Because I’m deathly afraid someone is going to post this first (NBA Draft Lottery)

I’ve had the idea for how the NBA should handle the lottery for a little while now, but have waited to write it up because I’m busy (law school finals) and because this blog does not have enough visibility right now for it to get the penetration it deserves. But I realized that things are moving too fast and I want to make sure it’s out there before someone else writes it up. Keep in mind, I’m someone obsessive enough about this stuff that I run a fantasy sports league where the higher seeds can choose their opponents (and a great deal more innovations that are being saved for a much longer piece).

The NBA has 16 teams that make the playoffs and 14 that do not. At present, those 14 teams go into the lottery, which is weighted by record for the first three picks, then it simply goes in order of regular season record from worst to best.

What I want to see happen is a 14 team single elimination tournament at the end of the regular season. It would behave exactly like a 16 team tourney, except that the top 2 seeds get byes. It would be seeded completely by record, with ties being broken by head to head if just 2 teams, or by record in the last 20 games if more than 2 teams. Naturally, all games would be hosted by the home teams until we get to the “Final Four” which would be held at a neutral site, and that’s a neutral site that is desirable (Vegas, pretty much).

At the end, the two teams that advance to the final game are facing off for the #1 pick. Winning team gets #1 and losing team gets #2, though I could be persuaded by arguments that the losing team gets #3 and #2 is determined by the process below.

The other change is that the day after the final game is the NBA Draft Lottery. We have 12 teams left at this point. The other thing that changes in this lottery is that each of the 14 slots is selected by a lottery. It is easy enough to set odds for each level (3rd pick through 13th) and then just plug in the teams accordingly.

One inevitable criticism is that teams that have traded their #1 would not have an incentive to play their best guys and players would not want to try hard to get a good draft pick and a player that could replace them. How you solve this is the same way the dunk contest is fixable: Add money to it. Each player on the “winning” team gets a decently sized bonus (considering his team just got the #1 pick, I think even the owner/GM of that team would be happy enough to do it), with escalating bonuses each round after the first one. The other tweak is that there is an underlying exception that what becomes the #1 pick cannot be traded under any circumstances. So a pick can be top-10 or lottery protected, but that protection does not mean that the pick is moved if win the tournament- then it works like all other protection and their obligations slide back another year.

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2 Comments

Filed under Danny, NBA Basketball, Sports

2 responses to “Because I’m deathly afraid someone is going to post this first (NBA Draft Lottery)

  1. I absolutely love this idea! The typical NBA Draft is fairly top heavy, where the top 2 or 3 picks have disproportionately greater success over their careers than the rest of the first round. This is different than the NFL (where valuable players are found throughout the early rounds) and MLB (which is a complete crapshoot). Thus, the worst place to be for any NBA franchise is “basketball hell”, which is not quite good enough to make the playoffs yet nowhere near bad enough to have a decent chance at the #1 pick (notwithstanding my Bulls’ luck last year). Thus, teams that are trying hard and/or built well enough to contend for a playoff spot but don’t make it to the postseason are essentially punished more than anyone else. Under your proposal, it turns the lottery on its head, as it should be. From a league perspective, having someone like Blake Griffin go to a team that is on the cusp of the playoffs (as opposed to being 30 games out of the playoff race) is much more desirable.

    The one significant downside that I see, though, is the prospect of “good but not great” teams tanking down the stretch since playing in the “NBA Draft Tournament” would be a more desirable situation than making the playoffs as a #7 or #8 seed. For instance, as exciting as the Bulls-Celtics first round series was this year, most knowledgeable basketball people would have known that beating either the Cavs and Magic out of the East would have been nearly impossible for the Bulls. So, the Bulls would have been better off sitting all of their starters during the last week of the regular season so that they wouldn’t make the playoffs and then blow by everyone to win the hypothetical NBA Draft Tourney so that they would have the rights to draft Blake Griffin (setting up a potential Rose-Griffin dynasty that would last for the next decade). When the NBA has only a handful of teams that have legitimate chances to win the championship in any given season (which happens more often than not), then the risk is that those “good but not great” teams have almost too much incentive to miss the playoffs.

    Still, the NBA Draft Tourney is a great idea overall. If there was a way that incentives could be put into place that would be prevent teams from tanking games down the stretch, I’d be all for it.

  2. It would certainly make some exciting basketball watching teams fight and scratch their way to a better draft pick…but isn’t the whole point of the draft lottery to help the crappiest teams in the league? This system would certainly help the teams on the cusp of the playoffs but it be even more detrimental to the cellar dwellers who will only manage to get a mid-first round pick…

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