No More Tanking: NBA Passes Draft Lottery Reform

The NBA’s Board of Governors passed a measure that effectively renders tanking obsolete. The NBA Draft lottery, while well intentioned, has become a controversial mechanism for determining which teams get the best young players. Originally designed to maintain parity — a crucial element in a league without relegation — the Draft lottery has been exploited to the point where it’s no longer tenable.

Pre-reform, the team with the worst record had the best chance to land the #1 overall pick. That wasn’t really a problem until semi-recently, when the Philadelphia 76ers started losing games on purpose towards the end of the season. Conspicuously. It was flagrant, to use a basketball term. You didn’t need to be a basketball savant to see that there was a concerted effort not to put a winning team out on the court.

The good news for Philadelphia: it worked. The Sixers have the most talented young core in the league. Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, and Dario Saric? That’s a slam dunk.

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The bad news: there is no bad news. No one wants to see a losing product out on the floor, especially if you’re paying money to attend the game. Tickets ain’t cheap. The NBA, progressive league that it is, got together and said, “Enough!”

No more “process.” No more losing on purpose. No more rewarding abject failure. Starting in 2019, the league’s worst team won’t have the best chance to get the number one overall pick.

It’s a good thing that the NBA acted to do this, but the draft itself is still problematic. Kids have to be 19 to enter the draft, meaning the truly elite players; the ones who know they’re going pro, have to spend a year playing college ball for free while a whole bunch of people make money off them. At least in theory.

There’s no reason to make young men who are NBA-ready go to college for a year. LeBron James went straight from high school to the league and look how he turned out.

The NBA was smart to change the draft and remove the incentive for teams to tank, but if they were really smart, they would get rid of the rule that you have to be 19 to play.