Don't blame the system for the Detroit Pistons' lottery "luck"

Atlanta Hawks wins the NBA draft lottery...
Atlanta Hawks wins the NBA draft lottery... / Anadolu/GettyImages

Before last year, no team had dropped from one overall all the way to five, and suddenly the Detroit Pistons have now done it twice in back-to-back years. Even outside of the Pistons, Detroit as a whole has quite the rivalry with the lottery system. In fact, only once has a Detroit team ever benefited from the lottery. They have mostly stayed at their expected spot, or fallen to a worse one.

But, back to the Pistons specifically, should fans really be pointing their fingers at the NBA and lottery system? Or would the frustration be better aimed at the front office? 

The NBA Lottery system was put in place since 1984. And, outside of some conspiracy theories that may or may not have grounds to stand on, it has done it’s job. For years, it acted as a way to, at the very least, deter teams from downright tanking thanks to the, albeit small, threat of falling. But that was it, just a small threat of falling to a worse position. Fast forward to 2019, and the lottery drastically changed. 

dark. Related Story. 5 Initial thoughts on the Pistons' drop to 5th. 5 Initial thoughts on the Pistons' drop to 5th

Partially thanks to the Philadelphia 76ers who very publicly were tanking and attempting to break the system to launch a rebuild, the NBA changed how the odds were aligned for bottom tier teams.

Changes were made to flatten the odds at the top, specifically giving the bottom three teams equal chances to land one overall. In the last six years, the worst team in the NBA has not received the number one overall pick, meaning their system worked. Is this a perfect system? Absolutely not. I mean, Atlanta was just in the play-in game, rose nine spots in the lottery, and now has the number one overall selection. But Detroit’s front office deserves the blame for much more rather than pointing to a broken system.

Who is to blame for the Detroit Pistons' lottery "luck?"

One small caveat in the new lottery odds, is that the team with the worst record actually has an almost 50% chance at landing the fifth overall pick. That is different from the second or third team who technically can slide to six or seven respectively, but their odds to do so are in the 20s. By having the worst record in the NBA, Detroit essentially gave themselves a 50% chance to fall as far as they possibly could. That’s where the front office’s liability comes in. The roster creation and talent acquisition in Detroit has been a misfeasance at best. The free agent signings and trades have essentially guaranteed Detroit puts out the worst, non-cohesive lineup in the NBA and thus, the Pistons have had the worst record in back to back years.

If Troy Weaver and company had put even a little success out on the court, Detroit would have likely ended without the top selection, had less than 50% chance to drop to five, and possibly be picking where Washington is, at two. When Detroit wasn’t the worst team in the league in 2021, they were rewarded with the first overall selection, and thus, Cade Cunningham. To me, it’s simple. It’s easy to blame the NBA and the lottery system. They need to make some changes to help floundering teams. But at the end of the day, even statistically-wise, this is on the front office. Now it’s time for them to realize where they’ve erred, and make this a competent team outside the draft, via trades and free agency. Your move Gores.