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The Lockout and the Toronto Raptors' 2012 Draft Hopes

Harrison Barnes in a Raptors uniform? It may depend on what drafty lottery system the NBA imposes should the lock-out kill the upcoming season.
Harrison Barnes in a Raptors uniform? It may depend on what drafty lottery system the NBA imposes should the lock-out kill the upcoming season.

The HQ takes a look at the potential impact of the loss of a season on the NBA Draft, especially as it pertains to the Dinos...

Last Friday I discussed why I thought the loss of a complete season would be a worst-case scenario for the Toronto Raptors.

Between the need to develop a young team and pushing back management's goal of rebuilding due to a loss of a year's data, there doesn't seem to be many "pros" that could come from such a situation.

Now comes the news this morning that we're one step closer to such a scenario as the NBA has officially cancelled the start of training camp and all exhibition games through to October 15.

That doesn't mean the whole season is a goner of course.  

Ken Berger of CBS is reporting that there is in fact progress being made, albeit via baby steps, so we're not doomed necessarily.

But we're at least getting very close to a decision having to be made regarding a shortened season and if there's no progress after that...

It's the "no progress after that" that I want to focus on again for today's post, as a cancelled season means a very interesting situation for the Toronto Raptors' draft hopes.

Regardless of what anyone on the Dinos' management team says, the goal for the 2011-12 season should be to secure a top pick in what many expect to be a pretty loaded draft.

The top pick?

I'm not even sure that would be necessary considering the potential talent available as one quick gander at the names of some of the possible draftees is enough to cause a Raptors' fan to salivate profusely.

Like to see Austin Rivers throwing up lobs to DeMar DeRozan?

How about Harrison Barnes slicing into the paint or Jared Sullinger dominating on the low blocks?

Or maybe you're more of a fan of multi-position prospects.  If that's the case then a Perry Jones III, or an Anthony Davis type probably works best for you.

The point is there's no shortage of blue-chip talent in the upcoming draft class and we haven't even mentioned names like Quincy Miller, Michael Gilchrist or Marquis Teague.

But what if there is no draft?

That's the million dollar question I want to discuss today, because how the NBA deals with such a situation has a huge impact on the Raps, and their ability to get the ship back on course so to speak.

Consider this.

As of now, there's no history in the NBA as to what should occur regarding the draft and draft lottery if the entire season is cancelled.

The NBA could simply redo last year's lottery, keeping the same odds for teams and proceed like nothing ever happened, however I'm guessing there would be a good many dissenters to such a plan.  Considering that had a season been played, invariably some of the better teams in 2010-11 would have dropped in the standings and been eligible for some of the names above, and some of the league's bottom feeders would have improved get the idea.

Another option would be to throw everyone in the pot and give each franchise equal odds.

This is an idea that has been backed by Malcolm Gladwell many a time in the past, and described in full here:

The consistent failure of underdogs in professional sports to even try something new suggests, to me, that there is something fundamentally wrong with the incentive structure of the leagues. I think, for example, that the idea of ranking draft picks in reverse order of finish -- as much as it sounds "fair" -- does untold damage to the game. You simply cannot have a system that rewards anyone, ever, for losing. Economists worry about this all the time, when they talk about "moral hazard." Moral hazard is the idea that if you insure someone against risk, you will make risky behavior more likely. So if you always bail out the banks when they take absurd risks and do stupid things, they are going to keep on taking absurd risks and doing stupid things. Bailouts create moral hazard. Moral hazard is also why your health insurance has a co-pay. If your insurer paid for everything, the theory goes, it would encourage you to go to the doctor when you really don't need to. No economist in his right mind would ever endorse the football and basketball drafts the way they are structured now. They are a moral hazard in spades. If you give me a lottery pick for being an atrocious GM, where's my incentive not to be an atrocious GM?

I think the only way around the problem is to put every team in the lottery. Every team's name gets put in a hat, and you get assigned your draft position by chance. Does that, theoretically, make it harder for weaker teams to improve their chances against stronger teams? I don't think so. First of all, the principal engine of parity in the modern era is the salary cap, not the draft. And in any case, if the reverse-order draft is such a great leveler, then why are the same teams at the bottom of both the NFL and NBA year after year? The current system perpetuates the myth that access to top picks is the primary determinant of competitiveness in pro sports, and that's simply not true. Success is a function of the quality of the organization.

Fundamentally I agree with this notion, but it would be admittedly an awful hard pill as a Raptors' fan to swallow should say the Bulls or Heat walk away with a player of Barnes or Rivers' ilk, while the Raps have to settle for someone like CJ Leslie.

Again, how the NBA decides to deal with the draft situation is crucial for a rebuilding club like Toronto, and a loss of a complete season pushes this issue to the forefront.

So maybe the league goes the way of the NHL.

After the work stoppage of 2004-05, the NHL decided on a slightly altered version of the NBA's weighted lottery system.  In this scenario, the league gave teams with fewer playoff appearances over the previous three seasons and fewer number one overall picks over the last four, a better chance of grabbing the top picks.

Such a system applied to the NBA would obviously pay great dividends for Toronto having indeed been playoff-less the last three years, and whiffing on a top overall pick since 2006 and Andrea Bargnani.

In fact under such a plan, the top 10 teams with the best chances at grabbing the number one pick, in order, would be:











New Jersey



Golden State












LA Clippers



New York





Washington and the LA Clippers both have worse win totals than some of the teams in front of them in these rankings, but again, as both have had number one picks in the last three years, they'd get pushed behind their "top pickless and playoffless" brethren.

The Knicks and Pacers would round out the top 10 thanks to recent playoff appearances, and the final three teams in order would then be Philly, Memphis and Charlotte.

Again, this doesn't guarantee Toronto the fifth pick, but it does keep them in the hunt for one of the premiere upcoming talents.

None of the above options are perhaps ideal, but I'd argue that the NHL system, or some version of it, is the most likely one should the 2011-12 season be cancelled.  It maintains the current lottery system's ideals for the most part, regardless of how you feel about them, and for Toronto, would give the franchise another shot at a premium prospect.

However I'd argue that for Toronto, the best scenario is still a full season.  Toronto on paper looks to be a bottom three team in the league to me so why take fifth best odds when you can have third?  A shortened season might not be any better either as depending on the final schedule, a smaller sample size of games could result in an elevated win total and no one wants that.


No one this side of Dwane Casey.