The Sixers may have completed their radical rebuild just in time. According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the league is considering a drastic shake-up in the lottery process, in an effort to stop teams from tanking for prime position in the draft lottery.
The word from Woj:
The National Basketball Association is aggressively pursuing draft lottery reform that could be voted into legislation before the start of the 2017-'18 season, league sources told ESPN.
Commissioner Adam Silver is a strong advocate to de-incentivize tanking by implementing lower odds on the NBA's worst teams to gain the top picks in the draft, league sources said.
The proposed measures would also increase the chances of better teams making a jump up into the draft lottery. The NBA's 14 non-playoff team compromise the league's annual draft lottery system.
If passed, the lottery reform would be phased into use over time, and there's no indication that the 2018 NBA Draft would fall under new legislation, league sources said.
While it’s not outright said in the piece, the action on this has to be at least partially, if not primarily driven by the Sixers’ method of acquiring top talent over the last few years. Though tanking has been an open secret in the NBA for decades, nobody had so brazenly challenged the league’s structure like the Sixers did under Sam Hinkie.
Action coming now, assuming things go the way we think they will for the Sixers over the next few seasons, could actually benefit them. Fans may expect them to make the playoffs starting this season—and Woj says the changes wouldn’t happen right away anyway—but should the Sixers face a bit of a steeper climb in the East than expected, they could theoretically make serious progress and still keep an outside shot at the lottery. That’s really dependent on how far the league goes to flatten out the odds.
The other potential consequence will come attached to the draft rights the Sixers own through other teams. Sadly, it sounds like they won’t get increased protection should the Lakers improve and play themselves out of No. 1 pick territory, but should they lose that pick to Boston, it makes the Sacramento pick they’re owed even more intriguing.
On a broader note, this continues to feel like a losing battle for the NBA. Though I’m not a proponent of abolishing the draft altogether, its existence will continue to drive decision-making no matter how you change the odds.
When you offer worse teams better odds like they do now, it absolutely incentivizes teams near the bottom to fully commit to it. This doesn’t happen with flatter odds from 1-14 in the lotto positions, but pursuing that path highlights what could be an even uglier scenario for the league: smart teams with a realistic chance for a playoff spot shutting it down late, prioritizing draft odds over being swept by one of the league’s elite teams.
I would argue the latter problem is worse for the league than a few teams being ultra bad, though that’s just one man’s opinion, and not every team/ownership group would have the stomach to “avoid” the playoffs in order to pursue future gains. But personally, it feels like the league is trying to solve a problem that is inherently unfixable without scrapping large pieces of the league’s structure, from the draft to the current salary setup.
Stay tuned on this one, and we’ll see if they can get this one over the line without Hinkie and Sam Presti working to stop it this time.