The NBA would really like to stop teams from tanking, and the only way to do that involves reforming the draft lottery process, where teams with worse records get better odds of earning the top pick. To this point, reform has not been taken to a vote, but the past few years (really ever since the Sixers began The Process) it has been a hot topic of conversation both publicly and privately around the league.
Having hopefully tackled some of the issues of player rest with schedule changes and reduced back-to-backs, NBA commissioner Adam Silver has shifted his attention to taking away teams’ incentive for tanking and, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, a vote could come as early as before the regular season starts in October to reform lottery odds.
The National Basketball Association is aggressively pursuing draft lottery reform that could be voted into legislation before the start of the 2017-’18 season, league sources told ESPN.
Commissioner Adam Silver is a strong advocate to de-incentivize tanking by implementing lower odds on the NBA’s worst teams to gain the top picks in the draft, league sources said.
Changing the draft lottery process and the odds differential between teams that miss the playoffs is an aggressive step towards trying to force teams in the bottom half of the league to build more competent rosters and avoid a team doing what Philadelphia did and sink to incredible low points on the court in order to get top picks for multiple seasons. The league’s Competition Committee will meet next week and could send a recommendation to the Board of Governors to be voted on.
It’s important to note that Woj says any reform, even if voted on prior to the season, is unlikely to affect the 2018 NBA Draft and changes would be “phased into use over time.” That of course is important considering there are plenty of teams that have made trades and roster moves specifically with a rebuild in mind under the current rules, and to make sweeping changes immediately would put those teams at a tremendous disadvantage.
As to what changes could be coming, Wojnarowski reports a few different ideas are being considered, including making the odds of getting the top pick the same for the three top teams — dropping the gap between the worst team and the middle of the lottery pack.
Currently, the teams with the three worst records have an ascending chance of winning the No. 1 pick, including (No. 3) 15.6 percent, (No. 2) 19.9 percent and (No. 1) 25 percent.
The NBA’s proposal would flatten those odds, and give the three teams with the worst record the same percentage of earning the No. 1 overall pick, league sources said. Now, the worst record to the fifth-worst record has a gap of 25 percent to 8.8 percent, but new legislation would tighten that difference significantly, league sources said.
For example, the fifth-worst team would only have a few percentage points less than those teams with newly equal odds among the three worst teams, league sources said.
Wojnarowski also notes that, while not in the current proposal, there’s a possibility that they will propose an idea of not allowing a team that wins the No. 1 pick in the lottery one year from drafting in the top three the next season, in an effort to prevent continual tanking to get multiple top picks.
Any reform will bring a significant amount of conversation and debate about the merits with which it will work. The draft has long been the way that smaller market franchises can acquire superstar talent and when those players leave, going to the bottom and trying to get the top pick is often their best decision. The idea is that a team can continue to try and compete and field a competent team in the meantime and still have a legitimate chance at a top pick, but we’ll have to find out if that’s something that will work in reality.