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The NBA Draft Lottery reform we really need: A five-day, 14-team tournament

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The NBA’s Board of Governors will be voting at the end of the month on a proposal laid out by the NBA’s competition committee on whether or not to change the NBA Draft lottery, according to a report from ESPN.com.

The changes are relatively simple, per the report. The three worst teams in the NBA will each have just a 14 percent change of landing the No. 1 overall pick — down from 25 percent, 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent, respectively — while having a lower floor in regards to what pick they can get. The team with the worst record can pick fifth instead of fourth in a worst-case scenario. The team with the second-worst record can pick sixth instead of fifth.

Frankly, the NBA is being naive if they believe that this will curtail tanking within their league.

As long as there is an incentive to be bad, NBA teams are going to try to be bad the second that they realize their organization’s goals — making the playoffs, earning a top four seed, being in contention for an NBA title, whatever it may be — are not going to be met. That is particularly true for small-market teams. You need stars to win in the NBA, and if you cannot land stars through free agency or via a trade, the only way is then through the draft. The best way to amass the lottery tickets you need to have the best chance of drafting a Kevin Durant or an Anthony Davis or a LeBron James is to be bad and get a higher pick.

This lottery reform proposal does not change that fact.

This rule change would not have stopped The Process, it would just have made it more unlikely that Sam Hinkie and the 76ers landed the picks they wanted to get.

The only way to truly curtail tanking is to reward teams for winning.

And I present to you the best way to do that.

(This idea was first mentioned by the On The Ball podcast back in May. Credit them for coming up with it. Credit me for perfecting it.)

Instead of having a lottery determine who will pick first in the NBA Draft, hold a five-day, 14-team single-elimination tournament at a neutral site, an event similar to what we see with conference tournaments. The bracket would look something like this:

The schedule would be fairly simple: End the NBA’s regular season on a Sunday, start this tournament on the Tuesday and run it through Saturday, when the title game will be played. Then on that Sunday, start the NBA Playoffs, giving those teams a full week of rest while creating 13 more TV games for the league to sell.

But more than just the games, this would create the kind of buzz that we see every March during conference and NCAA tournaments. Everyone loves filling out brackets. Everyone loves mid-week afternoon sports. Doing this for hoops at the highest-level feels like a no-brainer.

The winner would earn themselves the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. The team that loses in the final would get the No. 2 pick, and personally, I would be for setting up a third-place game to determine the No. 3 and No. 4 picks. After that, the rest of the draft would go in order of the worst record. This would more or less completely disincentivize tanking. Having the worst record in the league would not only ensure that you have the toughest road to actually getting the first pick in the draft — winning five games in five days against better teams would not be easy to do — but would lock you into nothing more than the No. 5 pick. It’s not often that franchise-changing talents are found at pick No. 5.

More to the point, better seeding in this tournament would make winning a priority for every team in the league until the final day of the season, and it would make a situation like what happened with Miami on the last day of last season — when the Heat needed the Nets to beat Chicago to get the No. 8 seed in the East and the Nets decided to “rest” their best players — much more unlikely. Sure, there will still be teams that try and lose because they match up better with, say, the No. 6 seed than the No. 7 seed or situations where playoff teams will be not be playing their starters because they are locked into a spot. And this may just shift where the tanking actually happens — will teams that look like a No. 7 or No. 8 seed in the Playoffs opt to lose to get the top seed in this tournament and make a run at the No. 1 pick?

It’s possible. It certainly won’t be as rampant, which means this mostly fixes one of the biggest issues facing the NBA currently: that as many as a third of the teams in the league are actively trying to lose by the end of the year.

There would be some logistical loopholes to work through. For starters, you’d have to convince the NBA Players Union that this is actually a good idea, and making pros play five games in five days might not be the easiest thing in the world to do. The other issue would be where the games get played. Holding the event in, say, New York or Chicago or LA every year would likely ensure that all the sets in the arena are sold, but that would create a competitive advantage for the Knicks or the Bulls or the Lakers. You could hold the tournament in the arena of the team that finished the previous season with the worst record in the league, but if that is, say, Detroit or Sacramento, just how many fans are actually going to travel that far on short notice?

But those are minor details.

In the macro, eliminating tanking would make the regular season more compelling and meaningful while, in the process, potentially creating an event that will be circled on the calendar by sports fans every single year.

There is no downside.

So, Commissioner Silver, when you’re ready to talk this over, you have my number.

Pelicans trying to keep up with all the problems they’ve created for themselves

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The entire operation could have cratered if Jrue Holiday left in free agency, as the Pelicans would have had only moderate cap space to replace him.

That didn’t happen.

Otherwise…

Years of roster mismanagement caught up to New Orleans, which had its meager wing depth eviscerated when Solomon Hill suffered a long-term injury. Complicating matters, the Pelicans had already hard-capped themselves by signing Rajon Rondo and Darius Miller to a combined salary above the taxpayer mid-level exception. Holiday used his leverage to get a massive contract – worth up to $150 million over five years – that pushed New Orleans close to that hard cap.

Rondo might be a decent value as a $3.3 million backup point guard. But his ego complicates the situation, and the Pelicans will start him at point guard – pushing Holiday to shooting guard, where the team’s third-best player will make less of an impact.

Miller washed out of the NBA two years ago after three seasons in New Orleans. The former second-rounder went overseas and then drew a salary above the minimum. I’m curious to see what the Pelicans see in him now.

In a pinch on the wing – where Hill, best at power forward, was already playing out of position – New Orleans sent a second-rounder and cash to the Bulls to dump Quincy Pondexter. Presumably, the injury problems that have kept Pondexter from playing the last two seasons meant he couldn’t help the Pelicans on the wing this season. Otherwise, this deal was a farce. But it allowed the Pelicans to sign Tony Allen and presumably one other player. Re-signing Dante Cunningham would help, but even he is better at power forward than small forward.

Allen is still a strong defender at age 35, but he’s a poor shooter. Rondo generally has been, too.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will have to be comfortable from deep for this team to have adequate spacing. The situation behind those two stars is woeful.

New Orleans spent a lot of time picking around the edges at point guard, though. In addition to re-signing Holiday and signing Rondo, the Pelicans traded effective backup point guard Tim Frazier (on a reasonable $2 million salary) to the Wizards for the No. 52 pick. Then, New Orleans essentially dealt the Nos. 40 and 52 picks and $800,000 to move up to No. 31 for injured point guard Frank Jackson, who’s already hurt again. The Pelicans also signed Ian Clark (defends point guards, handles the ball and distributes like a shooting guard). Combo guard E'Twaun Moore returns, too.

Between Davis, Cousins, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans is paying $57,396,659 this season to players most effective at center.

Meanwhile, small forward is a wasteland.

This is not the team I’d want to send into battle during Cousins’ contract year. Lose him, and how will that color Davis’ long-term view of the franchise?

The Pelicans keep bandaging major wounds, and it’s already catching up to them. The difficult situation entering the offseason must be taken into account.

They started the summer in a jam. Then, they got jammed.

Offseason grade: C-

Ian Clark wants, will get chance to show what he can do with Pelicans

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When you buried on the depth chart behind the best backcourt in the NBA — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — minutes and opportunities can be hard to come by. Ian Clark will get a ring for his efforts with the Golden State Warriors last season, but what he longed for was more opportunities. And that was going to be hard to come by with the deep Golden State roster.

Clark signed with New Orleans in free agency — a team where good guard play and shooting will get him a lot of the opportunities he seeks. He spoke about it with the Pelicans team website.

“Being able to show what I can do in the minutes I get, I want to be able to expand on that this year,” said Clark, who averaged 14.8 minutes last season for the 67-15 Warriors. “I want to show that I can do that in extended minutes and be consistent at it, and help my team win, whether that’s on the defensive or offensive end. I want to show that it wasn’t just because of that team (that I played well).”

The Pelicans need shooting and perimeter defense around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Coach Alvin Gentry is committed to starting the season with a Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday backcourt, but facing tremendous pressure to win and win early we will see how long that lasts. If Clark or E'Twaun Moore or Tony Allen play well early, they will get a lot of run. Clark will get a chance with the ball in his hands.

“Utilizing my shooting and scoring ability is something I do well,” Clark said. “I’ve never really been a true point guard, but handling the ball and initiating offense are things I can do. I couldn’t do too much of that in Golden State, but that’s how I view myself. Also being able to defend multiple positions is important. Obviously there are bigger wings in the league, so being able to make sure I can defend different matchups is something that can help the team.”

Clark has shown flashes of being able to run an offense, but he’s also been turnover prone. He shot 37.4 percent last season from three, and he can be better. If he can take his game to the next level, he can be part of the future in New Orleans (whatever that looks like).

Clark is one of those players who bet on himself this summer. He’s going to get the chance to prove that was smart.

Report: Pelicans will sign Tony Allen to one-year contract

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Shooting? Who needs shooting in today’s NBA?

The New Orleans Pelicans were in a bind with the injury that will sideline Solomon Hill for most of the season — he has proven to be a solid wing defender, and they were going to count on him for that and a little shooting. Without him, the Pelicans were woefully thin at the three spot and have been looking for help. They have found it in Mr. grit n’ grind Tony Allen, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Earlier in the day, I had called Allen the second best free agent still on the market. He makes sense for the Pelicans in that he can defend the opposing team’s best wing player and do a good job. Also, a one-year, minimum contract is not a bad deal for a guy who can contribute.

But I’m glad I’m not Alvin Gentry trying to figure out the Pelicans’ rotations. The Pelicans have committed (as of now) to starting Rajon Rondo next to Jrue Holiday in the backcourt (and the front court is, of course, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins). With those four the Pelicans cannot start Allen — he and Rondo are non-shooters, and that will allow teams to pack the paint on Davis and Cousins. I expect E'Twaun Moore will get start and get a lot of run because he’s more of a shooting threat, but he’s not the same level of defender. Ian Clark is getting a real opportunity and needs to come up big for the Pelicans. Allen helps the defense, but he plays better with guys who can space the floor around him.

If things go sideways early in New Orleans — and a lot of people around the league expect them to — it is going to get interesting. Including Cousins possibly being traded again.

Report: Grizzlies consider Marc Gasol, Mike Conley “untouchable”

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The perception among some fans is that with Zach Randolph in Sacramento and Tony Allen sitting on the free agent market too, the “grit ‘n grind” era in Memphis is over and the team is about to tear it down and rebuild. And without Allen (who could still be re-signed, depending on what happens with JaMychal Green, the restricted free agent who is in a bit of a standoff with Memphis) that era does die.

But the Grizzlies are not about to dump assets and rebuild. Not even close.

Matt Moore breaks it down in a fantastic piece at CBSSports.com.

The Memphis Grizzlies consider All-Star center Marc Gasol “untouchable” and have refused to enter his name in any trade conversations, two sources close to the situation told CBS Sports this week. Gasol has been the subject of rampant speculation this summer that he could be dealt, despite being just two years into a five-year max contract signed in 2015 that doesn’t make him eligible for free agency until 2019….

Typically, the idea that Gasol could be available stems from the perception that Memphis has lost momentum and “needs” a rebuild. The Grizzlies, in reality, have made the playoffs the past seven years, and their decision to re-sign both Gasol and Mike Conley (who is also considered “untouchable” according to sources) was made with the intention of building around the duo long-term.

For Memphis, the concern is beyond simple wins and losses, however. For a small market, the Grizzlies may not have a center of Gasol’s quality for literally decades. Other teams can make moves with an idea toward mobility and flexibility. A team like Memphis has to pursue discipline in retaining its stars because of the challenges the team faces in obtaining big-name upgrades. The Grizzlies’ best path toward contention isn’t to trade Gasol, even for a high-value draft pick.

There’s another factor at play: Memphis the city has embraced this roster and this team. The physical, grinding, hard-working style of play is something the fans relate to, and they fill the building. The fans love Gasol and Conley. In a small market, that matters. It’s easy from the outside to take a “they can’t win a title with this roster, tear it down and rebuild” attitude, but that would not sit well with the Memphis fan base. Tearing it down means years and years of losing, years and years of largely empty buildings, and a lot of work to re-connect with fans. Why would they throw a successful business model away?

Gasol has said if the Grizzlies aren’t going to try to find a path forward he might reconsider his position, but right now he’s not asking for a trade. This is a Grizzlies team that won 43 games last season, will not miss Randolph as much as some fans think, will get more out of Green, has to get more out of Chandler Parsons (he can’t give them less), and made some smart gambles on guys like Ben McLemore. The bottom of the West is stacked, but if the Grizzlies stay healthy, they likely make the postseason.

Bottom line, Gasol is not on the block. Sorry Celtics fans. While we’re at it, Anthony Davis is not on the trade block right now, either.