Can the wheel solve the NBA's tanking problem?

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As the NBA calendar reaches the business end of the season, the gap between those at the top and those at the bottom of the standings is becoming starker than ever before.

Tonight, the Oklahoma City Thunder (45-15) and Philadelphia 76ers (15-45) face off in what is sure to be a mismatch for the ages.

The problem of course is that the 76ers and a number of other teams are set up to play badly. That is not to say that they are necessarily tanking (purposely losing in order to get a high draft pick) or how successful that strategy would be.

The one thing that we can gather by looking at the bottom half of both conferences is that tanking exists in the 2014 NBA and it is a problem.

But don’t worry, we may have a solution. The NBA draft wheel, to replace the NBA lottery was a proposal that was first put forward just before Christmas and once again made an appearance at last weekend’s MIT Sloan Conference.

Under the proposal, teams would not pick in the draft depending on their previous season record but instead would have a fixed draft order, which rotated every season.

This would mean that each team would have the first pick in the draft every 30 years and a top-six pick once every five seasons. The idea of the proposal is to stop teams from setting up to perform badly, there is absolutely no benefit to playing badly under this system you will pick where you pick whether you win the championship or finish last.

However, critics of the proposal say that the idea is dangerous warning that fans would give up on teams if they miss on a high draft pick and then face a four year cycle without much chance of improvement.

Essentially NBA GM’s would have to do a better job at running their teams then they do now. They cannot afford to miss on a pick in the top 10 and they cannot hide behind tanking tactics for a number of years to keep their jobs.

On the other side of the coin, good teams with superstars in their prime and well-run front-offices will profit. They are likely to get stronger being able to bring in young stars to compliment their current roster.

The Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder for example would likely have gotten a top-six pick during the prime of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Kevin Durant to cement their championship credentials.

This is not the only new draft plan that has been proposed of late. Another suggestion has said that an aggregate of three seasons rather than just one decide the draft order. This proposal would avoid solid teams that have a one-season slide profiting as much as genuinely terrible teams.

Whether either of these proposals is taken seriously by the league and it’s new commissioner, Adam Silver in years to come remains to be seen but it is clear that the gulf between teams is set to remain the same.


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