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Are Sports Draft Lotteries Actually Rigged?


         The National Basketball Association and National Hockey League held their annual draft lotteries in the past two weeks. Many fans from both leagues were displeased with the results arguing that the lotteries were “rigged.” In the NHL draft lottery, the Chicago Blackhawks won the 1st overall pick and got the rights to most likely draft Connor Bedard. Bedard, a 17-year-old phenom who many consider to be the next big name in hockey. In the NBA lottery, the San Antonio Spurs won the 1st overall pick and got the rights to select Victor Wembanyama, the 7’3 19-year-old elitist from France.

            These two players have some of the best potentials that sports have seen in a long time, with Bedard being compared to NHL superstar and MVP Connor Mcdavid and some touting Wembanyama as a similar if not better prospect than NBA great Lebron James. The lottery system for the NBA works so the team who finished with the least amount of season wins (this year it was the Detroit Pistons) have the highest per cent chance of winning the number one overall pick. NBA Draft Lottery: Odds, history and how it works.

        The Pistons ended the year with only 17 wins, while Houston and San Antonio both won 22 games. All three of these teams had a 14% chance of getting the #1 overall pick even though Detroit had five fewer wins than those two teams. The same thing happened in the NHL, with the Anaheim Ducks and Columbus Blue Jackets having greater per cent chances of winning the 1st overall pick (18.5% for Anaheim & 13.5% for Columbus) but the Chicago Blackhawks and their 11.5% chance ended up with number one overall. How does the NHL draft lottery work? What you need to know - ESPN


            It is called a lottery for a reason but the winners of both lotteries, Chicago and San Antonio are both in similar spots franchise-wise. The Chicago Blackhawks had a poor season that saw them trade away one of their best players ever Patrick Kane as well as longtime Captain Jonathan Toews retiring.

     This concluded an incredible era for the Blackhawks as it saw them win three Stanley Cups along the way. The San Antonio Spurs also concluded a dynasty that saw them win four NBA championships with the likes of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginóbili and great coach Gregg Popovich. The Spurs have recently been basement dwellers with little to no playoff success. Many fans from both leagues believe that the NBA and NHL in a sense “rigged” these lotteries to rejuvenate these two historic franchises with generational talents.

            From a league standpoint, it makes sense, to put special talents in two historically large markets and legendary franchises. Putting Bedard in Chicago and Wembanyama in San Antonio makes these teams relevant again, hopefully leading to success, more ticket sales, merchandising, etc. From a team standpoint, it sucks. If you are the Anaheim Ducks and Detroit Pistons you are outraged, you just finished an awful season with not many wins and then you lose the draft lottery (with generational talent on the board) to bigger and better market teams. To lose out on Bedard and Wembanyama is a gut punch for a franchise and to make matters even worse, they go to historically great teams which is even more frustrating.

            I’m not saying that the NBA and NHL truly did rig the lotteries to get these potential superstars into the bright lights, but the more you think about it, the more it begins to make sense. Both leagues are businesses and try to make the most money possible, so how can they make the most money with Bedard and Wembanyama in the league? You put them in large markets that have lots of viewership and an already storied history (championships, tremendous coaching, other star players) to ensure that they thrive in the NBA and NHL.

        That’s the business side of it, but again this is heartbreaking for franchises that aren’t large markets or don’t have incredible playoff success or even teams that are simply mediocre, they rarely see generational talent sent their way in the form of lotteries.

Editor: Joan Andrew Ramadan

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