Tear it all down: why the NBA should eliminate the Draft Lottery
Last week, NBA commissioner Adam Silver fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for what was labeled as making public comments deemed detrimental to the league.
While appearing on NBA legend Julius Irving’s podcast “House Calls with Dr. J”, Cuban acknowledged something that many have always known; some teams lose on purpose.
“I’m probably not supposed to say this,” Cuban said, “but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren’t competing for the playoffs. I was like, ‘Look, losing is our best option.’”
Cuban tried to justify his position, but the damage was already done.
“Adam would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we’re not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. “
Despite his attempt to walk back his admission, the league office still fined Cuban and issued a stern warning to all teams suspected of tanking;
“The latter (tanking) – which we have not found and hope to never see in the NBA – has no place in our game. If we ever received evidence that players or coaches were attempting to lose or otherwise taking steps to cause any game to result otherwise than on its competitive merits, that conduct would be met with the swiftest and harshest response possible from the league office.”
While talk of tanking may have reached an all-time high due to the Philadelphia 76ers and there call to “Trust the Process”, this is not the first time teams have been accused of intentionally losing in order to strengthen their draft position. In fact, the only reason the lottery was introduced in 1985 was to prevent teams from tanking in order to gain the number one pick.
Despite these latest tweaks to the lottery (now the worst three teams will have equal odds at the number one pick), team with no shot at a championship will still tank and take their chances with the draft. With that being said, there is really only one way to end tanking, and it doesn’t involve manipulating percentages or fining teams for losing games;
Completely eliminate the draft lottery.
When you think about it, the draft lottery is a lot like government assistance for wealthy team owners. Your team struggles all year, whether voluntarily or otherwise, and as a result you’re rewarded with the opportunity to add top young talent at a discounted rate.
The new system would do away with the weighted lottery system, and instead each NBA team would be granted an equal opportunity to land the number one pick.
So if the drawing is held and the final selection just so happens to be the San Antonio Spurs, then the Spurs would select first in the draft, no questions asked.
Now some may see this as a fast track to ruining the competitive balance of a league that is already completely out of whack, but a system like this would actually help to spread talent around the league in a few different ways.
Now, instead of your young talent being forced to play for a losing franchise during years that are pivotal to their development, players would be placed into an environment that will increase their chances of being successful.
While others will argue that this simply allows good teams to stack their rosters, this is a shortsighted way of viewing things.
The ability to add quality young talent to a playoff team would actually create some interesting scenarios come contract time. Despite the recent influx of cash from the new TV deal, teams owners have shown us time and time again that paying the NBA’s luxury tax is to be avoided if possible.
Choosing between young players on a team friendly deal may lead to some veterans being forced to chase their big payday somewhere else. General managers would now have the option of keeping a young player as opposed to paying a guy who may be trending down during the second half of his contract.
Instead of focusing on the impact this may have on the top and bottom tier teams, the biggest impact could be seen with teams stuck in the middle. Imagine a draft where teams like Washington, Miami, Portland, New Orleans and Denver comprised the top 5.
Each of these teams has made the playoffs in recent years, but none have enough firepower to dethrone the best teams in their conference. The opportunity to add elite young talent would help these franchises immensely, as well as inject new energy into teams that may be stagnant.
Instead of incentivizing futility, lets really put the pressure on owners, scouts and player personnel to use their resources to find the best talent available.
No more handouts.