Adam Silver has preached transparency and innovation since taking over as the NBA’s commissioner on Feb. 1, and that has meant a lot of talk about how the draft lottery may not be the perfect solution to prevent teams from stacking their rosters with less than the best available talent as part of the rebuilding process.
Tanking is the term that’s been applied to this choice made by franchises to pursue ping pong balls instead of victories, and Silver has said on multiple occasions that he doesn’t believe it’s a problem.
Overall, it isn’t, and the numbers bear that out — even though fans of the Sixers this season may not share the same opinion.
While many may feel that Silver’s open dialogue about the topic is refreshing, as is his willingness to consider lottery alternatives, Thunder GM Sam Presti seems to believe that the league should be focusing on more pressing matters.
“Oddly enough, I think it’s a narrative that was created to tweak the league office, and they are showing to be quite reflexive to it,” Presti said. “I’m actually a bit surprised they have fed into it and devoted so much public energy to it given the lack of evidence. The records of the teams in the bottom four of the league are in line with those over the last 20 seasons. If anything, they are actually slightly above those averages. I’m missing the epidemic on this, really. I would hope we’d focus our attention on a lot of the great things our players are doing and that the league has in place now. Maybe we can get to the five-point shot in the off-season.”
Presti’s job is to build a winning roster within the confines of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, so he may want to feel justified when the time comes if he chooses to pursue this same path. But he is misguided in thinking the league should ignore the perception.
As Silver said at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston, if the fans perceive it to be a problem, then the league needs to address it. The way things currently stand, losing on purpose by way of intentionally assembling a substandard roster is in fact incentivized, in that it gives you a better chance at one of the top three draft choices. There’s no guarantee of landing the top pick, of course, but especially in a deep draft like this one with no clear cut overall choice, there might be multiple players capable of quickly changing a franchise’s fortunes, and that’s something worth “tanking” for, at least in certain situations.
As for that final crack about “the five-point shot,” that’s a reference to a story that was manufactured, and never had any basis in reality — unlike tanking and the fans’ perception of it, both of which clearly exist.