The idea of tanking in the hopes of earning a high draft pick has been a real problem in the NBA over the last handful of seasons.
For example, the Philadelphia 76ers’ mantra of “trusting the process” essentially meant sacrificing multiple losing seasons in order to earn top picks, which have been used on core pieces like Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz in recent years.
In the hopes of preserving the integrity of the game, the NBA is reportedly thinking of making some improvements to the lottery system in which draft slots are determined.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski detailed the possible changes.
“Presently, the NBA team with the worst record can drop no lower than No. 4 from No. 1, but the NBA's currently proposed legislation could allow that team to drop from first to fifth in the lottery,” league sources told ESPN. “This would include a domino effect through the lottery, where the second-worst record -- presently dropping no lower than fourth -- could fall to sixth. Then the No. 3 team could drop as far as seven, and on down, league sources said.”
In the current system, teams with the worst three records have increased chances of winning the No. 1 pick. The third-worst team has a 15.6 percent chance, the second-worst team has a 19.9 percent shot and the worst team has 25 percent odds.
The NBA's new proposal would flatten those odds and give the three teams with the worst record the same exact percentage of earning the No. 1 overall pick, according to Wojnarowski.
Additionally, new legislation would tighten the difference between the worst team and fifth-worst team significantly. The worst record holds a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick while the fifth-worst has an 8.8 percent chance in the current system.
Therefore, it’s clear that the concept of tanking would not be as advantageous under the new proposed rules. The difference between landing the first overall versus the fifth overall pick is gigantic, and if the odds make ending up with either somewhat similar, it would be harder to guarantee a franchise-altering talent.
A more radical idea that’s also being discussed is that no team can hold a top three pick in two-consecutive seasons. According to Wojnarowski, “that idea is outside of the league office's proposal but is expected to be considered in the upcoming committee meeting, sources said.”
From an overall competitive standpoint, the proposed measures seem to be positive, but, according to Woj, there has been some pushback among small-market organizations.
“There is some fear among small-market teams that lottery reform will make it even harder for them to obtain star-level players through the draft, especially because of a pervading belief that it has become increasingly hard to do so through free agency and trades,” he reported. “Teams believe that the process of trading for star players has become more difficult, with agents and players warning that they'll leave come free agency and will never consider re-signing with those teams.”
It remains to be seen what changes take effect, but it’s obvious that the league is doing its best to address a major concern.