Report: NBA May Scrap Draft Lottery

Report: NBA May Scrap Draft Lottery

The NBA may consider scrapping the Draft Lottery, which has generated so much excitement–and conspiracy theories–over the years in favor of a system in which teams would get the No. 1 draft pick in predetermined years in a 30-year cyclical “wheel.”

This will be the first issue on new NBA Commissioner Adam Silver’s plate as the bevy of talented and potentially franchise players (Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon, Julius Randle, et al.) in this year’s draft is giving teams incentive to unload their veteran players (or “tank”) because “star players in the NBA influence the game far more than any other sport outside maybe a hockey goalie.” Indeed, NBA teams can win titles with one or two superstar players.

Here is how the proposal, which Grantland obtained, would work:

The team that gets the no. 1 pick in the very first year of this proposed system would draft in the following slots over the system’s first six seasons: 1st, 30th, 19th, 18th, 7th, 6th.

Under this system, “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.” 

ProBasketballTalk’s Kurt Hellin notes some big problems with the proposal: 

One is that some year an elite team getting a top pick and really stacking the deck — in 1982 the Lakers won the NBA title behind Magic Johnson then had the No. 1 pick an plucked James Worthy out of North Carolina (thanks to a legendarily bad trade, but that’s another post). Look at it this way: How big an outcry would there be if going into this draft the Heat were slotted for the top pick (or even top 3)?

Second is marketing — in the NBA teams either sell title contention or hope. But what if you are a struggling small market team in the middle of the cycle where your next picks are 10, 15, 22 and 26? You know a game-changing player is almost certainly not coming to you via the draft now for a while and you can’t recruit elite stars to just come to your market as a free agent. You are stuck and no matter how creative the GM there may be no good way out of it. What do you sell to fans?