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Karma Police 2018: Lottery justice for the NBA’s sorriest teams (plus BOS/PHI), part 2

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Can we freaking win this thing for once, God? Please??

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2017 NBA Draft Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

In part one, we considered the resignation certain teams winning the lottery would prompt in Knick fans. Today let’s look at teams we might actually be OK with winning instead of New York, and teams we would definitely not be OK with.

DEFCON 2: Rationalization

PHOENIX SUNS (21-61)

No. 1 pick odds: 25%
Top-three odds: 64.2%

For the record: On December 29, 2017, Phoenix was 14-23, on pace for 31 wins. 31 wins would have given the Suns the 10th-best lottery odds. Life in the desert is brutal and becoming more so. The team that calls the Sonoran Desert home got pretty brutal, too, losing 38 of their last 45 games to finish with the lottery’s best odds. Their fall from run-of-the-mill bad to “have kids/will barter for ping pong balls” is the stuff of legends, if legends are stories repeated over time to warp children and trouble their dreams.

Judgment: Phoenix winning the lottery doesn’t faze me. Whenever the Suns have been good, I’ve enjoyed watching them play, whether it be the high-octane Charles Barkley/Kevin Johnson teams of the 1990s or the high-octane Steve Nash/Amar’e Stoudemire teams of the 2000s. Adding a premium talent to Devin Booker and Josh Jackson would help Phoenix get back to doing what Phoenix does best: looking like the Knicks’ faster, sleeker but ultimately no more successful Southwest blue-and-orange twins.

ATLANTA HAWKS (24-58)

No. 1 pick odds: 13.7%
Top-three odds: 42.6%

For the record: Whereas fellow lottery hopeful Detroit’s season took the shape of an inverted bell curve, Atlanta’s was the more traditional model: their first 18 games and their last 18 games they were 7-29. The middle of the season saw the Hawks play to a perfectly respectable 17-25 mark. Is there a surer sign of Knick fan Stockholm Syndrome than classifying 17-25 as “perfectly respectable”?

Judgment: A glance at Atlanta’s roster reveals a team with an enormous Slovenian-shaped hole. Luka Doncic would pair nicely alongside impressive rookie John Collins and the retina-roasting fleet footwear of Dennis Schroder. Plus the Hawks haven’t reached an NBA Finals since John F. Kennedy was president and the team played in St. Louis. The Knicks have reached five Finals in that time. Anytime the Knicks have done something good that much more than you, I can’t hate on you getting your big break.

CHARLOTTE HORNETS (36-46)

No. 1 pick odds: 0.8%
Top-three odds: 2.9%

For the record: The Hornets aren’t a flaming paper bag of poop like some teams on this list, yet they’re also not one piece away from registering on anyone’s League Pass radar. They’re not a joke. They’re just not good. Sucks to be you, Charlotte.

Judgment: Charlotte winning the lottery is A-OK with me. I know some of you are thinking, “But what about schadenfreude? And Michael Jordan?”

*clears throat*

Michael Jordan, owner, is exhibit “A” of one of the American workplace’s fundamental flaws, wherein people who excel at one job are promoted to new jobs and assumed to be qualified, despite those requirements differing from the original job where success or simply competence were achieved. However mild the differences may appear, they are vastly more pronounced than any seeming similarities. Multiply these mild differences over time and the vastness of the distance reaches astrological lengths. This is why legendary players generally fail as coaches.

And executives.

And, in the only case so far, as an owner (if and only if you believe owners measure success by winning rather than profit, which if you do I have some lovely polar permafrost to sell you that isn’t at all disappearing at an apocalyptic rate).

If the Hornets win the lottery, whoever they draft will bomb. Michael Jordan’s post-Chicago comeuppance will continue, unabated. That is A-OK with me.

LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS (42-40)

No. 1 pick odds: 0.6%
Top-three odds: 2.2%

For the record: After trading Chris Paul last summer and Blake Griffin five minutes after declaring him a Clipper For Life, L.A. was resiliently competitive all season, but with four games left and the playoffs still in reach they lost all four by an average of 17 points. Credit the Clips for trying to remain a winning team, if no longer a pseudo-contender: when you spend decades synonymous with “punchline” and need a corporate exorcism to escape your racist owner, respectability is a good thing. Maybe the best of things. And you know what they say about good things.

Judgment: The Clippers winning the lottery would really grind their roommates’ gears.

DEFCON 1: Devastation

DALLAS MAVERICKS (24-58)

No. 1 pick odds: 13.8%
Top-three odds: 42.6%

For the record: Shortly after winning their first and only championship in 2011, the Mavs, led by an owner who looks like a petty thug from the old Dick Tracy comics, decided to reinvent the wheel and break up a title-winning roster because ringz. In the pre-punitive luxury tax days, Mark Cuban could throw money everywhere to persuade players to come to Dallas. Nowadays, with so many fixed contracts and billionaire owners afraid to spend millions, the Mavs are no longer a free agency destination. Perhaps this stems from the gods frowning upon the unmitigated hubris required to sabotage a team from defending their title.

This year Dallas started 1-10. They fought back for a while, with a New Year’s Eve victory in Oklahoma City improving their record to 12-15 after that awful start. But when 2018 dropped so did the Mavs, going 11-33 after January 1st.

Judgment: Dallas winning the lottery would be overkill, having only a year ago drafted the eventual greatest player in the history of basketball. It would also subject us to more of Cuban’s delusions of grandeur. Please, God. Don’t let them win. Not this team. Please.

CLEVELAND CAVALIERS (50-32)

No. 1 pick odds: 2.8%
Top-three odds: 9.9%

For the record: After Brooklyn’s Eastern Conference charity drive devoted years to building Boston into a burgeoning powerhouse, this summer their largesse shines on Cleveland. Meanwhile, the Nets continue to pat themselves on the back when the New York press isn’t doing it for them for having no draft picks, no free agent appeal and no franchise players. New management, indeed.

Never forget: Cleveland gave LeBron virtually zero help in his first stretch there (the two highest career win shares among Cavs from that run are Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Anderson Varejao). When LeBron chose to spend his late 20s living and working in South Beach with his boys rather than in northern Ohio with Mo Williams and Antawn Jamison, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert published a now-infamous letter slamming James. These are actual things Gilbert actually wrote:

  • “our former hero”
  • “narcissistic”
  • “cowardly betrayal”
  • “this heartless and callous action”
  • “The self-declared former ‘King’ will be taking the ‘curse’ with him down south...will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma.”
  • “our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.“
  • “Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there. Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works.”

DAN GILBERT FANCIED HIMSELF THE OLD TESTAMENT GOD OF WRATH AND PASSED JUDGMENT ON LEBRON JAMES’ SOUL BECAUSE LEBRON MADE THE SAME DECISION 99% OF PEOPLE WOULD MAKE.

Judgment: May the real Yahweh judge Gilbert as a modern Nebuchadnezzar and never let the Cavs win another lottery...like they did in 2011, 2013 and 2014.

PHILADELPHIA 76ERS (52-30)/BOSTON CELTICS (55-27) via LAL

No. 1 pick odds: 1.1%
Top-three odds: 4.0%

For the record: The Laker pick, currently slotted 10th, goes to the Celtics if it ends up 2 through 5. If the Laker pick jumps to number one or anywhere after 5, it goes to the 76ers. So there’s totally a chance two powerhouses who play in the same conference, division, and geographic neighborhood as the Knicks will add a better young player than the Knicks will next year.

Judgment: Philadelphia winning the Laker lottery would feel like this.

Boston winning the second or third pick?

CHICAGO BULLS (27-55)

No. 1 pick odds: 5.3%
Top-three odds: 18.3%

For the record: Chicago was expected to stink last season, and getting off to a 3-20 start seemed to affirm that. But over a six-week stretch from December to January, the Bulls went 15-8, including wins over Utah, Philadelphia, Indiana, two wins against Milwaukee, three against the Knicks, and a blowout of Boston. Fred Hoiberg was living up to his long-ago reputation as an ubercoach. But Chicago management didn’t want wins. They wanted lottery balls. So they grew quite a pair themselves, started resting their best players left and right with no pretense of legitimacy, and proceeded to go 9-27 during what became a two-and-a-half month middle finger aimed at paying customers across the U.S.A.

Judgment: Chicago winning the lottery would be the worst. They have no integrity whatsoever and deserve no spoils for their scumbaggery. But this is Chicago we’re talking about. They beat the Knicks on the court. They beat the Knicks in trades. They beat the Knicks in everything. Things breaking right for the Windy City buttholes would be same shit, different day/year/decade/century.

DEFCON 0: Cev Sanje

NEW YORK KNICKS (29-53)

No. 1 pick odds: 1.7%
Top-three odds: 6.1%

For the record: Cev Sanje is, according to Google, Slovenian for “pipe dream.” Doncic is Slovenian. So millions of New York fans really are tryna get the pipe.

Karma doesn’t know what to make of the Knicks. They were 14-10, and still respectable at 23-28...and then the ACL happened, and 6-25 happened. This is a recurring trend the past five or so years: the Knicks suffer at least one epic losing stretch that sabotages the season. In 2013-14 they started out losing 13 of 16 and later lost 10 of 11. In 2014-15 they lost 35 of 38. In 2015-16 they dropped 11 of 12. Two years ago they lost 8 of 9 and 9 of 10 over two separate stretches. Last season they lost 10 of 12, then later lost eight straight, won once, then dropped another nine in a row. That isn’t tanking. That’s hemophilia.

Judgment: The Knicks winning the lottery would...well, why don’t you tell us in the comments below. What would the Knicks moving up feel like to you?