View Full Version : Grantland: NBA Lottery Reform Is Coming

07-16-2014, 04:05 PM
JULY 16, 2014

The NBA submitted an official proposal to reform the lottery this week at competition committee meetings in Las Vegas, pushing aside the Wheel idea in favor of a revised weighting system that shifts each team’s odds of getting the top pick, per several sources who have seen and reviewed the league’s proposal.

The proposal, which dominated the lottery-reform discussion in league meetings this week, is essentially an attempt to squeeze the lottery odds at either extreme toward a more balanced system in which all 14 teams have a relatively similar chance at the no. 1 pick, per sources familiar with the proposal.

Under the current system, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of snagging the no. 1 pick, perhaps the most valuable asset in the entire NBA. The team with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance of winning the no. 1 pick, and the third-worst team enters the lottery with a 15.6 percent chance of moving up to the top slot. The odds decline from there, with the final five teams in the lottery — the teams with the five best records — each having a 1.1 percent or worse chance of moving up to no. 1.

The league’s proposal gives at least the four worst teams the same chance at winning the no. 1 pick: approximately an identical 11 percent shot for each club. The odds decline slowly from there, with the team in the next spot holding a 10 percent chance. The lottery team with the best record will have a 2 percent chance of leaping to the no. 1 pick, up from the the minuscule 0.5 percent chance it has under the current system.

The proposal also calls for the drawing of the first six picks via the Ping-Pong ball lottery, sources say. The current lottery system actually involves the drawing of only the top three selections. The rest of the lottery goes in order of record, from worst to best, after the top-three drawing is over.

The league could implement lottery reform as early as next season, though there are many hurdles to overcome before then. And it’s important to note that the league has kicked around several different proposals with varying weights; the 11 percent figure for the first teams is not universal among those proposals, sources say.

The goal of this initial proposal is obvious: to prevent out-and-out tanking among the league’s very worst teams for the no. 1 pick. Equalizing the odds for the five worst teams, and giving the next few clubs odds very close to that 11 percent chance, goes a long way toward removing the incentive to race toward the bottom. That slice of the reform targets team’s like last season’s Sixers and the 2011-12 Bobcats, both of which rather blatantly constructed rosters designed to be as bad as possible in those particular seasons. The end goal was a 25 percent chance at the top pick. The NBA’s proposal would grant such teams just an 11 percent shot at it, merely a hair better than the chances for mid-rung lottery teams that, in some seasons, are at least within spitting distance of the playoff race after 40 or so games.

By keeping the odds for the very best lottery teams on the low side — just 2 percent — the league is working to avoid building in any incentive for a team chasing the no. 8 spot to tank out of the playoffs. That is the league’s fear about a lottery system that gives all 14 teams an equal shot — that teams with a real chance at a bottom-rung playoff spot would instead ease out of the race with an eye on a top draft pick. And that’s a legitimate concern, since having seven-game series in the first round minimizes the chance of a no. 8 seed pulling off an upset. As I’ve written before, all of these issues are intertwined — lottery odds, the playoff system, the salary cap structure, and hard feelings between big- and small-market teams.

Two early concerns about the league’s proposal have already emerged:

1. The timing of implementation. Teams that have constructed short-term building plans under the current rules will likely oppose any attempt to change those rules midstream. The Wheel proposal, submitted to the league by Mike Zarren, the Celtics’ assistant general manager, called for instituting the Wheel only after all draft picks that have already been traded actually move between the trading partners. Due to the protections on some future first-round picks that have been traded, implementation would have waited at least a half-dozen years. (The Wheel is detailed here.)

2. There are already burbling concerns that a restructured odds system will encourage some late-season tanking among teams all over the lottery. Teams clustered around the middle of the lottery may begin jockeying for a top-five position, or to move up from, say, no. 12 to no. 9.

There is concern that such teams might hold out star players in late-season games, and that we might even see some repeats of the infamous Mark Madsen game, in which the Timberwolves in their 2006 season finale allowed Madsen to jack 3-pointers in an embarrassing attempt to maximize their odds of losing. A loss in that game gave Minnesota a much greater chance of keeping its own pick in the forthcoming draft.

The Wheel proposal is more complex, and it has gained significant support from some powerful people around the league. It took a backseat this week as the competition committee focused more on the league’s favored proposal.

The discussion is still in its early stages, and there are more proposals floating around from team officials. Those ideas could get more air time, and the league could always tweak its own proposal or put forth another. But it’s clear that Adam Silver is serious about tweaking the lottery system, possibly as early as next season. It’s important that the league examine all unintended consequences before instituting a revamped lottery. This is gonna get interesting, fast.


07-16-2014, 04:15 PM
They need to do something, the old system is horrid... This propose idea seems like a type of system that would have ended those Cavs lottery winning conspiracy theorist :laugh2:

I honestly think they should hold a single-elimination tournament for the non playoff teams(or at least the bottom 4 or 6 to prevent teams tanking into the 9th spot just to get into the tournament)

07-16-2014, 04:22 PM
This is like a luxury tax approach to the system.

It's likely to discourage tanking, but not stop it.

I think fixing playoff seeding in addition to this system would help.

I don't think Western Conference teams like the Suns who win 47 games and miss the playoffs should have a better shot at lottery pick now.. I think they should be in the playoffs.

Just take the top 16 teams from either conference... maybe secure 6 seeds for division winners, but that's it.

07-16-2014, 04:24 PM
Nice, this would be better.

07-16-2014, 04:35 PM
There would still be tanking, it would just be spread out among the different lottery teams instead of a couple of teams trying to tank to be worst.

I still am in favor of every non-playoff team getting 2 lottery balls, and every team eliminated in the first round getting 1 lottery ball. You then draw for EVERY lottery slot, 1-14. The only place tanking would possibly occur would be between the 8th seed and 9th seed, for a single extra ball versus the additional revenue having at least 2 home playoff games provides. The fact that they would technically still be in the lottery would probably minimize that for playoff bound teams. And some random high seeded team that loses in the first round? Well, they get a chance to get stronger.

07-16-2014, 04:35 PM
I like it. At the very least, it sounds better than the current system in place.

Any lottery that has one team getting the first 3 times out of 4 years is a joke, especially if that team is the Cavs. :laugh2:

07-16-2014, 05:39 PM
I love it. Lets the teams that are actually trying to compete at least have a legit shot vs the tankers.

07-16-2014, 05:53 PM
eh this just ok to me, I think they need to just get rid of the lottery. Do what the NFL does and just let the worst team get the #1 pick and so on.

07-16-2014, 05:55 PM
Or, you composite the teams' previous seasons' records (say for next year's lottery, the season records of '13, '14, and '15 are combined and averaged out) and that's where the odds come from. Why would we want a team like Phoenix who just missed the playoffs this past season have a better chance at winning the lottery than the Cleveland Cavaliers did this time around?

That's just not right imo. Composite season records going back one or two years, and that helps a lot more than this "tier" system the league seems to be inching towards.

07-16-2014, 06:11 PM
eh this just ok to me, I think they need to just get rid of the lottery. Do what the NFL does and just let the worst team get the #1 pick and so on.

The Houston rockets ruined that.

07-16-2014, 06:26 PM
Yeah thanks to teams like the Rockets in '84 tanking for Olajuwon and the fishy business with the Cavs getting three of the last four number one picks they have to do this wheel just to make it fair. The only way for Cleveland to take advantage of these opportunities they have been given was to have LeBron back to lead them because no other elite superstar would have gone there.

07-16-2014, 06:40 PM
Yeah thanks to teams like the Rockets in '84 tanking for Olajuwon and the fishy business with the Cavs getting three of the last four number one picks they have to do this wheel just to make it fair. The only way for Cleveland to take advantage of these opportunities they have been given was to have LeBron back to lead them because no other elite superstar would have gone there.

it said they threw out the wheel

they are going to level out percentages. max 11% min 2%

First 6 picks go to lotto instead of first 3

Lo Porto
07-16-2014, 06:55 PM
Teams will still pull a Warriors, I mean tank.....

east fb knicks
07-16-2014, 07:05 PM
lmao um unless the nba stops fixing the draft for the cavs idgaf and whats wrong with tanking:shrug:

07-16-2014, 07:10 PM
so yes, teams will still tank but the 76ers wouldn't have happened this year under this new system. there is no fair system that gives talent to the teams who need it most without encouraging tanking but unweighting the lottery means that gm's will have a very hard time convincing owners to tank for an 11% chance at the #1 pick and likely only 50-60% chance at a top pick. the days where a bottom 3 seed guarantees a top 5 pick needs to end. this will do wonders for the nba and will also put more top picks on better teams.

07-16-2014, 07:12 PM
the amount of quality material that lowe comes out with on a regular basis is a bit obscene. this isn't even an elaborate article, but the guy can write. has a great basketball mind, highly recommend 'the lowe post' podcast by zach lowe.

i think there should be a bit more than a 1% difference between the top five worst and 6-10. maybe 2.5% points.

07-16-2014, 07:35 PM
Wouldn't this increase the amount of tanking since more teams would have a better chance at #1 if they finish w/one of the 10 worse records.

07-17-2014, 09:29 AM
I've been against things like the wheel, a post-season draft tournament, and that stuff.

But making the bottom 4 teams all have the same odds is a really simple way to help things out a lot. Teams are still gonna blow up their rosters to rebuild, as they should be allowed/encouraged to do, but it would help with things enough to hopefully shut up the critics.

It will help. There's no perfect system, but this is certainly an improvement.