The NBA has been steadily evolving since Adam Silver took over as commissioner of the league years ago, and another big change is on the horizon.
“Tanking” in the NBA means different things to different people. Some understand the value of playing the odds as well as you can. If a team isn’t close to being a playoff contender, why not aim for the best odds possible at drafting at the top of the order?
That’s what teams like the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns have been doing for the past several years. While it’s not all “tanking” – these teams have outright been bad as well – the benefit of losing games has only gained appeal.
Where it isn’t gaining appeal, though, is with fans. The NBA is in the hunt for NBA Draft lottery reform, with a vote scheduled for Sept. 28 top change the process. One of the biggest reasons the league is trying to put out the fire before it continues spreading is about pleasing its audience.
The push for lottery reform is being driven by research that “many fans continue to say tanking is making them less interested in the league,” NBA president of league operations Byron Spruell told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
That makes a great deal of sense. Players may not be losing on purpose out on the floor, but coaching and front office decisions have a major impact on the win-loss column. There’s no doubt that teams have made decisions that at best may not be in the best interest of winning, and at worst are flagrant attempts at hindering the on-court product.
The current draft lottery system promotes those kinds of guerrilla tactics. The percentages are weighed too heavily for teams at the very bottom, creating a huge difference between each run on the ladder. Of course teams want to bury themselves in the bottom-three. A bottom-three equates to a 46.9 percent chance of landing a top-three pick, and 15.6 percent chance of it being the No. 1 pick.
Go a little further up the road, and finishing with the 9th-worst record in the NBA only gives teams a 6.1 percent chance at a top-three pick, and 1.7 percent chance that it’s the top selection.That gap is simply too big to ignore for teams trying to maximize their chances right now.
That’s why re-weighing the scale is the likeliest change for the time being, diminishing the huge advantage teams have going into the drawing who have the worst records. It’s a start, and while it doesn’t address teams already cashing in on some obvious tanking over the past few seasons, it gets the ball rolling in the right direction.
For fans, the integrity of the games their watching, and the competition level each night, is key. Silver focusing on finding solutions to one of the ugliest subplots of the league is a smart move in that respect.