Zach Lowe broke the news on Friday that the NBA will, apparently legally, change the rules of the NBA draft as the season begins. The changes will impact both the odds that a team will receive a number one pick as well as the downside a team faces if they do not hit the lottery. SB Nation's Mike Prada documented the impending changes here. Most notably from Lowe regarding the Sixers role and future are these three quips:
Hard to overstate degree of leaguewide displeasure with Sixers right now. Perhaps not entirely fair -- they're following rules -- but big.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) October 3, 2014
Under current rules, worst team has 25% chance at No. 1. Second-worst: 19.9%. Third-worst: 15.6%. Proposal would give 4 worst equal 12% odds— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) October 3, 2014
Proposal details: four worst teams would have equal 12 percent chance to win No. 1 pick. Worst team could fall no lower than No 7.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) October 3, 2014
The timing of the change may be one year too late for many, but for Sixers fans, and for people who are fans of things being fair to people who operate by the rules, this is a major blow. And while the rule changes have clear merit, the implementation cannot be construed as anything other than an attempt to keep the Sixers from being too successful via tanking.
If Draft Lottery reform were implemented fairly, teams would have time to plan for this major rule change. The NBA could wait until protections on draft picks expired, or until the new collective bargaining agreement is established after another wasteful lockout that's sure to happen because the NBA doesn't really know what it wants.
Instead, the league and its owners will enact it with no real chance of the Sixers responding in any way other than "we're sticking to the strategy" because they have no choice. The reason tanking strategies have mostly not worked in the past is a combination of ineptitude and impatience. Sam Hinkie has been the furthest thing from inept as President and GM, and Josh Harris has more patience than is ever feasible from a hedge fund billionaire.
The process was working. And thus the other NBA owners want to change the process. There's clear reasoning behind wanting to change the process as is. Tanking is distasteful even when it's effective. Losing should not be incentivized. These are things I agree with, and a change to prevent situations like this from happening again via a rule change is not a bad idea.
The problem is in the execution. This is nothing more than revenge plotted by the league and its owners against the Sixers for playing their cards too well. If it weren't, it would not be enacted for the coming NBA Draft, when the Sixers planned to be bad and have no way of reversing course on their strategy. Instead of doing that, and instead of having a goal of preventing tanking from happening in the future, the league has instead punished the Sixers for its poor rule structure and for playing by them so well.
Good job, good effort NBA owners. I'm glad you decided to punish the Sixers and their fans for having something go right for a change.