04 July 2014

Crude Lottery Procedure, When None is Needed

The Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) draft lottery is an annual event in which the teams who had fared poorly in the previous season, or teams who hold the draft rights of another team that performed miserably in the previous season, participate in a lottery process to determine the draft order in the Rookie Draft.

The process was patterned after the National Basketball Association (NBA) draft, where teams obtain the rights to amateur U.S. college basketball players and other eligible players, including international players. The lottery winner would get the first selection in the draft.

The term "lottery pick" denotes a draft pick whose position is determined through the lottery, while the non-playoff teams involved in the process are often called "lottery teams".

There are two problems, however, if it is applied in the PBA. First, the PBA doesn’t exactly have the same number of teams and the same number of available quality players like the NBA. This plays a lot on the rationale behind the lottery, which is to distribute parity in the league by empowering several low-performing teams and not only two. Second, the NBA lottery is held under tight security and conducted with full transparency, whereas the Philippine version is full of questionable and magical hand tricks.

Under the current rules, only the top two picks are decided by the lottery, and are chosen from the two teams that did not fared well in the previous season (with the worst off having two balls out of three for 66 percent chance and the second worst team with only a ball for 33 percent chance). The lottery is weighted so that the team with the worst record, or the team that holds the draft rights of the team with the worst record, has the best chance to obtain the first draft pick.

After the top two positions are selected (from the lottery system), the remainder of the first-round draft order is in inverse order of the win-loss record for the remaining teams, or the teams who originally held the lottery rights if they were traded. The lottery does not determine the draft order in the subsequent rounds of the draft.

During the 1st of July lottery, which was done just minutes before the tip-off of Game One of the PBA Governor’s Cup Finals, Commissioner Chito Salud drawn from three rubber balls placed inside a white box propped up on a table at midcourt at the Mall of Asia Arena. Two balls were marked GlobalPort, which had the worst record in the league last season, while one had the name of Meralco, which had traded its first-round pick to Rain or Shine in the Ronjay Buenafe deal.

What is the rationale behind this? The PBA could have just applied the reverse win-loss record to determine who will draft first. It’s simple and less controversial. Why the need to conduct a lottery? Maybe too caught up with the gnawing urge to copy anything American?

Speaking of controversy, unlike the NBA lottery, the latest PBA lottery process lacked a sense of honesty and transparency. Salud did drew a GlobalPort ball, giving the Mikee Romero-owned franchise the top pick in next season's rookie draft, but how did he do it?

First, the lottery box was set-up in the middle of the basketball court. The inside of the box was not shown to the public and the public has no way of knowing what is inside it because it is not translucent.

Second, Salud put all three balls inside the box, two of which were market GlobalPort and one ball for Meralco. But when he put the ball with his hands inside, he did not pull them out to show that he is not already holding the ball. Instead he drew back his hand now holding a single ball. What was that? Magic?

Lastly, there were no representatives from the Meralco Bolts in the event. Why? They have already conceded that they don’t have any interest on it anymore and gave the Rain or Shine the responsibility of ensuring that their right is protected? But, Rain or Shine cannot be there since it was not their pick originally, hence, they have no right to stand beside the Commissioner.

Nobody is implying that Salud cheated, but how hard is it really to observe proper lottery procedure, especially with limited teams and players in the league. How hard is it not to adopt crude procedure in this high-tech world and information culture? I bet it's not as hard as saying ABRACADABRA!

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