How the draft lottery built worst team ever

April, 23, 2012
4/23/12
2:22
PM ET
Mason By Beckley Mason
ESPN.com
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Just how bad are the Charlotte Bobcats?

Today, John Hollinger (Insider) lays out a statistical argument that they are the worst team ever.

Chew on that for a moment.

At a time when there are more top-level players from around the world in the league, creating a deeper talent pool than ever before, the Bobcats have so little of this talent that they are, by point differential, twice as bad as the second-worst team in the league.

The next question is, how in the heck did they get this way?

Hollinger takes a look at the roster and notes that a team doesn't get this bad by accident:
You can make a credible argument that not one player on their roster would start for most teams.

Most notably, they're threatening to not have a single player with a PER above the league average of 15.00. Thanks to a late charge, rookie Kemba Walker has pushed his mark up to 15.28, which for the moment has him dangling over the precipice of respectability. He has three games not to screw it up.

The next closest Bobcat is Derrick Brown at 14.41. (If you're reading this, you're probably a big fan. But probably not so big that you know who Derrick Brown is, or what he looks like, or where he went to school. NBA players do not come more obscure than Derrick Brown).

You can go through the roster with similar disappointments. The hope was that Augustin could build on his strong finish to last season, but he's proven to be no more than a decent backup. The hope was that Maggette could provide offense, but he's been injured half the year (not a surprise) and his effectiveness has declined markedly when he's played (a bit more of a surprise). The hope was that Diaw would lay off the brie and arrive in shape … actually, that was hopeless from the start.

Unfortunately, most of what can go wrong has. But even if everything went right, this team was doomed to be terrible because of the moves of the past five seasons. From Larry Brown's arrival up until the middle of last season, virtually every Charlotte move ended up torching the 2011-12 roster.

Lately, the Bobcats' personnel decisions have been made by general manager Rich Cho, who helped the Oklahoma City Thunder complete one of the most dramatic turnarounds in NBA history. He is trying to replicate Oklahoma City's success in Charlotte, and a step along that path involves becoming reprehensibly awful in order to secure draft picks and talent.

Think about all the opportunities for good basketball that have been sacrificed at the alter of the draft lottery, and keep in mind that it's far from a proven tactic. In fact, most bad teams stay bad, despite plenty of opportunities to strike it rich in the lottery. The Bobcats themselves have had nine lottery picks in eight years, including the No. 2 pick, No. 3, No. 5, No. 7, No. 8, No. 9, No. 9, No. 12 and No. 13.

This dynamic fries Jeff Van Gundy, who took the opportunity during Sunday's Thunder-Lakers game to vent about what's going on in Charlotte. He also proposed a solution of his own:
JVG: [Silas has] had to endure an absolute ridiculous roster. And this is what I don’t understand. Michael Jordan was absolutely the best competitor in my time in the NBA as far as preparation, commitment, all that. But Michael Jordan the player would not have liked Michael Jordan the owner, tanking a season for monetary reasons.

But the way the lottery is set up, to try to get great players, the easiest way to get good is to get bad. And I think there’s a huge problem with that – that you have to try to get bad to get good.

I think the lottery should be expanded to every team that doesn’t have homecourt advantage in the first round, because you should not be penalized for trying to make the playoffs in the 8 [or] 7 spot. You shouldn’t be put in that predicament.

Mike Breen: Do you still want a weighted lottery?

JVG: Not as much [weighted].

Breen: The problem with that is the teams that are really bad, they might stay that way for a long time and you do want to give them a chance.

JVG: And a lot of them are bad because they’re not managed properly.

Van Gundy's plan would give teams that are managed well a better chance to succeed and contend, while encouraging all teams to rely on means other than the draft lottery to build a winning franchise.

Van Gundy is correct to point out that bad management is the root cause of perpetually bad teams. But when we look at the mess in Charlotte, it's evident that the draft lottery is the root of all tanking evils.

Some see salvation in the lottery and ask, "How else can a team like Charlotte ever get better?"

But these Bobcats force us to wonder how else a team could ever get so bad.
Beckley Mason is an NBA contributor for ESPN.com.

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