The NBA wants to do away with teams tanking and prefers that teams try to compete to their fullest every season. With that goal in mind, the NBA has kicked around the idea of eliminating the draft lottery and replacing the draft system with a 30-year “wheel concept”, which means that teams will rotate picks 1-30 every year in a fixed manner such that teams will not only know what pick they have the upcoming June, but also what pick they will have in 10 years, 20 years, etc. It’s an interesting idea since it means that teams will have no incentive to lose since losing won’t affect their draft pick at all. However, the problem with doing this is that it creates some problems that aren’t created by the present lottery system.
One of the main problems that it creates is it allows for the possibility of a really good team to get even more stacked. Let’s say the Miami Heat knew that they were going to get the #1 pick, which meant that they’d get Jabari Parker in June. That would further make the league even more imbalanced than before and create less parody, not more. Another problem with doing this is that it makes draft pick trades confusing. If you trade a fixed pick, and swap it, then that means that a team could potentially have back to back number one picks, or trade for the #1 pick in 20 years, etc. There’s a lot of other strange draft pick trade scenarios that the league would create by implementing this system. Thirdly, it isn’t as if the present system really encourages tanking. I’d understand the league wanting to switch to the present system they have from the system of having teams pick in order of worst record like the NFL does. The NFL encourages tanking with their system, but the NBA actually discourages it. You could finish with the worst record in the NBA and theoretically end up picking 4th! You could finish 2 games outside the 8th seed of the Western Conference playoffs and theoretically land the #1 overall pick! The system they have in place discourages teams from tanking and yet also allows bad teams to still have good odds at improving (in the 2014 draft, picking 4th overall won’t be a bad thing).
In conclusion, while I like the fact that the league wants to discourage tanking, I actually think the present system in place is as good as it can get to discourage teams from tanking. Finishing last in the league doesn’t guarantee a top 3 pick. If they want to make any changes at all, maybe make the order of all picks 1-14 decided by a lottery or allow teams that make the playoffs an outside shot at the lottery by being awarded 1 ping-pong ball or something. The league should tinker with how to make the lottery more random instead of throwing it away if they are going to consider any changes at all.
—Ben Parker: follow me on twitter @nba_lord