The Milwaukee Bucks rolled the dice over the summer, trading for veteran Caron Butler and signing O.J. Mayo as a free agent with the idea of being at least remotely competitive one season after 38 wins earned them the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
That translated to the 15th pick in the 2013 draft, where the Bucks selected entertaining but raw as hell Giannis Antetokounmpo from Greece.
In today’s NBA there is simply no worse place to be than drafting 15th (except maybe 16th—hello, Boston).
Much has been made of the concept of tanking; i.e., putting together a team designed to win as few games as possible while getting experience for young players and filling roster spaces with veterans who will be on their way out of town as soon as those high-end lottery picks sign on the dotted line (yes, James Anderson, I’m talking about you).
But the simple truth is that if you’re not among the league’s elite, contending for a title, then the long-term health of your franchise benefits from being as bad as possible right now. It’s a terrible system, one that flies in the face of the logic behind the why the lottery was implemented in the first place (to prevent teams from intentionally throwing games in order to finish at the bottom of the standings).
As it stands now, the Bucks are the second-worst team in the NBA at 5-16 after Tuesday night’s win at Chicago.
That means that under the current lottery format, Milwaukee would pick no lower than fifth overall next June—a nice place to be in a draft thought to have at least seven players who could be considered as the top overall selection (assuming that the presumed one-and-done freshman will, in fact, be one-and-done).
Not including any ties (which tweak the lottery odds slightly), the Bucks would have a 19.9 percent chance of picking first overall, an 18.8 percent chance of picking second, a 17.1 percent chance of drafting third, a 31.9 percent chance of having the fourth pick and they are—because of the “bottom floor” rule based on a team’s record—guaranteed to pick no lower than fifth at this point.
In their 46 years of drafting, the Bucks have had the No. 1 overall selection four times—twice in the old coin-flip system that involved the teams with the worst records in the East and West and twice in various formats of the lottery system.