During the 2013-14 NBA season, the league had a tanking epidemic on it’s hands. The presence of several franchise changing prospects aided in what was some downright embarrassing basketball. Tanking is essentially when an organization sheds veteran players in hopes securing one of the worst records in the league. By doing so, the team’s with the worst records have the highest probabilities of securing the top pick in the draft. For many smaller market clubs, this is one of the only ways they can secure a star player.
At this Summers annual league meetings in Las Vegas, the league introduced a proposal to the competition committee that could send shock waves throughout the NBA. The proposal, which is due to be voted on before the start of the upcoming season, is receiving fierce opposition from the Philadelphia 76ers. Several teams have a rebuilding plan based on current rules and could be lobbying against change. Here is look at the current format and a brief outline of the proposed changes the NBA would like to implement.
The Current system
Under the current system, the team that finishes with the worst record has a 25% chance at receiving the first pick. The second team a 19.9% chance, and the third team a 15.6% chance. The odds all gradually descend from there, with the last team in the lottery only having a 0.5% chance at receiving the top pick. This results in several teams racing to have the worst record in the league. Having several teams that could be perceived as intentionally fielding rosters that aren’t competitive, could be damaging to the overall health of the NBA.
It’s important to note that the current proposal that’s being floated is likely to evolve, and will undoubtedly receive some tweaks along the way. The proposal is essentially an attempt to equalize the odds at the extremes at the top and bottom of the lottery. Under the new proposal the four teams with the worst record, would all have an identical 11% chance at the first pick. The proposal would result in a much more gradual decline from top to bottom. The fifth worst team would reportedly have a 10% chance at the top pick. With this gradual decline in odds, a team that just misses the playoffs by a couple spots would only have a slightly worse chance at the top pick than the team with the worst record. It’s easy to see how this could radically shake up the way teams manage their rosters.
The Magic have walked the line over the last two seasons in what could be described as a tanking team. During the 2013-14 season Stan Van Gundy hinted at the issue when he said this, “Orlando’s roster is a playoff roster. For whatever reason they don’t want to be there right now.” Well, we all know what the reason is.” The 2012-13 season saw the Magic win only 20 games, the fewest in the league. They were subsequently rewarded with the second pick, which the team used to draft Indiana guard Victor Oladipo. The 2013-14 season was once again a painful year for the fan-base, the Magic could only muster a putrid total of 23 wins. The leagues third worst record netted the Magic the 4th pick, which was used on Arizona forward Aaron Gordon.
If the league is successful in reforming the draft lottery prior to the start of the season, it could make for a much better brand of basketball across the league. Heading into the third year of their rebuild, the Magic are expected to take that next step forward, developmentally and record wise. With the potential for the gap to be smaller odds wise, the Magic could find their way back into the top five in the draft even without “tanking.” This proposal could be great for the league, and moving forward, I’m very interested to see if it will end up getting done.