Every year, the league puts on a Very Stern Face (no pun intended, Adam)to decry a problem entirely of its own making, sparking countless proposals to modify various elements of roster usage, game play and draft procedure peppered with countless thinkpieces (like this one) of what should be done to address teams taking advantage of baked-in benefits for losing games.
NBA tanking wars: Eight teams in tight race for last place in standings, draft lottery balls
The solution - if there is one - for helping bad teams get better in a league where certain cities arguably hold (or at least held) competitive advantages over smaller, less cosmopolitan (or progressive in their tax regimes) cities needs to address not only that imbalance, but also the gaming-of-the-system teams inevitably try to use to their maximum benefit.
Sources: The NBA issued a warning to the Chicago Bulls this week on resting healthy players, and the team now plans to play veteran starters Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday again more extensively to close the season.
It's spawned the recently-adopted tweaks that flattened the odds for the league's very worst teams, making it less advantageous to outright gut a team's roster, but until we see at least a full season, there's no guarantee it will change things much. It has managed to ramp up the tankathon this season, however, in anticipation next year's top picks being more difficult to land, ironically creating a magnification of what it sought to ameliorate despite the absence of any positive data and the prospect of such most of a year off at earliest.
Adam Silver calling out the Bulls for resting healthy veterans is like putting a bandaid on a broken arm. The tanking problem runs deep and the rules need a meaningful overhaul.
So, in light of that, what I am about to propose may be moot - the league may have already "solved" what some analysts don't even believe to be an issue. But it does suck watching utterly uncompetitive games between teams who have one or two starters even worthy of rotation minutes on an NBA-level squad, and I do want to see good basketball, whether the Boston Celtics are playing them or no.
My proposal is simple: eliminate the draft as we know it, and replace it with an eight-team selection, odd-number picks going to the worst teams by record (ties broken by reverse playoff tiebreakers), and the even-numbered picks to teams with the best records that did not make the playoffs (ties broken by regular playoff tiebreakers). The remaining teams pick based on record as the rest of the draft functions now.
That's it - nothing else.
Yes, it still rewards bad teams for losing. However - and this is the important part - it also greatly incentivizes that pool of non-playoff ready teams to win as many games as they can via the nearly-as-valuable odd-numbered picks. Teams on the cusp of a tanking decision will have not one but two incentives to push for excellence when, aiming for a run at the playoffs, they know that a narrow miss will still land them a powerful tool for rebuilding.
This gets so rarely brought up by the media, but Morey, somewhat unprompted, in this @HowardBeck pod went straight to a key tanking issue being that it rewards "free riders." You can't screw your franchise partners!https://t.co/tca5NLVyvo
It'll also help small market teams that can't really afford long, multiple season stints of missing the playoffs and fielding bad teams. They can keep making runs at the postseason, and maybe even morph into a contender with good drafting and some luck. The dual nature and parsimoniousness of the process makes it difficult - if not impossible - to game, given "gaming" the system in both directions is not only acceptable, but the point.
So, readers, what are some potential pitfalls of such a change? See any obvious flaws? Let me know in the comments below.