At least as we track free agency, actual players change teams. At least when we cover drafts, actual players get picked. At least when covering the latest trouble or triumph from an athlete’s personal life, something has happened.
With the NBA Draft Lottery, we’re not even finding out what players teams get. We’re finding out what order they are going to be picked. And we can’t get enough! The only thing approaching this level of nothingness is the annual release of schedules by leagues (predominantly speaking of the NFL here). We already know the teams. But what about the order of the games! WE MUST KNOW and we must have a long TV special to break it down.
This is not a criticism, really — just an observation. Teams are in the business these days of selling hope as much as they are winning games, and events like the lottery fit right into that mindset. Tell me you’re not suddenly more interested in the Wolves, even a little bit, now that they have the No. 1 pick (even though they only won 16 games last year and might be bad again next year). And tell me you didn’t pay attention, even a little bit, to the lottery and coverage leading up to it.
As such, I’m a little shocked that the NFL hasn’t gone to a draft lottery system. As big as the NBA Draft is, the NFL Draft dwarfs it. Combine that with the fact that the NFL has become the king of the 12-month news calendar, keeping fans glued to the game even in off months, and the fact that the league hasn’t wedged a lottery component into the schedule in, say, late March or early April is quite astonishing.
Can you imagine how much fun a lottery would be in a league where a full 20 teams don’t make the playoffs? Can you imagine if the Vikings, who picked 11th in the 2015 draft, would have had even a marginal chance of vaulting several places up — perhaps even to No. 1 overall?
You can’t tell me that some sort of lottery system, similar in some ways to the NBA, wouldn’t be wildly popular in the NFL. To make it more fair, I’d say football should give the worst teams better odds than the NBA does, but even something like this would instantly captivate fan bases from 20 teams:
*All 20 teams who miss the playoffs have a shot at moving up, but you can only move up into the top five.
*Teams 16-20 have roughly a 2 percent chance of moving up into the top five each (10 percent total), while 11-15 are around 3 percent (15 percent total) and 6-10 are around 4 percent each (20 percent total). So every year, there would be about a 45 percent chance that a team outside of the top five in terms of order of finish moved into the top five. Within the 1-5 finishers, it would of course be weighted in favor of the worst team. Maybe they would have a 50 percent chance of keeping the top pick and so on.
In any event, the math at this point isn’t important. It could be done, and it would be bonkers.