Charlotte Bobcats’ Dismal Season a Lesson in Pluses, Minuses of NBA Draft Lottery Format

Charlotte Bobcats' Dismal Season a Lesson in Pluses, Minuses of NBA Draft Lottery FormatWatching the Charlotte Bobcats play basketball brings to mind the shower scene in Bull Durham.

What's their record?

Seven and 39.

How did they ever win seven?

As they grind through their seventh dismal campaign in eight seasons of existence, the Bobcats are comfortably mired in last place in the Southeast Division entering Monday's game against the Celtics.

The Bobcats are three games behind abysmal Washington and recently helped the Nets snap a six-game losing streak by dropping their fourth game this season to the Nets. New Jersey can thank the Bobcats for exactly a quarter of its victories this season.

If this were the NFL, Bobcats fans would be tuned in to the NCAA Tournament, drooling over Kentucky forward Anthony Davis' skills and imagining him in those surprisingly attractive blue, silver and orange uniforms.

"Suck for Luck"? What about "Save Us for Davis"? Or "Lose Now, Get Unibrow"?

As Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer noted, the NBA's draft lottery makes such wishful thinking useless. The absolute worst team in the league only gets a 1-in-4 chance at landing the top pick. Any Celtics fan who suffered through the 1996-97 and 2006-07 seasons knows the dangers of hoping a bunch of ping pong balls behave themselves.

Whether this is good or bad depends on a person's point of view. The lottery discourages teams from tanking, since the bouncing balls could easily saddle the league's worst team with, say, the No. 7 pick. Six measly selections does not seem like much of a penalty until you go back and compare the career arcs of No. 1 picks with No. 7 picks in draft history.

There are a handful of Kwame Brown and Michael Olowokandi's in the top spot, but the odds are much greater that the first team choosing will get Dwight Howard, LeBron James, Derrick Rose or Kyrie Irving. The recent home-run seventh picks, by contrast, are solid but far from superstar-caliber players, such as Luol Deng, Stephen Curry, Eric Gordon and Greg Monroe.

Fans and opponents want to feel confident that a team is at least giving a baseline effort. Fans deserve that much for their price of admission and opponents deserve a fair spirit of competition.

Except the logic behind awarding high draft picks — or in this case, better odds at receiving a high draft pick — to the teams with the worst records is to promote competitive balance from year to year. The bad teams need more help. The traditionally strong Spurs did not have the biggest need for Tim Duncan in 1997, but they also did not complain when they were awarded the No. 1 pick.

Losing has not prevented Bobcats fans from showing up to this season. The crowds fill Time Warner Cable Arena to slightly more than 82 percent of capacity, which is a lot of people watching a lot of losses. And when the time comes, those dedicated Bobcats supporters might get to watch in dismay as NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver says, "The first pick in the 2012 NBA Draft goes to… the Minnesota Timberwolves!"

Have a question for Ben Watanabe? Send it to him via Twitter at @BenjeeBallgame. He will pick a few questions to answer every week for his mailbag.

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