NBA Lottery reforms pass overwhelmingly - it won't work, but this might

Yesterday, the league voted on some relatively minor tweaks to the NBA Draft's lottery system, with the intention of disincentivize tanking to improve the overall product of the sport.

The measure passed 28-1-1 (the Oklahoma City Thunder voted the lone "no" vote, and the Dallas Mavericks abstained). While recent attempts have failed, and some of the more out-of-the-box proposals too radical or complex to have an easy path to implementation, what passed yesterday was a minor move, watered down to prevent unintended consequences from creating years-long shock waves. While the changes were almost certainly not enough to end tanking altogether, they might be a way to dip the league's toes in the pool, so to speak. In the wake of the "Process" - the brazen plan of Sam Hinkie to game the system for multiple seasons of tanking - there's a renewed interest in the practice, and for good reason.

Watching teams suck on purpose for years is...bad.

It's bad for the league, it's bad for players, it's bad for management (ask Sam about this), and of course, it's especially bad for fans. Mind you, I am not saying - or opposed - to a season or even two of intentional tear-downs to reset an organization, with another season or three spent working up from the bottom, but not actively self-sabotaging. But I am skeptical the changes the league has instituted will do much besides maybe take a team or two out of the extreme tanking picture each season, and probably not even that.

For those of you who haven't seen the changes, they are very minor - basically flattening the odds for the worst three teams to an even 14%, where previously they had 25, then 19, and finally 15.6% chances for the top pick based on record (rules on resting healthy players is also supposed to be part of the reform, but to me that's more about TV ratings).

This is a very small tweak, and it's not going to do much besides let the league see if it changes behavior at all. If no unforeseen events muck it up and there's less tanking, they might tighten the screws further, adding more teams to the same odds at getting the top pick. I still don't think it will work if they do, and with the cap projected to be low for some time into the future, more teams will be forced to rely on the draft as a team-building resource now that free agency without sign-and-trades has been diminished as a tool.

What to do? Every year I take a stab at this, and each year, I think I get closer. I always like parsimonious solutions - less moving parts to go wrong - and the idea to institute a "no top-three pick in consecutive years" rule change being floated as a potential option sounded attractive for that reason (I still think this would have been easier to pass and probably more effective, though I'd expand it to no multiple top-five picks in three years). But, it was not part of the reform, so here's my crazy idea:

Get rid of the draft...sort of.

Let me explain. It sounds complicated, but actually is very simple, and not only disincentivizes tanking - it does even better - it incentivizes winning. "How", you say? Simple. Instead of a lottery, everyone gets their picks based on final record - but with a twist. Of the teams missing the playoffs, the worst teams by record get the even-numbered picks 1-14...and the best teams by record get the odd-numbered picks. For ties, you use playoff tiebreakers, reversed for worst teams (so, for example, two teams at the bottom of the standings with equally bad records and a split in regular season games would determine the worst then by whoever was worse in their respective division, and so on).

To illustrate, last season's draft would have looked like this:

First overall pick: Miami Heat
Second overall pick: Brooklyn Nets
Third overall pick: Denver Nuggets
Fourth overall pick: Phoenix Suns
Fifth overall pick: New Orleans Pelicans
Sixth overall pick: Los Angeles Lakers
Seventh overall pick: Detroit Pistons
Eighth overall pick: Philadelphia 76ers

...and so on. Keep in mind these teams weren't trying to play for these rules, yet, even still, I don't think this would have been an especially unfair order for these teams to select in. The Heat, as much as I am loathe to say it, deserved better than the pick they got for taking the pile of junk they had left, and missing the playoffs by a hair despite a terrible start to the season. The Lakers would have lost their pick, the 76ers would not have been very rewarded for the tail end of their tankathon, even with getting the Laker pick, the Nuggets and Pels rewarded for actually trying to get better (even if they suck at it), Boston still gets their guy via the Nets, and no tanking team gets higher than the fourth pick to keep.

I'm in on this idea, especially after a season of watching teams aggressively gun to just miss the playoffs. If they make them, the fans win. If they miss, the fans also win. The teams win, the players win, maybe even ole' Sam Hinkie doesn't have to die for Sixer fans' sins. I could get used to that. Of course, every year, my friends and readers tell me why my great idea actually stinks because of stuff I haven't considered, so I fully expect more of the same. So have at it! Tell me why this idea is not a good one. Or put it in front of Adam Silver.

That'd be cool too.

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Image: AP / Yahoo
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