Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The NBA and Tanking

It seems like the NBA has a tanking problem. So does the NHL, and the NFL.

"Tanking" is when a team intentionally loses games toward the end of the season (by not playing their best players, generally) to improve their draft position.

Generally, the worse your record, the better your draft pick. Particularly in years where there are future superstars (Sidney Crosby for example, suck it Philly fan), teams are particularly tempted to go into the tank.

Leagues have instituted draft "lotteries" (where the worst team isn't guaranteed the first pick), but mostly, they haven't helped at all. Teams have even tanked themselves out of the playoffs in order to get into the lottery, thus defeating the entire purpose of having a lottery in the first place.

The Philadelphia 76ers have enshrined tanking as "The Process", but it's basically just doing a really shitty job for years and hoping the draft bails them out.

This is very, very wrong, and given that sports are an entertainment product, it's lousy entertainment, too.

I have an idea, and let's use the NBA as an example (it's basically the same for the NHL, too).

The last team in the playoffs in each conference (the #8 seed) is in the lottery. Every team that didn't make the playoffs is in the lottery.

Then, it's a random draw.

No weighting. Everyone has an equal chance.

This would do three things immediately:
1. Tanking goes away.
You can make the playoffs and still be in the lottery. Maybe, as an edge case, a team tries to be the #8 seed instead of #6, for example, but playoff games are HUGELY profitable for teams (because players are not paid their regular salaries), so there's a strong financial incentive against that (because they could screw up and miss the playoffs entirely).
2. Mid-tier teams have a chance to get much better via the draft.
This seems like a good thing. Is it better to help a terrible team (that tanked) to a point where they can barely get into the playoffs, or a #8 seed that could legitimately challenge for the conference finals with one or two more players?
 3. The NBA Draft Lottery would become an inconceivably huge event.
Huge. And it would be fun.

I don't see a downside, and it would force teams with bad organizations to improve their organizations, which is what should be happening already.

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