The NBA’s revamped draft lottery system goes into effect this y

  • Here’s how the new  Andy Levitre Jersey lottery system compares to the old one:Lottery odds: new vs. oldTeam record (worst to best)Old system chance at No. 1New system chance at No. 1Team record (worst to best)Old system chance at No. 1New system chance at No. 1Under the new system, the team that finishes with the worst record still has a 48.9 percent chance to fall to the fifth pick, which would have been impossible under old system (when it had a 35.7 percent chance to fall to fourth in a worst case scenario.) This is the NBA’s attempt to stop shameless tanking, a refusal to reward teams who are built to lose on purpose and an olive branch to teams who win around 30 games and will now see greater odds at landing the No. 1 pick.As Kevin Pelton wrote at ESPN: Yet the NBA inadvertently picked a fascinating year to change the math to prevent tanking. While the odds may not be as great as before, it still benefits bad teams to maximize their odds at getting a top pick this season for two big reasons.This is an ultra top-heavy draftThe last two drafts were strong throughout the lottery. The Bulls found Lauri Markkanen at No. 7, and the Jazz found Donovan Mitchell at No. 13 in 2017. June’s draft had Wendell Carter Jr. lasting until No. 7, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander going No. 11 and Miles Bridges going No. 12. The 2019 NBA Draft appears unlikely to be that deep. While it’s exceedingly early to make this claim with most college basketball teams having only played one or two games so far, most people paying attention see a top-heavy class that could only have four blue chip prospects. But really, one player appears to stand above the rest.Right now, Zion Williamson is in a tier by himself. Williamson didn’t enter the season as the consensus No. 1 pick, but he should be by June. He has already proven himself to be so much more than a dunker, possessing guard skills with an advanced feel for the game within an impossibly athletic 280-pound frame:If Williamson is the front-runner to go No. 1 right now, his Duke teammates R.J. Barrett and Cameron Reddish are No. 2 and No. 3. Barrett was widely projected as the top pick heading into the season as a 6’7 wing, and has lived up the hype, establishing himself as an elite slasher with crafty finishing ability and an improving jumper. Reddish is also intriguing as a 6’9 wing with great length who can handle the ball and shoot it. If there’s a player who can break up Duke’s trio going 1-2-3, it’s North Carolina’s Nassir Little. Little is a strong and long freshman wing who plays with a non-stop motor and has been skyrocketing up his class rankings since the end of his high school career. He still has a ways to go skill-wise, but has a great frame, plus athleticism and a reputation for playing hard every time he takes the court.Things are up in the air after that. NBA fans will want to keep an eye on French forward Sekou Doumbouya, Indiana guard Romeo Langford, Kansas guard Quentin Grimes, Oregon center Bol Bol, Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland, Kentucky wing Keldon Johnson, and USC wing Kevin Porter Jr. Any of those players could break out, but it feels unlikely one of them will break into the top four.In a top-heavy draft, there’s still a major incentive to lock down the best odds to get Williamson, one of his Duke teammates, or Little. There’s also another incentive few people are talking about right now ...The 2020 draft looks particularly weakYou start to get a sense of the strength of a draft class well before the players in it graduate high school. For as long as the age limit is in existence, every draft will largely be defined by the quality of the incoming freshmen class.This is an early projection, and ultimately just one man’s opinion, but the 2020 draft currently doesn’t appear to have the type of star power we’ve seen the last few years. When I wrote about the top nine NBA prospects playing high school basketball right now, there was only one current senior.Don’t get me wrong: this group has some real talent. Players will emerge on the All-Star game circuit — Little wasn’t considered a future top-five draft pick at this point a year ago — and during their college season. Maybe Cole Anthony, ESPN’s No. 2 prospect, will prove he’s a long-term stud. He’s going to be a killer college player and could have upside as a Damian Lillard style point guard. Maybe James Wiseman, a center out of Memphis, will thrive in college, improve his skill set, and establish himself as the class’ No. 1 player. Jaden McDaniels, Kahlil Whitney, Scottie Lewis ... there’s plenty of guys who can potentially break out. But for now Authentic Devonta Freeman Jersey , there is no one on the level of Deandre Ayton, Ben Simmons, Jayson Tatum, Williamson, or some of the other standout one-and-dones who have entered the league in recent years. Obviously, this draft could be salvaged by international players, with Israel’s Deni Avdija and France’s Killian Hayes standing out early. A returning college player could also break out the way Mitchell once did. There’s a long way to go and it’s true that every draft class has great players hidden within it.But if you’re looking for a franchise cornerstone through the draft, getting a top pick in the 2019 draft seems like the best way to do it. Even at reduced odds, it’s wise to get the math in your favor before it’s too late.Throwback Thursday Series: A tale of two Andersons and one NFC Championship Game We’re in the dead period of football (you can read about how much I hate this period here), and with it, we don’t have much to talk about except for some speculation here and there.I figured this would be a good time to look back on some moments in Falcons history and maybe relive them while we wait for football to come back.That idea has given rise to a new series of “Throwback Thursday” articles I’m planning on writing throughout the dead period. Each week, we’ll relive and discuss a certain moment in this franchise’s 52-year history.You can find last week’s Throwback Thursday article, about Dan Quinn, here.The 1998 Atlanta Falcons caught lightning in a bottle. Dan Reeves led a Falcons squad which had been mired in mediocrity in the 1990s, though that mediocrity was a serious upgrade over the awful performances of most of the 1980s.The birds made it to the playoffs in the 1991 and 1995 seasons, registering a playoff win in ‘91. Following that ‘95 playoff berth, and a subsequent 37-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers, Atlanta went a combined 10-22 in 1996 and 1997.The team went into the 1998 season, the second year under Reeves, with hopes of getting back to the playoffs, though a division title seemed out of reach with the juggernaut San Francisco 49ers continuing to tower over the NFC West. The Niners had won the West five times in the previous six seasons, and 13 times since 1981 (in 17 years). The Falcons didn’t have a division title to their name since that 1980 season.Business as usual turns into anything butIt looked to be business as usual in terms of San Francisco owning the division in the early stages of the 1998 campaign, when they beat the Falcons by a 31-20 score in week 3 to improve to 3-0.The Falcons, who employed a veteran group led by quarterback Chris Chandler and running back Jamal Anderson, weren’t willing to kowtow to the supremacy of the 49ers, however. Following a week 5 loss to the New York Jets, which dropped their record to 5-2, the birds went on a nine-game winning streak throughout the rest of the regular season, bringing their record to a franchise-best 14-2. Head Coach Dan Reeves wasn’t with the team for the last two regular season games because of heart surgery, but he would rejoin his Falcons in the playoffs.QB Chris Chandler earned Pro Bowl honors, throwing to 3154 yards and accounting for a TD/INT ratio of 25/12. The Falcons had a 13-1 record in games started by Chandler, and were 1-1 when he was unavailable.RB Jamal Anderson was both a Pro Bowler and a First-Team All-Pro selection with his 2165 yards from scrimmage and 16 total touchdowns. He was the engine that kept this Falcons team churning, and his “dirty bird” touchdown dance still lives on in Atlanta Falcon folklore.WRs Terrance Mathis and Tony Martin each accounted for over 1100 receiving yards and a combined 17 receiving touchdowns.The defense was maybe even more impressive, wreaking havoc on opposing offensive units week in and week out. The starting defensive line accounted for 12 of the team’s league-high 25 forced fumbles, paced by DE Lester Archambeau, who had five FF along with a team-high 10.0 sacks. Chuck Smith accounted for 8.5 of his own sacks along with three forced fumbles.The secondary came away with 18 of the team’s 19 interceptions. They were led by CB Ray Buchanan with seven and FS Eugene Robinson who had four. Both were Pro Bowl selections on the defensive side of the ball along with LB Jessie Tuggle.Atlanta had both the fourth-highest scoring offense and fourth best scoring defense in the NFL over the course of the regular season in 1998. The defense also led the league with 44 takeaways, and the team’s 33:10 minutes of position per game was good for first in the NFL.The playoffsIn literally any other year, Atlanta’s 14-2 record would have been good enough to earn them the top seed in the NFC and home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, but that wasn’t the case in ‘98. That honor went to the 15-1 Minnesota Vikings, a team so talented that that one loss was more surprising to see than those 15 wins.The Falcons did have a bye week in the first round Youth Ricardo Allen Jersey , and they hosted and squeaked by the rival 49ers, in the two teams’ third meeting of the season, 20-18. That would set the stage for an NFC Championship game matchup against the Vikings.Minnesota was the heavy favorite to not only rout the Falcons (they were an 11-point favorite according to the Las Vegas line) but also to easily handle whoever they met in the Super Bowl when they inevitably made it there. Their offense averaged 34.8 points per game, the most in NFL history at that point in time. QB Randall Cunningham was a First-Team All-Pro selection. RB Robert Smith was a Pro Bowler. They featured two future Hall of Fame WRs in Chris Carter and Randy Moss, the latter of whom was a First Team All-Pro selection after recording 1313 receiving yards and a jaw-dropping 17 touchdown receptions in his rookie year.The defense wasn’t too shabby either, ranking seventh in the league in terms of points allowed. First-Team All-Pro selection DE John Randle led the unit with 10.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. LB Ed McDaniel was also a Pro Bowler.The fated NFC Conference Championship GameThe Vikings were overwhelming, and the Falcons did a fantastic job to resist getting overwhelmed in that hostile Minnesota environment. The birds even took an early 7-0 lead courtesy of a 5-yard TD run by the dirty bird, Jamal Anderson. That was quickly countered by a 31-yard TD connection from Cunningham to Moss, however.The game really blew open in the second quarter, and it looked like the Vikings were about to run away with it, the way they had been doing so against opponents all season. Through a pair of field goals and a 1-yard TD rush by the QB, the hosts opened up a 20-7 lead. Cunningham and company looked poised to seal the deal by halftime as they had the ball on their own 18-yard-line with less than two minutes left. Chuck Smith came up with a massive sack and forced fumble on 3rd and 10, however, to give Atlanta the ball back on Minnesota’s 14-yard-line. Terrance Mathis would catch a touchdown shortly afterward, keeping Atlanta in the game. It was 20-14 at halftime.The Vikings did enough to win this game. Leading 27-20, they drove down the field and lined up for a 38-yard game-sealing field goal with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter. Kicks were automatic points for them that season, thanks to Gary Anderson, who was a perfect 35 for 35 on Field Goal attempts and 94 for 94 on all kicks in general in 1998. It was the best season by a kicker ever, and as soon as he ran out onto the field, the nail went into Atlanta’s coffin.It didn’t quite play out the way Vikings (and even Falcons) fans were expecting, however. The pressure of the big moment got to Anderson, and his kick sailed wide left to keep the Falcons within one score. Atlanta was given new life while the Vikings players and fans were left rattled.Against a shell-shocked defense, Chris Chandler led a quick 72-yard drive down the field and capped it off with a game-tying TD pass to Mathis with about a minute left in regulation.In overtime, Atlanta found themselves driving the ball once again, getting into the field goal range of their own kicker named Andersen — the Great Dane, Morten Andersen (yes, I know he has an e instead of an o in his name, but just go with it for the sake of the pun). From 39 yards out, Atlanta’s Andersen had ice in his veins and made a perfect kick to send the Falcons to the Super Bowl and to leave the Vikings asking themselves “what just happened?”The legacyIt was one of the great upsets in NFC Championship history. For all of the suffering we have endured as Atlanta fans, the pain experienced by Minnesota fans is right up there with our’s, and this game was the magnum opus of Minnesota sports heartbreak. I do personally like to look at this game as revenge for the 1991 World Series.Morten Andersen would eventually surpass Gary Anderson’s NFL Field Goal record eight years later, once again as a member of the Atlanta Falcons after a four-year period away from the team which included a brief stint with the Vikings.The Falcons would go on to lose the Super Bowl to John Elway and the Denver Broncos, before subsequently going back to mediocrity in 1999 and beyond, but this magical season, capped off by this magical moment, will never be forgotten here in Atlanta.Expect to see one more of these “Throwback Thursday” articles next week, before the regular season begins.