Hawks Helped Nix Lottery Reform
According to Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti led a successful, last-minute effort to nix the NBA’s proposed lottery reform, which would have evened the odds for lottery teams to move up to a higher pick. The Hawks were among a group of franchises with ties to the Spurs (which includes Presti and OKC) that voted against reform and prevented it from receiving enough votes to pass.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained some of the rationale behind the proposed changes to ESPN.com:
I think we all recognize we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to, of course, win, and on the other hand allowing for appropriate rebuilding and the draft to work as it should in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.
Despite this stated purpose, the proposal would have increased the odds for the 48-win Phoenix Suns to move up in the draft by 400% compared to the old system, if the proposal had been in effect as of the last draft. The ESPN.com article explained the motivation for reform as follows:
Reform proposals were aimed at two elements: increasing the odds of the best teams in the lottery jumping up into the top three spots and also lowering the floor for the worst teams to drop.
And Lowe extrapolated as follows:
The league’s proposal would have injected more randomness into the process, undercutting the ability to plan and increasing the likelihood that a solid team near the bottom of the lottery lucks its way into a star.
That might deter tanking on some level, but it also raises the chances of a scenario in which a team wins multiple lotteries despite some on-court improvement. No one seemed to like it much when Cleveland won a third lottery in four years in May.
If Silver’s stated purpose is to discourage tanking and direct talent toward teams that need it, how could he possibly justify giving a 48-win team a 400% better chance at landing one of the top picks? How does such an incentive discourage a fringe playoff team from tanking out of a low playoff seed? The goals and methodology behind the proposed reform seem to work at cross purposes.