After multiple false starts in the past, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and the league may push through draft lottery reform this fall. (Mary Altaffer/AP)
This first appeared in the Sept. 11 edition of Tim Bontemps’s newsletter, The Monday Morning Post Up. You can subscribe by clicking here.
For years, there have been people both in the media and in NBA front offices who have lobbied for draft lottery reform.
The issue, in their view, is the incentive for teams to lose. And in some cases (such as Sam Hinkie’s Philadelphia 76ers), pushing the rules to their limits has left some around the league uncomfortable with the disregard that approach has for the fans — even if, in the long run, it could be the best path to success.
This year, though, some reform might actually happen. And despite many competing ideas over the years as to how to do it, a slight tweak could solve the league’s quandary: Even the odds among potential lottery teams. The new proposal would no longer give the highest odds of the No. 1 pick to the worst team (25 percent), followed by the next two poorest records (19.9 percent; 15.6 percent). Instead, those three teams would have the same chances of landing the No. 1 pick, while teams behind them would have a greater chance of leaping up in the lottery.
The inherent issue in much of the criticism of the NBA draft lottery — and the many various proposals to fix it — is this: People ignore the reality that there are always going to be good and bad teams.
Yes, it would undoubtedly be more fun for a top rookie to go to, say, the Golden State Warriors than to the Sixers. But not every team has a top-tier player. And eliminating any chance for those teams at the bottom of the list to get that kind of player to change the balance of power in the future would likely result in a loss of interest by fans.
Of course, getting one of those top picks is not a guarantee of success. The Warriors, for example, drafted only one of their core players, Stephen Curry, in the top 10 — and he was taken at No. 7. The San Antonio Spurs and Milwaukee Bucks both drafted their elite superstars, Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo, respectively, with No. 15 overall picks. And teams such as the Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and Sixers have been in the lottery for a few years now without even coming close to making the playoffs. For Minnesota and Philadelphia, in particular, that could change this season. But it will have taken several years of struggles to become contenders in their respective conferences.
That’s why the proposal that appears to be gaining momentum with the league’s competition committee, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski last week, makes all the sense in the world.
The most egregious examples of tanking in recent years involve teams going out of their way to be as awful as humanly possible. Under the current system, it makes sense for teams to deliberately tank. With the difference between the odds of winning the top pick varying from 25 percent for having the worst record to the 4.3 percent for the seventh-worst record, it is logical for teams to increase their odds as much as possible. That’s why the Phoenix Suns put Eric Bledsoe — their point guard and best player — on ice for the final month of the regular season, which is exactly the kind of action the league is trying to prevent.
The proposal being examined by the competition committee, which would even out the odds among the top teams contending for a lottery spot, will make moves such as the Suns’ unnecessary. It also is a creative way of implementing what has long seemed like the most obvious way to fix this problem – going back to the flat lottery system, when all 14 teams that missed the playoffs had the same chance to jump into the top three — without making teams think they might be better to avoid making the playoffs to have a chance to jump to the top of the heap and get a stud in the draft instead.
One can only imagine the outrage that would ensue if teams started tanked to avoid the eighth seed in the Western Conference to prevent potentially getting swept by the Golden State Warriors. That’s exactly the kind of debate the league is trying to avoid — just as it is trying to avoid people criticizing its teams for not trying for the final month of the season.
But the solution on the table now could be implemented as soon as the 2019, and it makes a lot sense, as it removes the incentives to lose at the top of the lottery without creating them at the bottom.
It’s the kind of rational, incremental approach that is required to fix the issue. That might not be as attractive or exciting as the radical approaches that have been posited, but — if adopted — it will be far more effective.
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Source : https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/sports/wp/2017/09/11/why-this-latest-round-of-nba-draft-lottery-reform-actually-makes-sense/?src=rss