of a cast around the Core-4. It doesn’t change my opinion that Ty Corbin is a poor head coach who should have been let go last spring. It doesn’t change my opinion that Jeff Hornacek should have been at the top of Utah’s list of replacements for Ty Corbin. And it doesn’t change my opinion that the Jazz are woefully underachieving so far this season.
The Master Plan?
If Dennis Lindsey’s goal was to be historically awful in 2013-14 to maximize Utah’s odds for a top pick – that’s certainly understandable and something that’s been tried throughout the years. However given the odds and historical facts – it’s certainly not a foolproof plan, a safe plan, or even a genius one. It’s a calculated risk – which by definition of the term carries a legitimate chance of failure. It worked for the Cavaliers in 2003 and failed miserably for the Celtics in 1997.
Nevertheless, it’s still a gamble that you have to make work. You have to not only get a high pick but make the right one (and both NBA and Jazz history have shown it’s very easy to pick the wrong guy high). If it doesn’t work out next May, it’s also not a plan you want to reuse by banking on getting lucky the following year unless your goal is to become a perennial doormat (ask the Charlotte Bobcats how well that works).
Throwing away an entire season in hopes of the draft lottery is a little like Russian Roulette. You may start out with a 5/6 chance of striking it rich but if you do hit that 1/6 – and it only takes 1 – you’re SOL. You might have the best odds but “best” doesn’t mean “good” – and if the risk doesn’t pay off the results could be fatal.
There are also other options. The Pacers have shown you can build a serious title contender making brilliant mid-round draft choices and shrewd free agent signings. Jazz management is apparently content with taking a different approach hoping that a year of pounding sand can lead to striking oil next May. There’s alot of uncertainty but the payoff could be huge.
The Jazz have never had a franchise player at the SG or SF position. Adding one to a potential nucleus of Trey Burke, Gordon Hayward, Alec Burks, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter understandably leaves Jazz fans salivating.
The opportunity to draft a future franchise player is tantalizing, but before everyone starts talking up a Parker/Wiggins wing pairing with Gordon Hayward, remember at this point it’s all still a distant dream requiring good fortune. It’s okay to chase dreams – but remember the bigger they are, the harder they can fall.