Revamping the NBA Lottery



The current NBA system is flawed. I know it. You know it. It is in the Sixers best interest to lose games the rest of the year. Sam Hinkie has done a fantastic job setting that up, and Stan Van Gundy (among others) has voiced his displeasure over this reality. It’s a relatively simple truth… the NBA rewards teams for being terrible. This, in a vacuum, actually makes sense. It is done to promote long term parity and give hope to teams/cities that are terrible. Each sport does it. The problem just shows up the most (worst) in basketball as a few players can change the course of a franchise.

Purposefully tanking for the future is not a good look for the NBA and, with Adam Silver now in charge, it will be interesting to see what he does. So how can he change it? I don’t like the proposed wheel idea. Some of the flaws were highlighted in an earlier Liberty Ballers article. In general, I don’t like the wheel because I think it would make good teams better and further reduce NBA parity.

My proposal (beginning in 2019)

  • Unweight the lottery. Each team that missed the playoffs has an equal chance
  • Pick 5 lottery balls. Following the top 5, go in reverse order of record for the remaining teams
  • Reduce the playoffs to 6 teams

Reduce the playoffs to 6 teams

Let me highlight my last point first. I fully acknowledge that this may be a difficult proposal to pass. With other leagues (NFL, MLB) increasing their playoffs and the money that comes from playoff games… it would seem to go against the trend. But Adam Silver recently acknowledged that he wants to increase the randomness of the NBA Playoffs. He mentioned the shortening of playoff series, so maybe there is a chance he would consider this. Here are my two main reasons for this change:

  1. With an unweighted lottery, the stench of finishing as the 8 seed would be even more awful than it currently is. Tanking of to-be playoff teams would look even worse for the NBA than bad teams tanking. 6 is a number that I feel would prove to be beneficial for the NBA and teams alike. Usually 6 vs 3 matchups are competitive.
  2. Add excitement to the regular season. Rooting for your team (especially if you are an old team. see: Duncan, Tim) to get a bye would add actual intrigue and importance to regular season games. Watching Houston/San Antonio/Clippers/Blazers compete for that two seed in the West would be legitimately exciting. (As an aside, this is one of the reasons I am so against the NFL proposal to increase the playoffs)

All in all, It would reward good teams and prevent the bores of Charlotte-Miami first round matchups. It would also provide long-term benefits for those 7-8 seeds that don’t make the playoffs

Unweight the lottery

This is pretty simple. If teams weren’t rewarded to be worse than fellow losers with more lottery balls, there would be significantly less incentive to tank. Unweighting the lottery for non-playoff teams would do wonders to prevent the general "tank" notion of being worse than another bad team. The unweighted lottery would consist of the 18 teams that do not make the playoffs

Pick 5 lottery balls, then go in reverse order of record

The 5 lottery balls is an arbitrary number. I picked 5 because I believe this is around the number of lottery balls that would need to be picked in order to de-incentivize tanking. If the Sixers were competing with the Magic/Bucks for the 6/7/8 pick (unless one of these teams lottery #'s are picked), the interest and value in having a worse record would be significantly decreased. Also… after the top 5, I believe there should be SOME added value given to the teams that stink. If we go straight to a the proposed wheel or a completely unweighted lottery where 18 balls are picked, parity would go down even more and hope for bad teams could go extinct.

All in all with this proposal, each of the 18 teams that miss the playoffs would have approximately a 27.78% chance of garnering a top 5 pick with a 5.56% chance of getting the top pick.

Other things I considered

  • The obvious one, leaving the playoffs at 8 teams, and just going on with the rest of this proposal
  • A 5 vs. 8 and 6 vs. 7 play-in game. Each of the 4 teams in this category would get lottery balls… but these teams would have slightly less weight in the lottery than the other 14 teams Further, play-in games would also just be awesome.
  • An unweighted lottery where balls are picked for all 18 teams that miss the playoffs. Would be remarkably exciting… but terrible for parity.

Let me know what you guys think. It’s the best thing I could think of to keep the balance between parity and serve as a way to de-incentivize tanking.

A user-created LB joint. The Liberty Ballers staff does not contribute to FanPosts.

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