Three Changes that Need to be Made to the NBA Draft

in #nba3 years ago

Three Changes that Need to be Made to the NBA Draft Lottery

There's no doubt that there's a huge issue with the way the NBA lottery works as currently instituted. We have nearly half of the league in an all out race to the bottom to secure the best draft pick, which is diluting the league and resulting in a poor basketball product. The reason that teams purposely lose, also known as "tanking" is because of the fact that they are rewarded for doing so. Currently, the team that has the worst winning percentage at the end of the season has the best odds of winning the draft lottery and securing the number one overall pick.

Sure it doesn't always work out that way and often we see a team sneak into the top few picks that we might not have been expecting, but overall the NBA draft lottery as it is currently constituted rewards teams for being bad. This is the current breakdown of the odds for each team to win the draft lottery:

draft odds.PNG

Starting in 2019, those odds will change slightly to this:

2019 draft odds.PNG

It's definitely a step in the right direction to flatten out the chances of getting the top pick, but that doesn't necessarily change the incentive for a team to lose in the second half of the season. With the way things are currently laid out, there's absolutely no incentive to win games if you're realistically outside the playoff picture. Below are the changes that I think should be enacted by the NBA to create a more competitive league and force teams to steer away from tanking.

Change #1: Even Draft Odds for All Teams that Miss the Playoffs

Every team would have had a shot at this man

Why is this such a controversial idea? Well, because it doesn't reward teams for being extra bad. With this change every team that fails to make the playoffs would have the same shot at the number one overall pick. That team that missed out on the eight seed in the West? Same chance as the team that starts four homeless men and a former three-star recruit to win the draft lottery.

It doesn't make much sense to me that teams are rewarded for being bad in the NBA. I understand the fact that the league needs parity and competition and a team under this format could theoretically get unlucky, lose a few draft lotteries, and be stuck in mediocrity for a while, but how is that any different than the current system? Essentially, it's all being left up to chance anyway. What this format accomplishes is that it will incentivize teams to win games and play harder even if they are unlikely to make the playoffs. If a team has the same chance of getting the top pick whether they end up as the worst team in the league or the first team left out of the playoffs, then there's no point in not trying to win games near the end of the season.

There are two specific arguments against this change, both of which I think hold water. First, there is the issue like I mentioned earlier of a team getting screwed by the lottery. Sure, it's 100% possible that this happens and that the worst team ends up with the 10th pick, but there's already a chance that the team picks an absolute bust at number one, two, or three and they're screwed no matter what. My thinking is that if you're going to leave things up to chance, then go for it. Don't be half-pregnant.

Secondly, there's the issue of teams just on the outside of the playoffs. Some organizations may value the chance at scoring a top pick over getting the eighth seed and getting their faces bashed in by the Rockets or Warriors in the first round. I'll get into a fix for this issue more in my next change, but I already think this is a bit of a stupid argument. Playoff appearances are huge to players and teams. They mean a lot not just from a financial standpoint (spoiler alert: playoff games have far higher revenue than regular season games), but also from a psychological standpoint. Making the playoffs is a huge accomplishment for many teams and just a few playoff games of experience can springboard an organization into relevance, especially for young teams.

So, to recap. Make the odds of winning the lottery equal for all 14 teams that miss the playoffs. Tanking wouldn't be completely eliminated, but the incentive to tank so hard would be.

Change #2: Monetary Incentives for Players and Coaches that Make the Playoffs


Money talks. It's a phrase that is all too true and the NBA is no different. Just look at what a $75,000 difference in prize winnings did to make the All-Star Game more competitive. Now imagine that every player and coach in an organization makes some cash if their team makes the playoffs. You better believe that tanking would fall by the wayside if this and change number one were enacted together. This would be especially relevant to the teams that are near the playoff seed cutoff. If there's $50,000 (or insert dollar amount here) on the line, there's no way that either team doesn't play their damn heart out.

Obviously, there are issues with this one. Where would the money come from? Would this incentivize cheating or other gaming of the system (because tanking clearly isn't a way to game the system)? What is the amount of money needed to actually get guys to care (Blake Griffin doesn't give a damn about $100,000, but the 14th guy on the bench of the Pistons probably does!)? I didn't say that these changes were perfect, I just know that this change would dramatically increase the competitiveness of the end of the regular season.

This change would also have to be blanketed across the league. We can't have one organization giving out five times as much for making the playoffs as another team because we then have an imbalance of incentives. If you get anything from this, I think it's that incentives are the way to influence behavior.

Change #3: Eliminate the NBA Draft

This could actually happen in the NBA?

I can hear the critics now: "You can't do that!" "We've been doing it this way since the beginning of time!" "How will the small-market teams ever be able to compete!?!?!?"

They're all fair criticisms, but let's actually flesh this one out. By the way, I'm not the first to come up with this idea. The owner of the Dallas Mavericks, Mark Cuban, is on record as saying that he thinks that getting rid of the draft would be helpful for the league, but I digress.

Why do we even have a draft? You could say that it's to give every team a fair shot at getting better. You could say that it's that it's the best way to evenly spread the talent, or at least the opportunity for talent, across the league's landscape. Or you could even say that it's simply because we haven't come up with a better solution. All of those might be right, but they also might be wrong.

What if we didn't have a draft? Players would finish their time in college (or internationally) and then be able to sign with an NBA team as a free-agent. Let's call them "free-draftees" since they're different than the typical free-agent and would have different parameters around their signing. These free-draftees would be courted by teams that wanted their talents, and the player would decide which team they signed with.

Now I know what you're thinking, why wouldn't all of these guys just sign with the top teams in the league and the bottom dwellers would get screwed? Well, that's what the salary cap is for. Let's say each team gets $6 Mil (the current rookie scale for the #1 pick is about $6M) to spend on free-draftees if they end the season at or under the salary cap. They can divide this $6M among any number of free-draftees that they want, but can't spend more than that combined on those players.

This idea would actually spread out the talent pool across the league better than the current system. Plus, it would add a ton more drama and intrigue to the entire thing. You could even go so far as to have it be a two week window in which teams can court players, work on contract details, and do whatever they can to entice players to sign with them, and then at a big press conference, each player announces who they are signing with. You best believe I would be glued to my phone and TV to try and see which team signed the top overall prospect.

This would also force teams to hire more competent coaches as well as build out higher quality facilities. If you're trying to wow a free-draftee, then you have to go all out. We could even see something like the Fab Five of Michigan. What if the top five players in a free-draftee class decided to split the $6M evenly to play on the same team? How awesome of a story would that be.

Literally, the possibilities are endless with this.

I think that if I talk any more about eliminating the NBA draft, I might explode from pure excitement. Ok final piece on this and I promise I'll stop. How much more would the NBA teams invest into their city's youth basketball programs if it meant they might land a top recruit at a hometown discount?

I think getting rid of the draft all together would completely change the NBA landscape for the better, but I also know that it will never happen, so for now we are stuck with a broken lottery system that incentivizes teams to lose in an attempt to become competitive. I for one certainly hope that some real change happens and I'm happy to see the 2019 lottery changes, but there needs to be more. Sound off in the comments about what you think the NBA should do!

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Another idea I would like to throw out there is rewarding the teams in the 9th, 10th, or 11th spots with a better chance in the NBA Lottery. Possibly even give them the highest chances. It would make the competition intriguing. Its not as drastic of a rule change and would encourage teams to continue to compete well after the all-star break. Regardless, I think we can all agree that the NBA is broken (only because basketball is so different when it comes to baseball or football due to the sheer impact that ONE great player can have on your playoff chances) when it comes to the draft and it makes it EXTREMELY unfair to the fans of these tanking teams.

I totally agree with what you said about the NBA being broken due to the impact a single player can have on a team. I think giving the teams with a better record a better chance at the top picks, but to randomly give it to the 9th, 10th, and 11th, teams seems odd. I assume you meant 12th, 13th, 14th?

Either way, that's why I think evening the odds across the board would be the best option. Teams would compete hard for those wins.

#1 is a great point that I'm surprised I've never heard before. #2... I don't buy. Monetary incentive is just not that much, relative to the salaries and endorsement deals.

And per your point in #2, relative to the all-star game, I don't think the money had anything to do with the recent game being better than the last 10 years (or more) combined. I think the players all agreed, in a gentlemanly fashion, to care about it more -- probably for bragging rights.

As for #3, I get the feeling you, @brandonp, don't even buy that that's going to happen.

All in all, fun post that got me engaged. Good stuff!

Thanks @penningtonlens! I disagree with you about the All-Star game though. Sure, the money probably wasn't the only driving factor in the higher level of play than previous games, but players have always had bragging rights on the line and that never changed the competitiveness of the game in previous years.

I think all three are great ideas. We all know that #3 won't ever happen but the more I think about it. It would be really interesting. I'm not sure I agree with it really helping the small market teams however. What would make a kid that's a certified (6mil) star, want to head for a small market team when a big city team in the hunt or actually on top is vying for his services? I think if'll start to hear nonsense of players, teams and agents selling kids on teams while they are just starting freshman year or still in high school. It always starts out innocent and for the good of the game and then know.
I love number 1 and have thought about it. But you are right...the tanking will be from the 6-8 seed teams. That's where the problem will move to. The financial reward is going to have to be enough to "matter". And I'm not so sure the owners would agree to a fund a "playoff participant pool". Interesting.
: )

Yea there are definitely some tweaks and details that need to be ironed out for #3 to actually work at all. I know that there's a way to make it all work, I would just have to think a lot more about it and come up with ideas to cover every issue.

As for what you said about tanking for the 6-8 seeds. I don't think that would be an issue. Making the playoffs is such a huge boost for teams that tanking out of the playoffs just to have a chance at the top pick probably isn't worth it for teams. Remember, the team has an equal chance of getting the last pick of the lottery as it does of getting the top pick under my system.

Interesting suggestions, I do like number 1 because it would prevent tanking however I think the big markets would dominate the league and smaller market teams would become unprofitable if this was to happen. If a small market team like Milwaukee loses its star player (like Giannis) and it takes 10 years to rebuild because they haven’t been able to build around a draft pick them they likely won’t be profitable nor would any players want to go there

Well let's use Milwaukee as an example. Giannis wasn't even a lottery pick in his draft so that goes to show that there are deals to be had later in the draft as well. Small market teams are already unprofitable as it is. Take a look at this article and you'll see what I mean.

Great post, I completely agree with point #1. That would definitely help to eliminate the tanking. Point #2 is an interesting one, and would def make the competition for the 7 and 8 seeds way more competitive at the end of the season. And even though point #3 is crazy and you're right, the NBA will probably never go for it, I'm with you and absolutely love it! And I'm a Milwaukee Bucks fan - so even though small market, I still like the idea - great post!

Yea change three will never happen, but the more I think about it, the more I really want it to happen. Small-market teams would probably be better off this way honestly because they would be able to build teams that played together as opposed to hoping to land a superstar that develops quickly before their contract is up and they leave for larger markets. Obviously not every team is going to end up like the Spurs, but they would have a better shot.

I agree completely. I like the opportunity to build that way, like you said, otherwise small market teams need to try and luck out basically and land a superstar that develops quickly, etc. I'm with you, I think it would be more beneficial to the small market clubs in the long run than the current system.

NBA goal with draft lottery rules is to make teams more balanced. Philadelphia was first team loosing games by purpose and this tactic was good for them, they have one of most talented teams now, but for fans was terrible. Few years in a row they were watching defeats. Now more teams start doing that and NBA need to change rules. Draft 2019. will be better because there will be less difference between worst team and others.
Nice blog :-)

It's been happening long before Philadelphia did it. The Spurs tanked pretty hard in the 96-97 season in order to get Tim Duncan. It's just become more prevalent due to the extreme focus on developing players.

Didn’t know that. Thanks 😀

#2 would be cool if the winnings come out of the losing Player's and owners hides.

We prefer a reverse draft: team w best regular season record picks first. Not only does this eliminate tanking, it eliminates resting players problem and reduces point shaving or coasting into playoffs when seed is earned.
Every trade and move would be made based on winning games NOW.
THE SALARY CAP as you point out would do all the heavy lifting in terms of fairness.
And making good or bad draft pick decisions would count even more. Young developmental rookies would be worthless and seasoned rookies ready to contribute immediately will become more valuable.

It's draconian but it would work like a charm and create plenty of intrigue and dynastic runs. Ever play drinking game called Asshole? Like that only not as punitive if u come in last.

I don't think that idea would ever work. Teams at the bottom would have literally no shot to ever get better, while teams at the top would consistently earn the spoils. Think about the 2012 draft. The Spurs had the best record that season and therefore under your rules would get the top pick of the draft. They pick Anthony Davis who probably gets them to another championship the next year. The Spurs probably have the best record again the next year and get Victor Oladipo. Then they get Wiggins or Embiid the next year? How is that team every going to be bad barring crazy injuries?

Now let's look at the Hornets who were the worst team that year. They get the last pick of the draft and lets say they nail it and get Draymond Green who has been the best player drafted after the 30th pick. Draymond doesn't move the needle for the Hornets that first year and they're back as the worst team again. They get absolutely nothing in the 2013 draft since it was hot garbage. Then they get who, Kyle Anderson? the next year. There's a zero percent chance that team ever becomes decent.

Yes, it's counterintuitive, but remember, while the Spurs would get the #1 pick and get Davis, the #2 team might be really smart and take Otto Porter who's arguably the better player to Davis bc he plays perfect basketball every minute he's in the game. The teams records show a lot of that.

The teams picking lower would have to innovate, either by mastering draft or even better proving the draft isn't as important as everyone thinks. Who wouldn't have drafted Wilt Chamberlain over Bill Russell, yet Russell is the greatest basketball player to ever live?

Plus, "make it take-it draft" would have fans going bezerk rooting for each and every game no matter how insignificant, and fandom would go thru the roof bc everyone (even if they don't like to admit it) loves a dynasty. People who hate the dynasty watch more of the sport that people who like the dynasty. Plus, the dynasty would be like an all-star game, every game they play. Like watching 1980 Olympic Hockey, people would have their eyes glued to the TV waiting to see if American amatuers can topple the great Russian hockey machine.

Draymond ALWAYS moves the needle. The Hornets could've picked up TJ McConnell as starting PG. At center would be Hassan Whiteside. At small forward Robert Covington. Shooting Guard? There's a million good ones, all sitting bench hoping for minutes. Crabbe, Stauskas, Denzel Valentine, Bogdan Bogdan-- they are all probably easily attained. The Larry Brown Pistons proved you don't need superstar draft picks to win the title, they almost won it back to back.
There's a MASSIVE groupthink going on right now that you have to have a LeBron or a Curry or a Dirk to win a championship. All those players had legit TEAMS around them. The GSW won their first championship (and should've won their 2nd in a row) without Durant. Curry and Klay were underdog picks, not top 2, and Draymond as you pointed out was 2nd round.

If you're gonna finish 30th every year, then sure, you're team's going to stink and probably gets moved to a new city, new owner. Good riddance.

Also, you're talking about something that's still impossible in today's league, going 30th to 1st. You don't have to move from 30th to first, you need to move from 30th to 25th to 20th the 15th to 10th to 5th to 1st. Ever play that card game called "asshole"? The asshole never rises up and becomes president the next hand, he has to work his way out of the jam, but assholes rise to be presidents over and over again in that game.

The draft is mostly nonsense anyway, the draft sometimes makes the player. Anthony Bennett stayed in the league probably an extra 4 years simply bc he went #1, yet Quinn Cook is ripping up D-League and can't get a 15th man seat at the table. TJ McConnell is an ideal PG yet he'd never have cracked the league except for Philly having no butts to fill seats for 2 years so they took chances on him and Covington.

So yeah, the system would totally work, you'd never have to worry about tanking again, every game would be fought hard, there'd be no DNP rests, no tanking, no respect for losers whatsoever. You wanna win? then as Bill Parcells would say "find a way to win".

Not a single person in the entire league would rather have Otto Porter than Anthony Davis. That's just absolutely ridiculous.

Let's take your example of moving from 30th to 25th to 20th etc. Let's say we start in 2012. This is the team that you would get with that style of draft:

2012: Festus Ezeli
2013: Reggie Bullock
2014: Bruno Caboclo
2015: Kelly Oubre Jr.
2016: Thon Maker
2017: De'Aaron Fox

There's a zero percent chance that team isn't just straight awful.

What you're suggesting just simply isn't possible nor practical. Even if a team keeps finishing last and the team moves owners and cities, the team is still behind the eight-ball and there's no way they could dig themselves out of that hole.

You mention that teams don't need a superstar to win a championship, but let me tell you this stat: Only one team in the history of the NBA has won an NBA championship without a Hall of Famer (or surefire future hall of famer ie Duncan, LeBron, Dirk). That team was the 2004 Pistons who had a Hall of Fame coach. There's no argument for that.

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I consider that change # 3 is not a valid option to eliminate the draft. However, I believe that commissioner Adam Silver will gradually take measures of change as well as in the game of stars. The # 1 option that teams intentionally lose games is very valid, thus stimulating the competition from start to finish. There are very good talents coming, Williamson, Porter Jr, Oneal Jr and many more will come to the NBA to make history. Greetings, I love this sport.

Apparently they are very drastic changes as you mentioned about the playoffs, however, there is a positive charge in each one of them. In the first, all the teams, including the winners, would have a good chance of making good choices and the teams that lose looking for high elections will stop doing that. In number two an insentient is always good and will always give positive results and in the third I do not think that a solution is to eliminate the Draft but I would like to see what that would be like.

This image is very good especially for the character of Lavar Ball. Hahaha.

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