Coin Flips and What Ifs: Wizards Have Most Improbable Draft Lottery Showing Ever
What if the Wizards didn’t win the pre-lottery coin flip tie-breaker against the Los Angeles Clippers after the 2008-09 season? Both teams finished with identical 19-63 records, and even though the Wizards got a single extra combination in the ’09 lottery after winning that coin flip (so, a 17.8 percent chance of getting the top pick instead of LA’s 17.7 percent), the Clippers won the prize, i.e., Blake Griffin. Not only that, but two other teams, Memphis and Oklahoma City, jumped into the top three, bumping Washington to five.
But what if the Wizards, who sent Flip Saunders as their lottery representative in 2009, had been part of the winning combination? They likely would have elected to not trade the fifth overall pick (for Mike Miller, Randy Foye and a money-save) and would have instead drafted (and kept) Griffin.
[To note: Saunders was Minnesota’s rep at the 1995 lottery and also returned to his team with the fifth overall pick, but that turned out to be Kevin Garnett—the Timberwolves finished tied with the Wizards for the second-worst NBA record that season, 21-61. Washington, holding the tie-breaker in odds to win No. 1 (18.3 percent to 18.2), landed the fourth pick and took Rasheed Wallace. Both teams were jumped by Golden State (Joe Smith, No. 1), and Philadelphia (Jerry Stackhouse, No. 3).]
Surely, with Blake Griffin missing his entire first season with the Clippers due to a broken kneecap sustained during the preseason, the Wizards, being themselves, likely would have been bad enough to land a high pick again, i.e., John Wall in 2010.
The what ifs… Wall, Lob City-ing, or whatever, to Griffin in the Verizon Center—the return of “Fun Street.” Speaking of…
What if Washington had won the coin flip against the Golden State Warriors in 2010?
The Wizards found themselves tied with the Warriors for the fourth-worst record in the NBA after the 2009-10 season, but with one less combination (10.3 percent instead of 10.4 percent) after losing the coin flip. Washington ended up with the first overall selection, and Wall, and Golden State slipped to sixth with Ekpe Udoh as the reward. What if? Would the Wizards be struggling through an Evan Turner rebuild instead? (Or would they have drafted Greg Monroe, who went seventh to the Pistons?)
What ifs aplenty…
“The Wizards lost to the Detroit Pistons once again. As if suffering a four-game regular-season sweep to the equally lowly Pistons wasn’t enough…” began a Washington Post article after the local franchise lost another tie-breaker on April 19, this time between two teams of a 29-53 ilk, tied for the seventh-worst NBA record in 2012-13. (Good thing the Wizards didn’t reach that 30-win goal, we ‘spose.)
Here we go again. The Wizards came up short on another coin toss. But when it’s between seventh and eighth place, no one cares so much. Except for… the most exciting, unexpected, inconsequential, irreverent, and #SoWizards lottery win ever.
Yes, in winning the 2013 third overall pick, the Washington Wizards franchise, for just the third time in team history (since it all began with the 1985 Patrick Ewing “envelope” lottery), has jumped UP in draft position (the Wiz have been lottery players 20 out of 28 times).
Nope, the Wizards didn’t move up when they selected Bradley Beal with the third overall pick in 2012. Cleveland and Washington were each bumped back by New Orleans’ jump forward to Anthony Davis.
In 2010, the Wizards had a 10.3 percent chance to land the first pick. They did, jumping over the Nets, Timberwolves, Kings, and the coin flip victor Warriors. Roll out the red carpet for Wall.
In 2001, solely holding onto the NBA’s third-worst record at 19-63, the Wizards had a 15.7 percent chance to win the top pick. They did, jumping over the Bulls and Warriors. Did you know, by any chance, that Kwame Brown had very tiny hands?
Sounds like it’s time for another what if…
In 2013, the Wizards had a 70.3 chance to stay in 8th place and a 12.4 chance to jump into the top three. They did. If not to first overall, Washington still jumped five franchises: the Bobcats, Suns, Pelicans, Kings, and Pistons. For a change, the team can boast a lottery win—a 4.8 percent chance at the third pick—that was more improbable than all other lottery wins in Wizards history, even if there have only been three such “wins.”
So what if? What if the Wizards, instead of the Cavs, won the first pick again…?
At 3.5 percent, they had almost as good a chance.
Instead, let the debates and mock drafts begin… more incoming what ifs, great.
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