When Adam Silver was installed as commissioner to replace David Stern, reforming the NBA Draft Lottery was understandably not the biggest concern on his or the league’s radar.
For one, Silver was almost immediately presented with the problem of dealing with Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s racist rant that led to him being forced to sell his team, as well as getting a feel for running one of the biggest sports leagues on the planet.
But now that Silver is adjusted to his role in the NBA and able to undertake some of his chose initiatives, one of the first things he’s chosen to address is the league’s issue with “tanking,” or losing games on purpose to improve lottery odds.
During an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up!”, Silver explained why it hasn’t been easy to fix the problem, and what the league is trying next:
“As a response to the strategy that the 76ers undertook, we changed the draft lottery. So, beginning next year, the odds of getting the first pick if you’re the worst-performing team move from 25 percent to 14 percent. But it’s a bit bedeviling. It’ll be the sixth time in the last, roughly, 35 years that we’ve changed the draft lottery. Roughly 35 years ago the league put in place a draft lottery precisely to deal with this strategy. But teams have now taken it to a new level. It used to be something, rebuilding was done over maybe a season. It wasn’t a multiple-season process. And as you said, it is being celebrated.
I am worried that even with the change coming next year, it won’t do enough. A lot of teams are conflicted as well, because they’ll be trying their best to win games and even their fans and media in their market will be saying, ‘What are you doing? That’s not the best strategy. You should be breaking down your team completely.’ … The very purpose of a draft is to restock your worst-performing team. They’re just not supposed to be worst-performing by design, so we’ve got work to do.”
The Lakers have been at the center of the dilemma Silver discusses for the last several seasons, as even while the team has been bad enough to get two consecutive No. 2 overall picks in the draft, for many fans they still didn’t commit to losing enough and hurt their odds at the No. 1 spot.
Now that spot will seem like even less of a guarantee, even with the worst overall record. It won’t be clear how this affects the NBA’s tanking issue for a few years, but it appears to at least be a step in the right direction to curb tanking.
Even if it does hurt teams who are simply terrible through more natural means than an intentional teardown.