Messing around on my computer after I got home from work on Tuesday, I did the usual “Start randomly clicking on things and an hour later you’re pensively browsing the Greater Roadrunner entree on Wikipedia” routine, when in the process I ended up at ESPN’s 2014 Lottery Mock Draft generator — which is not a very productive place to find yourself if your favorite NBA team is in the lottery. At first I hit the “Play Lottery” button as a way to see all the different scenarios in which teams like the Lakers, Pistons and Bucks could maneuver in the top half of the lottery. And then I realized something. I realized the Nuggets actually have a chance of moving up into one of the top three spots on draft night. And although it’s a long shot – a very long shot — the possibility alone intrigued me enough to write 800 words about the subject, which is 800 more words than I was planning on writing this evening.
What you see above is the end result of clicking the “Replay Lottery” button roughly 30 times. And in case you’re wondering, the answer is yes, I did plan on clicking that button as many times as I had to until the Nuggets ended up moving into one of the top three spots of this fictitious, highly manipulative, dream-shattering graphics generator. Whether I would have actually gone through with this plan after about half an hour of repeatedly clicking the “Replay Lottery” button is a question that will never get answered (thankfully) but my guess is that I would have done it (sadly) for as long as it would have taken because that’s what true fans do (unfortunately): They sit around on their computers all day long thinking of nearly impossible ways for their team to obtain potential Hall-of-Fame caliber players.
During this vegetative mental state I was struck by an epiphany; a rather dull, unimaginative one, but an epiphany nonetheless — that being: What if the Nuggets do in fact move up into one of the top three spots in the draft? What casual NBA fans — and even hardcore ones who don’t necessarily follow the draft closely — need to realize is that this is the deepest crop of players near the top of the lottery that we’ve seen in at least a decade. There are legitimately 10 players in this draft who stand a real chance of being named an All-Star at some point in their career and by my estimation a handful of those are going to be All-Stars nearly every year. And while there may not be any LeBrons or Durants, there are more than a few who could end up being Westbrooks and Wades.
If the Nuggets move up in the lottery it will be monumental, a date forever cemented in Denver lore and talked about for decades to come. It will be 2003 all over again, only this time the Nuggets will already have a roster that could challenge for a title should the player they select be anywhere near as good as Carmelo Anthony. Yet while this is no doubt one of the more titillating scenarios to ponder as a fan, there still exists reality — unfortunately — and that reality says the Nuggets only stand about a 1.5 percent chance of winning the lottery even after you combine both the 11th and 12 pick odds (Denver’s own and New York’s) together.
There have been numerous leaps in NBA lottery history, the most recent coming in 2008 when the Chicago Bulls won the rights to the No. 1 overall pick after securing the ninth worst record in the NBA that year and having only a 1.7 percent chance of winning the lottery. Teams with the seventh and eighth worst records have also won the lottery once respectively since 1990 when the weighted lottery system was introduced. But the biggest jump occurred in 1993 when the Orlando Magic won after having the 11th worst record in the league and only a 1.5 percent chance of landing the top pick; it should be noted, however, that in 1993 the weighted system was different than is currently constructed, giving teams in the back of the lottery (i.e., where the Nuggets are this year) much higher chances of winning. Two more significant jumps occurred in 1990 when the Seattle Supersonics moved up to second overall to select Gary Payton after having the 10th worst record in the NBA, and in 1999 when the Charlotte Hornets landed the third overall pick after finishing with the 13th worst record in the NBA that year.
Between the two picks the Nuggets currently own at 11 and 12, they possess an extremely small chance of moving up. Since the weighted system was introduced in 1990 teams picking 11th or lower have moved up only twice. But while numbers, history and pure luck likely won’t be with the Nuggets come lottery selection night, it certainly won’t prevent guys like me, and hopefully fans like yourself, from feeling like Lloyd Christmas appraising his chances with Mary Swanson in the meantime.