Less than a month ago, the NBA’s Board of Governors voted on and passed lottery reform that totally fixed the “tanking issue” and the NBA is now perfect.
@samhinkie tanking is solved— Daryl Morey (@dmorey) September 28, 2017
What actually happened instead of the above is that the league just shifted the incentive and style of tanking to fit the new system. Instead of going into the season knowing you’ll be garbage and committing to the garbage until the season is over, teams can now wait until much later in the season and go full-out nosedive when they realize they won’t be a playoff contender. Potato, po-tah-to.
But things could have been different. Much different. In a story just posted by ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban laid out two plans he pitched. The first was radical:
Cuban pitched other members of the league's board of governors on a system in which the draft is abolished, with teams getting a pool of money to sign rookies based on their records.
"The team with the worst record gets the most money and the team with the best record gets the least money," Cuban said. "It's like a free agency. It makes it a lot harder to tank because you don't know if you get the best players if you're horrible all the time. "Nobody liked that at all, not a single person."
This is an idea that’s been discussed on Twitter, podcasts, and comment sections but - as far as we know - never with team owners. It’s no surprise that they’re all against it. Part of the reason you can’t draft a kid out of high school anymore - I believe - is that owners sought protection from their own mistakes. If you want to draft Kwame Brown out of high school #1 overall, that’s on you. But owners got bit in the ass too many times and now you can’t come right out of high school. Now, imagine the far opposite end of that, that teams no longer have the actual final say in who they pick. They can offer a college kid a contract, and the worse you are the better your contract offer can be, but the draftee (or, free agent actually) can still say no, Phoenix Suns, I don’t want to play for you.
On top of that, teams love being able to lock in young players to rookie deals. Before signing an extension in the off-season, Giannis Antetokounmpo made $2,995,421 last year. That’s music to a front office’s ears. In fact, it’s their favorite song.
Cuban’s other proposal also didn’t gain any traction, but it’s a little more surprising. Cuban pitched Adam Silver on the idea that you “lock the team with the worst record into a draft slot - either third or fourth - to force teams to compete to avoid being at the bottom.” That’s really not a bad idea. Teams who are hopelessly bad just because they stink can still get the #3 pick, while tanking teams are forced to not go too hard or lose any chance at getting the top pick. I’m actually down with this much more than the reform that was passed. Sure, it would have locked the Sixers out of the #1 pick in the year they drafted Simmons, but it also would have kept the Celtics from taking the top spot last year with Brooklyn’s pick. And either way, now that we’re out of the bottom three woods, it’s of no concern here anymore.
So let kids come out of high school again. Let kids hire an agent while still in school, NCAA. Abolish the draft. Start a youth academy system like European soccer. Became the first American sports league not beholden to the old rules because “that’s the way it is.” I believe in you, owners, and I have absolutely no reason to.