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NBA Possibly Ending the Draft Lottery?

December 24th, 2013 at 7:00 AM
By Matt Agne

The modern way for the NBA to determine the order of its top picks is a lottery system. While the lottery has always been surrounded by controversy and conspiracy theories, the lottery has effectively determined the NBA Draft order every year since the mid-'80's. Now the NBA has a proposal on the table that would eliminate the lottery for good and replace it with a pre-determined rotating draft order.

'BasketBall - score' photo (c) 2005, j9sk9s - license:

Before 1966, the NBA determined their draft order in reverse order with regards to win-loss records. From 1966 to 1984, a coin flip  between last-place squads in each conference was used to determine which team landed the top draft pick. In 1985, a lottery where all seven non-playoff teams had an equal chance to win took place. In 1987, the lottery changed to only determining the top three selections.

In 1990, a weighted opportunity system was put into use where the lottery team with the worst record had a 16.7 percent chance to win the lottery and the lottery team with the best record had a 1.5 percent shot. In 1994, the weighted opportunity system was changed to what they currently use with the worst record having a 25 percent chance to win the lottery and the lottery team with the best record having a 0.5 percent at the top pick in the draft. However, now the NBA is thinking of eliminating the draft lottery all together and replacing it with a system in where each of the 30 teams would pick in each specific first-round draft slot only once every 30 years.

This change could change everything in the NBA. Sure, sometimes the worst team could get the top pick in the draft. Of course, the NBA champion could also get the top pick in the proposed system. Those are extreme examples but this rotation system would basically eliminate the the effect of the prior season on the draft order. If nothing else, it would be an interesting twist on things.

Almost every NBA champion has had at least one of the top players in the league. Teams either get those players via free agency, trade or most popularly through the draft. The fact is, most top players won't hit free agency unless they just hate their team or are past their prime and don't get traded unless they force their movement. That's why the price of such trades are so high and why teams so badly try to get in position to draft top college talent.

Zach Lowe of Grantland reports the NBA has proposed a system to eliminate the draft lottery.

Grantland obtained a copy of the proposal, which would eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a system in which each of the 30 teams would pick in a specific first-round draft slot once — and exactly once — every 30 years. Each team would simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year. Teams would know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle. The practice of protecting picks would disappear; there would never be a Harrison Barnes–Golden State situation again, and it wouldn’t require a law degree to track ownership of every traded pick leaguewide.

'Old & New Lotto' photo (c) 2006, jaqian - license: This system would basically end the idea of teams tanking to increase their chances to get better picks. It would also give everyone a set determination of draft pick value and order for the next 30 years. It's basically designed to eliminate the link between bad teams and high draft picks. It also adds value to free agency and gives teams more motivation to win because it takes away all benefit to being a bad team under a wheel system.

This system would encourage good drafting and long-term building around young players, and of allowing bad teams to get better quickly if they draft well because no team would go more than four years without having a top-six draft pick. 

The league should present this proposal to the owners sometime in 2014. To pass it would require the approval of 75% of those owners.

It also wouldn't start until all current draft-based trades have been executed. That means teams would have plenty of time to prepare for the new system and that teams like the Knicks would almost be forced to learn the value of draft picks.

This proposal isn't perfect but it's certainly interesting. It's well thought out and one of the strongest the league has seen talked about thus far. It's something that is certainly worth some real consideration.

Clearly the league is looking to make a change to their drafting system. It will be interesting to see if this is the way they go about determining their draft order in the future.

Tags: Basketball, NBA, New York, New York Knicks

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