When Adam Silver takes over for NBA commissioner David Stern in February 2014, one of the first major issues he'll need to address is how to combat "tanking" in the NBA. For years the bottom feeders of the league have sold off their veterans in attempt to (1) become less competitive and earn more ping-pong balls in the NBA Lottery and (2) give younger players more time to prepare them for the future. The thought process is simple: NBA championships are won by teams with star players, and those players are found in the early portion of drafts. Individual stardom is more crucial to winning than any other sport.
But tanking may not be a viable option for teams in the future. According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, a proposal has been brought forward by a league official that would abolish the Lottery as a whole and create a system where each team selected in a different draft slot each year, for 30 years. The proposal has gained traction among other officials, to the point where Lowe says the NBA "may float the proposal to owners sometime in 2014, according to league sources."
A visual graphic of what the draft order would look like is available on Grantlad.
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This methodology would ensure that every team has a top-five pick once every six seasons, and at least one top-12 pick every four years. The team that selects first in "Year 1" would pick 30th, 19th, 18th, 7th and 6th the following five seasons.
Teams would no longer have to worry about protected picks, and the art of tanking would be rendered useless because every draft order will have been determined.
There's obvious skepticism about this proposal. For one, not every team that finishes in the Lottery or with the worst record in the NBA is doing so on purpose. Legitimately bad teams rely on the Lottery and those top-5 picks to have hope for the future. The "wheel-cycle" proposal would get rid of the Lottery and make tanking irrelevant, but some bad tams need the Lottery and aren't tanking.
Also, the proposal means that the best teams in the NBA may have top picks in the draft. While the cycle is random and balanced out so teams are never picking too high or too low in consecutive seasons, there's no way to avoid playoff teams, even conference champions or NBA champions, from having top picks. This theory of "the rich getting richer" is certainly one of the biggest opposing arguments to the proposal; imagine if the Indiana Pacers were set to select first overall in this year's cycle, in one of the most top-heavy drafts in recent memory, while the 6-21 Milwaukee Bucks were set to select in the 20s.
There are more points in the proposal, and it's unclear how the NBA would place teams in the wheel in the first season, but the point is that the NBA is seriously considering the abolishment of the Lottery. Perhaps it's the loaded 2013 class or teams being more obvious this year about their tanking for a top pick, but the way the draft order is determined may be seeing changes in the near future.