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Rockets fans shouldn’t worry about the NBA Draft being fixed

If anything, they should hope that it is.

NBA: G League-Boulogne-Levallois Metropolitans at Ignite
Could the league intentionally deny the Rockets Wembanyama?
Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Conspiracy theories are difficult to talk about.

It’s easy to get gaslit. A conspiracy theorist can’t be wrong. If you provide evidence, they'll say the evidence is tainted. If you ask them for evidence, they'll say that the evidence is hidden.

I personally don’t believe that the NBA Draft is fixed. It’s possible that it’s been fixed before. That envelope may have been cold. I’m very dubious that it’s fixed on an annual basis or even fixed in the age of information.

The amount of collusion that would be required to make it work feels too unrealistic. It’s not impossible. That’s what’s difficult about conspiracy theories - they're never impossible. They’re just always improbable.

That’s unfortunate. The Rockets should wish that the draft was rigged.

Would the league punish the Rockets?

Let’s assume the draft is fixed. I understand why some fans feel that the league would punish the Rockets.

This is going to go down in history as one of the largest-scale tank jobs in league history. Adam Silver would hand the Rockets the fourth pick in the upcoming draft to punish them and deter teams from tanking in the future.

There are a couple of holes in this logic. Firstly, the Rockets getting bad luck shouldn’t deter rival GMs from playing the odds again. Everyone has always known that the odds may not reward you. Unless, of course, all 30 GMs know that the draft is fixed.

That doesn’t sound like a viable means of keeping a secret. All it takes is one firing, and either people start mysteriously disappearing or we get the bombshell headline:

“Anonymous former NBA GM: ‘of course the draft is rigged’”.

In even simpler terms, the Rockets wouldn’t be tanking if they knew the draft was rigged. So there’s no way the GMs know. Therefore, punishing the Rockets for tanking wouldn’t have any preventative value. Somebody will tank again.

Secondly, the league didn’t seem intent on punishing the Philadelphia 76ers for tanking. They received two first-overall picks and a third-overall pick for their efforts. Granted, the odds were different. What do the odds matter if the draft is fixed? The league could have handed them the worst possible pick if they were fixing the draft to impose punitive measures.

So I doubt the draft is fixed, and I doubt the league would fix it to punish the Rockets for their naughty tanking if it was.

They’d likely do the opposite, actually.

Would the league reward the Rockets?

Houston is by far the biggest market of the bottom-four teams.

The league is better when the Rockets are good. They have a vested interest in this team's improvement. If Silver is angry at them for tanking, it’s only because he makes more money when they’re not.

So let’s say the draft is rigged. Where should Silver want to send Victor Wembanyama? To Disney World? Detroit?

He should want to send him to the biggest market. If that team happens to have a rich history of building around international bigs, that’s a bonus. There’s some great narrative value there. From Olajuwon to Ming to Wembanyama, the Rockets have a tradition of picking a non-American big first overall. It’s easy to picture.

It’s also not what I would do if I was Adam Silver and I was rigging the draft.

Would the league send Wembanyama to the Rockets?

I’d actually send Wembanyama to the San Antonio Spurs.

Hear me out. The Spurs have been a steady brand for the league for a long time. True, it’s a small market. It doesn't really matter, because they're an international brand. The Spurs have also got a rich legacy of international players - especially European ones. Wembanyama would be joining a team that’s already beloved in his home market.

The league also wants Wembanyama to be the best player he can be. With that in mind, it wouldn’t hurt to have him under Gregg Popovich’s tutelage to begin his career. Something about this feels even more objectively right than Wembanyama in Rockets red.

I’d also entertain fixing a huge jump in the lottery for the Toronto Raptors. This one is kind of obvious. Toronto is the most multicultural city in the world and the league’s only international team. Wembanyama would fit right in aside from the fact that he’s eight feet tall or whatever.

If I was Adam Silver, and I was fixing the draft, I’d send the Rockets Scoot Henderson.

Think about it. This fanbase has spent three years debating whether a kid named Scoot is a point guard. Send them a kid named Scoot who’s definitely a point guard.

The Rockets also have two disparate legacies. Normally, they're either built around a big man or they're built around a backcourt.

A Scoot Henderson / Jalen Green backcourt just fits the image of what we’ve come to see as Rockets basketball. High octane, guard-driven offense. If it goes that way, it’s going to be quite the show.

Only, it might not. After all, the NBA Draft almost definitely is not fixed.