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NBA draft reform may do more harm than good


draft night 2017

Mark Cuban did an unexpected thing during a radio appearance late in the NBA season last year. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks admitted that his team tried to tank the rest of the season after they were eliminated from the playoffs. How so? Easy—they played all the youngsters on the squad.

It wasn’t a blatant form of tanking. Had someone accused Cuban of tanking, he could have easily said the team was just seeing what they have on the roster. You can’t do so without giving the guys a little game time.

Of course, while they may be talented they are still raw and more likely to lose than win—which is how Cuban got away with tanking. However, it didn’t exactly work since the Mavericks finished with the ninth worst record in the NBA and got the ninth pick.

No one else may admit it as readily as Mark Cuban, but there are several teams that do tank (or at least appear to) every year. You can’t fault their logic. They know they are not very good, they want to get better, and next to spending a couple hundred million on one of the top free agents, the only way to do so is with a lottery pick.

If you are a fan of a team that is tanking it may not matter much to you. The notion of adding one of the best young talents in college basketball to the roster may be worth it. Since the team isn’t very good as it is, what’s the big deal if they only win 20 games relative to the 30 they could have won had they tried harder?

draft lottery

But if you are an NBA fan, it stinks. You want to tune in to see a competitive team no matter who takes the court. When you buy tickets to watch the Warriors play, you want to see the Philadelphia 76ers or Brooklyn Nets give them a run for their money. Watching them lose by 30 is boring!

You would think pride would keep this from happening, but it isn’t the players that do it. Every guy that takes the court wants to win. But he can’t help it if the team he is on is not constructed to win. Sure, the guys in the front office probably want to win, too. But they work more on the business side of the game.

Yes, winning now would be awesome. But winning more games later would be even better— right?

It may seem to the team that tanking is bad for business now, but will be good for it later. It is not good for the NBA now and will not be later. This is why the league is trying to come up with some draft reform that will discourage teams from tanking.

A draft proposal was recently sent to the NBA’s Board of Governors with the hope of accomplishing that goal. If it passes, starting with the 2019 draft, the worst team will no longer have a 25 percent chance of receiving the No. 1 pick. The next worst team will no longer have a 19.9 percent chance. The team with the third worst record will no longer have a 15.6 percent chance.

tanking

They will each have a 14 percent chance.

In a perfect world, since the difference between the team with the worst record and fifth worst will not be much, teams will not tank as much.

But we don’t live in a perfect world—so this will not work. In fact, it will probably encourage more teams to tank. Under this policy, you don’t have to be the best at tanking to get a better chance at the first overall pick. You just need to be better than 11 other teams (instead of 13).

The NBA’s argument to that point would probably be ‘why do it if it only gives you a slightly better chance of picking up the No. 1 pick?’

Yes, it may only be a slightly better chance, but it is still a better chance than 11 other teams. If your team is already pretty bad, would you rather have a 14 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick or a 12.5 percent chance?

It’s not as much of an advantage, but it is still an advantage.

So, nice try NBA. But teams are going to tank just as much under this system as they already do under the current one.