Report: NBA Proposes Eliminating Draft Lottery, Introduces “Wheel System” To Avoid Tanking

Tanking is the scourge of competition, and the NBA has taken preliminary steps to avoid the recent promulgation of intentional losing to increase a team’s odds for landing a top pick in the draft lottery. With the new CBA structure, tanking for cheap rookie deals is a whole lot sexier (and more frugal in smaller markets) for team’s looking to improve. But a new proposal, outlined by Grantland’s Zach Lowe, removes the draft lottery in favor of a wheel system that guarantees a team’s pick over the next 30 years before the cycle repeats itself again with each team getting a chance at the No. 1 over the ensuing 30 years.

Here’s Lowe explaining the caveat-laden idea:

Grantland obtained a copy of the proposal, which would eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a system in which each of the 30 teams would pick in a specific first-round draft slot once — and exactly once — every 30 years. Each team would simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year. Teams would know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle. The practice of protecting picks would disappear; there would never be a Harrison Barnes–Golden State situation again, and it wouldn’t require a law degree to track ownership of every traded pick leaguewide.

The system is simpler to understand in pictorial form. Below is the wheel that outlines the order in which each team would cycle through the draft slots; the graphic highlights the top six slots in red to show that every team would be guaranteed one top-six pick every five seasons, and at least one top-12 pick in every four-year span:

Lowe goes on to add that the proposed measure is still in its infancy, and it may well be dropped altogether if it doesn’t appear likely to receive three-quarters’ approval from the NBA’s ownership groups. Since it’s such a drastic change, it might also require the NBA’s Players Union to give the OK. But the machinations behind the policy are spot-on if you’re uncomfortable with the league’s current format, one which does tend to reward bottoming out in the hopes of a rebuild through the draft (e.g. Sam Presti‘s path for Oklahoma City/Seattle during the Durant-Westbrook-Ibaka-Harden draft coup).

If you’re still confused at the proposed measures, go read Lowe’s full piece because he fleshes it out a lot more, especially what the NBA would do to start the wheel’s 30-year turn (Lottery teams would have one last lottery, and the resulting order would then choose which 30-year cycle they want first, in order, followed by the 16-30 place teams choosing their cycle in the order they finish).

If the NBA goes ahead with the idea, it’ll still be years getting everything in place. But it’s the first proposal since the NBA instituted the draft lottery in 1985 — and later modified it in 1987. Definitely something to think about over the holidays.


Do you favor the proposal, or does the old way still seem better?

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