My Solution to the Possible Fall of the NBA’s Ultimate Competition (4/8/19)

The NBA Draft Lottery system is not talked about a whole lot in today’s sports culture. Many people think that it is fine but others have considered it to be a nuisance that forges competition. Currently, the system is based on percentages of what pick each team gets in the draft. This still leaves chances for the scenario where the best teams get good picks, consequently leaving the average to below average teams with worse picks. In this situation, the only way for bad teams to go is down further from their status quo. Common sense says, when the teams are more balanced (or more at the same level) it creates better competition, making them battle even harder against each other for the dub (win). The NBA needs to change this policy to something more like the NFL, where the teams with the most losses from last season get to pick new talent first. If the NBA dissolved their Draft Lottery and let the teams’ records determine the pick order, the franchises would be more equally-valued, while talent was distributed more fairly. It would also make the draft less prone to error (or making others feel that the process is “rigged”).

The way that the Draft Lottery currently is, and possibly is going to remain, still gives chances for certain teams in draft to get picks that make the league “unbalanced” in performance level of competition. I did my own research on the past 20 years, and looked into how many of the top two teams from the last twenty seasons got first round picks. According to Basketball Reference the highest pick that the top team has ever gotten was in 2011, giving the Dallas Mavericks the 26th pick, and the lowest being the Golden State Warriors in 2015, with the 30th pick. (Sometimes the draft has only 29 picks per round, but it tends to be 30, varying by year.) The highest for the second best team would be the 2018 Cleveland Cavaliers with the 8th pick overall (Collin Sexton), and the lowest would be the 2016 Golden State Warriors with the 30th pick. I am not arguing that the draft will always be destined for failure in the fairness department, but I’m just saying that it could continue in this path, and has in the past.

Currently, NBA officials are trying to fix the draft and are addressing that there are issues with the percentages. This resulted in the NBA passing a lottery reform to help prevent teams from “tanking” (where they have a bad record, possibly on purpose, and then try to get the worst record to get the first pick of the next draft). This will change the original percentages for the first pick which were 25%, 19.9%, and 15.6%, to an equal 14% for each of the 3 worst teams in the draft. These changes won’t come into play until the next draft, to prepare team owners and managers so that they can begin to strategize their plan for creating a good team. This shows that there is a current issue with the Draft Lottery system and that the NBA officials (as well as the Commissioner’s office) are trying to fix it. This is a change made in the wrong place though, because the main issue is that the good teams still have the chance to get better players than the worst teams, if the draft lottery goes in their favor. Also, most owners and coaches’ strategy is not for their team to “tank” because it looks bad on the organization and will stay in the NBA Records forever. The whole point of owning a team is to win and make money, and tanking doesn’t contribute to that at all. An opposing viewer might say,“tanking is the real issue, and the chances of having this happen would be really low,” and to be honest, the chances are really low. However, it has happened in the past and the League hasn’t changed anything to completely prevent it in the future.

For Example, Patrick Ewing was drafted to the Knicks as their #1 pick in the 1985 draft. The man that was putting the cards in for the drawing apparently bounced the Knick’s card off the side of the “Drum” so that there was only one card at an angle for David Stern (the NBA Commissioner at the time) to get. During the drawing of the picks, the NBA Commissioner felt around until he picked up the Knicks’ card. I know, WEIRD!

This story has had many conspiracy theories tied to it, and there are many opinions on that draft from fans. The Knicks were a big market team, so it’s a possibility that the NBA draft was “rigged,” and they might have wanted the Knicks to have the pick, for marketing reasons.

Even though the NBA Draft Lottery system isn’t that great, there are many other alternatives, like the NFL’s Draft System. According to NFL football operations, every team gets a pick according to their record. If teams are tied, then they will look at their stats. In the NBA there are only percentages given to the worst team, compared to the NFL, where they get the guaranteed #1 pick. This is just common sense; teams need to be at the same level so that there is more competition. I know that if there is little competition, there will be lower TV ratings, generated by how many people watch it, because people want to watch a competitive game. In the past, NBA finals have had a significantly larger amount of viewers if the finals went to game 7, (which means that both teams are tied 3-3, and there is one last game to decide who wins). I am not saying that the NFL’s draft is perfect, but it definitely has a better way for teams to be equally weighted.

The NBA Draft Lottery system is a problem that has previously, and currently, kept fans from getting to enjoy competitive basketball games. My solution to this issue is to replace the draft system with something more similar to what the NFL uses. This will help teams with worse records to get better picks, while evening out teams — creating more competition between them. The National Basketball Association has seen many issues in the past with their Draft Lottery, and the best way to fix it, is to find a good replacement for the process.

Sources:“Draft History.” Basketball-Reference
“The Rules of the Draft.” NFL Football Operations