Why The NBA Draft Lottery is NOT Rigged

Conspiracy theories are all the rage these days. More and more people than ever buy into the wacky conspiracies that are incessantly spewed from Alex Jones, Donald Trump and Glenn Beck’s mouths. As a scientist, I’m well versed in what the scientific method is and understand the best method of inquiry is to seek empirical and measurable evidence to explore a hypothesis. Questioning things is not wrong. Questioning things and then proceeding to seek  ridiculous bits of quasi-evidence to confirm the crazy thoughts in your heads, and favoring poor evidence over strong evidence (or no evidence at all) is wrong. These guys will tell you that NASA is a program that is set up to kill thousands of astronauts, that President Obama is a Muslim from Kenya and that the Boston Marathon Bombings were carried out by Saudi Nationalists and/or covered up by the US government without a strand of concrete evidence all to further push their oft-hilarious agendas. They’re master manipulators; they can construe flimsy arguments with passionate tirades, wild stretches of the imagination all the while knowing their audiences are full of gullibility.

Those people are wackos who most are willing to just right off as such. Disclaimer: I apologize to anyone reading this that is a fan of either of those three and feels I am being harsh towards them; I did not mean to insult them, rather I intended to insult you.

Glenn Beck viewing party

But when it comes to the world of sports, these conspiracies are much more widely accepted and far less taboo. Perhaps it’s simply because the stakes are minuscule in scale to those and the idea that people would conspire to achieve something in the sports world feels much more innocent. The complications that arise if sports-related conspiracy theories are true are far less terrifying — in fact, they’d really only merely be disappointing and upsetting. The consequences of “Michael Jordan was secretly suspended by the NBA for gambling problems, and this is why he went and played baseball” are far less harmless than what the 9/11 truthers believe. Sports conspiracy theories are fun. Debating whether or not Curt Schilling had blood or ketchup on his sock is innocuous, as is debating whether or not Delonte West porked LeBron’s mom and thus ran him out of town.

But there are more serious allegations out there and it feels like most of them gravitate towards the NBA. The NBA is full of fans who feel that David Stern is some sort of puppet-master-god-voodoo-shaman-thing who can literally influence every aspect of the NBA. People debate, before games even start, who “Stern will let win”. Arguments about “who Stern will let reach the Finals” are in season and super-trendy right now (I kind of hope we get Memphis vs. Indy so they can shut up, at least for a few months). There are a substantial amount of fans that I interact with every day that feel Stern has his hands on everything. Unfortunately, this leads most fans to become unable to objectively watch a game and assess officials, and the rigging conspiracy theorists fall into a downward viscous cycle. They let confirmation bias run rampant.

Whether or not games are rigged is a topic for another day. I think most people have their minds made up and believe what they want to believe.

But when it comes to the draft there is some more concrete evidence out there that can be a bit persuading.


Let’s start with the basics.

First, don’t bring up the 1985 draft. That system of drawing envelopes is so outrageously archaic and outdated that it really has nothing to do with this discussion. Maybe it WAS rigged but that’s irrelevant to a conversation discussing whether or not the lottery that takes place this week will be too. I’m less interested in arguing that there is no incentive or desire to rig the thing, I’m going to argue that it’s just highly improbable that it’s even possible.

Here’s how the current NBA Draft Lottery works.

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Weekly Football Picks


Syracuse (-4.5) vs. Connecticut: 1 unit
Rutgers (-5) @ Temple: 1 unit
LSU (-3.5) @ Texas A&M: 1 unit
Kansas State (+3) @ WVU: 1 unit
Kentucky (+28) vs. Georgia: 1 unit
Seattle (+9) @ San Francisco: 1 unit
New Orleans (-3) @ Tampa: 1 unit
New York Jets (+11) @ New England: 1 unit


South Carolina (+3.5) @ Florida: 1 unit
Buffalo (-3) vs. Tennessee: 1 unit


Chicago (-6) vs. Detroit: 1 unit

Week: 8-2-1

YTD: 19-11-1 (+6 units)

This Week’s picks:

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Weekly Picks (10/18-10/22)

They say that Saturdays are when you make your money, and Sundays are when you give it right back. Yuuuuuup…


Northwestern (-3.5) @ Minnesota: 1 unit
Stanford (+7.5) @ Notre Dame: 1 unit
Oregon State (+6) @ BYU: 1 unit
Utah State (+3.5) @ San Jose State: 2 units
South Carolina (+3) @ LSU: 1 unit


West Virginia (-4) @ Texas Tech: 2 units
Tennessee (+3) @ Mississippi State: 1 unit
Steelers (-6) @ Titans: 2 units
Colts (+3) @ Jets: 1 unit
Patriots (-4) @ Seahawks: 3 units
Texans (-3) vs Packers: 2 units

Net: -5 units

YTD: + 0 units

The NFL buried me this weekend, and like that I have squandered the money I had already made. The Patriots looked to be in cruise control to and would have really salvaged things for me, but they completely blew it in a manner that I haven’t seen them do in a long time. It was pathetic.

This NFL season has been ridiculously unpredictable, so perhaps I start taking heed to that.

Oh well…

This will be brief.

Note: 1 unit for each.

Syracuse (-4.5) vs. Connecticut: 1 unit

Syracuse has played well at home this season. They are the vastly superior offense.  UConn has played a very fluff schedule, which makes their defense look better than it is. Syracuse will be the best offense they’ve played so far, and that’s an indictment towards UConn’s schedule.

Rutgers (-5) @ Temple: 1 unit

The road hasn’t slowed Rutgers down much this year. They’ve won every game by 8 or more points, including better teams than Temple.

LSU (-3.5) @ Texas A&M

Johnny Manziel is a joy to watch, but A&M has been shaky lately. LSU has next weekend off, so even with Bama on the horizons, it’s hard to see this being a trap game. They’ll be solely focused on this game, and figure out a way to stop Manziel.

South Carolina (+3.5) @ Florida: 1 unit

I hope I’m wrong, but I do think Florida is a bit more flawed than their now #2 BCS ranking suggests. I’m not buying into the severity of Lattimore’s injury either.

(Note, by book has this on old…assuming due to Lattimore)

Kansas State (+3) @ WVU

You have to imagine WVU is fired up for this one, but I just think Kansas State is the better team.

(Same as above…)

Kentucky (+28) vs. Georgia 

Trap game? Why not? Kentucky is bad, but 28 points is a lot, and at home Kentucky can keep it under that.


And for the NFL…and since I’ll probably lose all these, I’ll refrain from dropping any logic here…

Seattle (+9) @ San Francisco

New Orleans (-3) @ Tampa

New York Jets (+11) @ New England

Buffalo (-3) vs. Tennessee

Chicago (-6) vs. Detroit


Playing with NBA Futures Bets and Props

I rarely play future bets, because I’m too impatient. But I’m going to take a stab at some this year, and consider it an investment.

Who will be the 2012-2013 NBA MVP:

Chris Paul, with 8 people higher than him, becomes my “sleeper” pick

Lebron James +175
Kevin Durant +385
Kobe Bryant +800
Kevin Love +1200
Dwight Howard +1200
Deron Williams +1200
Steve Nash +1200
Russell Westbrook +1200
Dwyane Wade +1500
Carmelo Anthony +1500
Chris Paul +1500
Tony Parker +1500
Blake Griffin +1800
Rajon Rondo +2000
Dirk Nowitzki +2000
Kyrie Irving +3000
Danny Granger +4000
Chris Bosh +4500
David Lee +6000
Field +1000

I’m instantly ruling out the Laker trio. I can’t see how any of those three so clearly become the best player on that team let alone the MVP of the league. I’m immediately ruling out David Lee because his inclusion on this list is just hilarious. I can’t imagine a scenario where Bosh, Granger, Griffin or Parker win it either. Westbrook will forever be in KD’s shadow, and considering the fact that OKC’s team success is now expected, the season he’d have to have, assuming KD is healthy, to win the MVP award is unfathomable. Kyrie is somewhat intriguing, but at best he becomes considered a fringe top-10 player, and it’s a certainty that nothing special will be happening in Cleveland this year. I think people forget just how great Wade was last regular season, and even so, he only finished 11th in the MVP voting. The world has warmed up to LeBron as well, and it’s clearly “his team”.

The Candidates

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Weekly Football Picks (10/11-10/15)

It was a good weekend for me, in more ways than one. I had a solid week where I hit on 6 of 9 bets. I took a min-vacation to Bloomington/Indianapolis and saw the Colts beat the Packers in exciting fashion. I’m not terribly surprised with any of the losses I posted this week. I’m a bit surprised that Georgia got demolished, and even though I thought their offense would do better, they were playing a great team on the road. In hindsight, I’d probably just avoid that game. Northwestern over Penn State might have had some internal bias in it that skewed that pick. I was flat out wrong about Purdue.


Utah (+13) vs. USC: 2 units
Pittsburgh (+1.5) @ Syracuse:  1 unit
Oklahoma (-5) @ Texas Tech: 1 unit
Tulsa @ Marhshall over 69.5: 2 units
WVU (+7) @ Texas: 2 units
Atlanta (-3) @ Washington: 1 unit

+9 units


Northwestern (+1.5) @ Penn State: 2 units
Purdue (+3) vs Michigan: 1 unit
Georgia (+1) @ South Carolina: 1 unit

-4 units

+5 units on the week

YTD: + 5 units


Northwestern (-3.5) @ Minnesota: 1 unit

The Golden Gophers have come a long way, and will win a few conference games this year, but they haven’t quite come this far. Northwestern has to bounce back strong in this one, and I still think they are far more talented than what they showed last week against Penn State.

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Weekly Football picks (10/4 – 10/8)

I’m having much more success with my actual bets than these picks. Last week was a disaster here, especially for my college picks where I went 7-12-1, bringing my YTD total well under .500. However, my more selective betting has been a bit more lucrative. I am up 13.5 units early on in this season (1 unit is 2% of my initial bankroll, and I will be consistent with that throughout the year). I’m no professional here, but for me that’s pretty solid. This has always just been for fun and a way for me to “publically” keep track of things. The stakes aren’t high.

I’m going to start from scratch again, just for score-keeping purposes. I’m a bit OCD. I cashed out all the money I have made from my initial deposit, and I’ll start back from square one. 50 units in the bank. There are no more rules. I pick as many games, for as many units, as I want. I’ll screen cap my picks for proof.

Here goes…


Utah (+13) vs. USC: 2 units

Yes, the game has already happened, but I think I made it pretty clear on twitter last night how much I loved this line. Perhaps I loved it a bit too much…because it looked like I was doomed. Luckily a garbage time TD saved the day!

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Week 4 NFL Picks

Running a bit behind this week, so I’m going to be brief.

Week 3 Record: 7-9
YTD Record: 22-25-1

Not very good. Oh well. I blame the replacement refs!

Thursday September 27

Cleveland @ Baltimore (-12)

Hard to see where the first Browns win comes from, and it certainly won’t be tonight. Baltimore shouldn’t have much of a problem winning this one handily.

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