Solution to Tanking: The Draft Wheel?

12/23/13 in NBA   |   TonyDhani   |   9 respect

Jun 27, 2013; Brooklyn, NY, USA; NBA commissioner David Stern (right) shakes hands with deputy commissioner Adam Silver after the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft at the Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsTanking is a real problem in today’s NBA - in years before particularly strong draft classes, one can expect fire sales and races to the bottom of the standings in order to cash in on the next year’s talent. A potential solution to this problem has been floating around the NBA league offices, according to Grantland. It proposes drastic changes to the draft system including the abolition of the draft lottery and the establishment of a 30-year rotational system of a pre-determined draft order. All draft slots will be known ahead of time, and the algorithm of the rotation insures that each team gets a top-six pick every 5 years at least one top-12 pick in every four-year span. 

Although the draft lottery is in dire need of reform, this latest proposal has some inherent flaws. How will the initial order be determined (who gets 1st overall pick in year 1)? Could the system lead to more inequality rather than less – getting a top draft slot in the middle of a great run (think today’s Heat) could concentrate talent. Also, enormous pressure will be put on losing teams when picking at the top of the draft, as they will not have another high pick for another 4 years. Additionally, trading away draft picks could become increasingly risky, as the slots are locked in ahead of time. An injury or loss in free agency can make a deal look great initially only to turn out terribly just a season or two later.

The one big plus to the system is that it could incentivize small market owners to spend revenue sharing money instead of pocketing it. In the years immediately following a top 5 pick, all teams will be encouraged to keep the team competitive since talent will likely not be added via the draft (and to keep their new star happy). All too often, small market owners do not spend revenue sharing money on players since they are aiming for a high draft pick. For example, this season the Bobcats and Kings are receiving $18 million each in revenue sharing but are still in the bottom 3rd in total payroll (both approximately $60.3 million).

In any event, the system won’t be implemented anytime soon. The proposal could be given to NBA owners this offseason, but implementation would be postponed until all current draft pick debits and credits between teams have been fulfilled. This likely will push integration of the “draft wheel” into a long, potentially decade long process. It could be the first big splash made by incoming commissioner Adam Silver. 

What are your thoughts – is the draft wheel a better system than the lottery? 
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