x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Tired of tanking? Get rid of draft lottery weights

Plenty of ideas have been kicked around about how to deter “tanking”, in the NBA to receive a better draft pick. How about a very simple solution? Get rid of the lottery weights.

Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins (22) is likely to be in any discussion as a possible top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Equally discussed may be the notion that teams are tanking their season to have a chance to select him. Orlin Wagner / AP Photo
Kansas guard Andrew Wiggins (22) is likely to be in any discussion as a possible top pick in the upcoming NBA draft. Equally discussed may be the notion that teams are tanking their season to have a chance to select him. Orlin Wagner / AP Photo

The Eastern Conference standings are ugly to look at this year, and, unfortunately, that’s partly by design.

The 2014 NBA draft class is billed as being the best since 2003, when LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony were all picked in the top five. If you notice all the losing records in the East, you’ll see those teams are also well aware of this.

With franchise-altering talents just a few months away and the Heat unassailable by anyone but the Indiana Pacers, why bother?

Play to lose and, if you enter the lottery, the worse you are, the better your chances of winning the top pick and a chance at, say, Andrew Wiggins, the gifted University of Kansas forward.

Plenty of ideas have been kicked around about how to dissuade “tanking”, some of them as radical as no longer giving losing teams higher picks altogether. But how about a very simple solution?

Get rid of the lottery weights.

At present, the more losses you have, the more lottery balls you get. Why not instead give all teams who failed to make the play-offs the same chance at the top pick?

It might be suggested some teams would prefer losing (and earning a trip to the lottery) to gaining the No 8 play-off spot, but I doubt most NBA owners will look at play-off revenue, weigh that against a 1-in-14 chance of landing the top pick and opt for the lottery.

There are always going to be hopeless teams. No incentive structure in the world will make a club mired in mediocrity try to stay there rather than experiment with inexperienced players and castoffs in the hopes of unearthing a gem. But at least without lottery weights, losing 42 games is the same as losing 72. You’re eliminating incentive to lose more. And while that does give merely bad teams an equal chance as truly bad teams at landing game-changing talent, if the point of a lottery is parity, who cares where that parity is distributed among teams out of the play-offs?

And, just maybe, if all losers are treated equally, they will all start to lose more equally.

jraymond@thenational.ae

Follow us on twitter at @SprtNationalUAE