Adam Silver yesterday vehemently denied that tanking takes place in the NBA. The newly appointed commissioner said: “I don't think that's (tanking) going on anywhere in the NBA and I would take action immediately if I thought it was."
Well that’s all well and good Mr. Commissioner, but I’ve seen the Philadelphia 76ers and Milwaukee Bucks play this year and they are two teams that are designed to be bad and come the NBA draft in June, will be rewarded for it.
Really, there’s no problem with tanking. It is by far the most effective way for a small or mid-market franchise with no hope in free agency to turn the franchise around.
Teams have been proving that tanking is a solid strategy for years and it will continue as long as the current system stays in place.
The real problem is this: If the 2014 NBA playoffs started tomorrow, the Charlotte Bobcats who gave up 50 points to two different players this season and the Atlanta Hawks, both under .500 will secure playoff berths in the Eastern Conference.
Meanwhile, in the Western Conference teams like the young, talented Phoenix Suns and Minnesota Timberwolves led by Kevin Love would miss out on the postseason despite being over that magic .500 line. That needs to stop.
Here’s how we’d fix it: Balance up the schedule first of all, there has been nothing worse this season than seeing the Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers beat up on the Sixers and Bucks.
It causes a huge imbalance at the top of the schedule and has essentially created free games for Eastern contenders. Even up the schedule and let them play the tough Western teams some more.
Next up, get rid of the conference separation. Just have one league of 30 teams and the 16 best records regardless of conference qualify for the playoffs.
The playoffs themselves would retain the same structure, four rounds of games with a best-of-seven series in each round. The system could throw up some interesting dynamics; old cross-conference rivalries could be renewed.
Imagine Lakers-Celtics in a back and forth playoff series, obviously not this year but going forward it could definitely be interesting.
Right now, obviously west coast teams would outrank the eastern teams. But this could change as the conference play is evened out and all teams have to deal with an equal strength of schedule.
The draft process could remain the same with the 14 teams that fail to make the playoffs picking higher up the board as usual. I would be in favour of a different weighting system for the lottery however, maybe even creating an equal weighting so that all 14 non-playoff teams have a shot at the first overall pick.
Clearly, there is no plan currently in place for this system to take effect just yet. However should teams continue with their tanking philosophy going forward, this may be among Silver’s plan of action.
Watch this space.