If you suspect the Rockets' draft order was fixed, you're not alone

The Rockets fell all the way to four in the NBA Draft Lottery. Composite Getty Image.

It’s hard to believe anybody or anything anymore. Between fake news screamers, election deniers, baseball sign-stealers and deflated footballers, I’m still not 100-percent sure if it was Keith Hernandez or Roger McDowell who hocked a loogie on Kramer and Newman.

Some NBA fans, especially those who live anywhere except San Antonio, are thinking this week’s draft order was fixed. Headlines are saying:

“NBA fans claim draft lottery was rigged for Victor Wembanyama.”

“Was the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery rigged?”

“NBA Fans Are Complaining the NBA Draft Lottery Was Rigged”

Comments like “No Way NBA Was Letting Houston or Detroit Get Wembanyama” flew online.

Even Michigan state senator Debbie Stabenow, a duly elected official, tweeted, “Looks rigged to me.”

Conspiracy fans present their case. Wembanyama appeared to smirk and pump his fist in relief when it was announced that Houston would be drafting fourth. He didn’t appear unhappy when Detroit was slotted fifth, either. The two worst teams have zero chance of drafting the best player. Doesn’t seem fair, but them’s the rules.

Detroit, sure, I can understand Wembanyama’s avoidance behavior. But when did Houston become an NBA hellhole? You may not get a ring here, but Rockets players still get to live in Houston. This is the best place to finish worst.

Here’s something the NBA needs to fix. The draft order was determined in a secret, untelevised process witnessed by a limited number of sworn-to-secrecy team representatives and assorted media folks. You know the public’s trust of media these days. Saturday Night Live’s pathological liar character Tommy Flanagan had more credibility than today’s front page. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Rumors of NBA draft shenanigans have persisted ever since the league went to a lottery system in 1985 and the New York Knicks mysteriously, though predictably, got the No. 1 pick and took Patrick Ewing. Nobody was shocked in 2003 when Cleveland won the top pick and landed LeBron James.

I know it a long, dull and complicated mathematical process, but the NBA could put all the suspicion to rest simply by televising the actual smoky backroom draft. It can’t be any more boring that watching ESPN analysts Richard Jefferson and Kendrick Perkins say the same thing over and over 10 times a day on SportsCenter and NBA Today.

And while they’re at it, maybe tell the nerd accountant who brings the team logos onstage not to flash the bottom card, which clearly showed that San Antonio was getting the No. 1 pick. Yes, that happened Tuesday night. Showing the hole card can get your thumbs broken in Vegas. At least in the movies.

If you watch the ESPN draft special you saw grown mostly middle-aged men salivating over Wembanyana like it was feeding time at the zoo.

Greatest young prospect in NBA history!

Greatest prospect in the history of sports in America!

Sounds a bit much. Yes, video highlights of Wembanyama look amazing. He’s only 19 and playing in the minor leagues. Will he escape unbroken against NBA adults? LeBron was a full-grown man when he was 19 his rookie season in the NBA. Wembanyama looks like what he is, a skinny teenager.

Don’t tell me, professional NBA executives and scouts say he can’t miss, and they do this for a job. They’re experts. They live for this. They stake their careers on evaluating talent.

I get it, but let’s look it up:

Here is the All-NBA first team for 2023:

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Joel Embid (MVP)

Luka Dončić

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander

Jayson Tatum

Here is the All-NBA second team for 2023:

Jimmy Butler

Stephen Curry

Donovan Mitchell

Nikola Jokic

Jaylen Brown.

What do the 10 best players in the NBA have in common? Not one was the No. 1 draft pick. You know what else? None were taken with the second pick, either.

Only one player on the All-NBA third team was the No. 1 draft pick – LeBron James and that was 20 long years ago.

Here’s another list of players to consider: Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut, Andrea Bargnani, Blake Griffin, Greg Oden, John Wall, Anthony Bennett, Andrew Wiggins, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Deandre Ayton. You know what they have in common? They all were overall No. 1 draft picks in recent years. You see any Hall of Famers there?

So don’t get too upset over the Rockets drafting No. 4.

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