For 10 glorious seconds, George David, the Detroit Pistons assistant general manager and the team’s rep inside the sequestered lottery room, got to dream of the very real possibility of pairing Cade Cunningham with any of the draft’s elite prospects.
The Pistons had struck gold on the first three lottery balls selected in the four-number combo. Out of 1,001 number combinations, the Pistons were one of the last teams to still have a chance at the first overall pick. They just needed the fourth ball to be a 10, 11 or 12 and it would be two consecutive No. 1 picks for Detroit.
Instead it was a 6. Orlando got No. 1 and Detroit was denied. When lottery balls were again pulled for the second, third and fourth picks, the Pistons’ numbers never came up. Instead, they fell to fifth.
Sometimes the lottery gods deliver you Cade Cunningham. And sometimes they seal your fate and put you on the path to obsessively dissecting measurements and game tape from the likes of Shaedon Sharpe, Keegan Murray, Jaden Ivey and Bennedict Mathurin.
The drama from the draft lottery room is recounted in a new piece from Zach Lowe at ESPN. The piece is full of all the night’s drama and all the lucky charms and bizarre rituals that make up NBA Draft Lottery night.
After the prescribed 10 seconds, the fourth ball whizzed up: 6. Agony for Detroit. If that had been a 10, 11, or 12, the Pistons would be celebrating the pairing of Cade Cunningham with their pick among Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, and Paolo Banchero.
He save the best tidbit for last, however, and I’ll excerpt that here:
• Finally, always remember this: The NBA has a backup lottery machine if the first one fails. They have a second backup in the event the venue loses power: an official NBA basketball with a hole cut into the top of it. With no power, they would stick the 14 pingpong balls inside the basketball and have an official draw them by hand. (In the old days, they used that ball now and then for smaller decisions, including breaking ties in draft order, officials have said.)
The world needs this to happen one year. It should really be part of an “Ocean’s 11”-style plot in which one desperate team cuts the power to the venue as one step in some scheme to rig the lottery.
On Tuesday morning, the NBA went to retrieve the ball-with-a-hole-in-it. They found it, but there was a problem: It was a Spalding. The NBA switched from Spalding to Wilson this season. Officials scrambled to find a Wilson ball, and then sliced a hole in the top of it.
That is the lottery in a nutshell, folks.