Report: NBA again pursuing lottery reform

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When draft-lottery reform was defeated in 2015, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the issue was on hold for a couple years.

Well, it’s been a couple years.

The cap has surged higher under new national TV contracts, and a new Collective Bargaining Agreement is in effect. With the league relatively stable, it’s time to revisit the issue.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The National Basketball Association is aggressively pursuing draft lottery reform that could be voted into legislation before the start of the 2017-’18 season, league sources told ESPN.

Commissioner Adam Silver is a strong advocate to de-incentivize tanking by implementing lower odds on the NBA’s worst teams to gain the top picks in the draft, league sources said.

If passed, the lottery reform would be phased into use over time, and there’s no indication that the 2018 NBA Draft would fall under new legislation, league sources said.

Wojnarowski added on ESPN that one of the proposals is that no team can have a top three pick in consecutive drafts. The Celtics have had top three picks in the last two drafts, the Lakers the last three, and the Sixers the past four.

This won’t eliminate tanking, but it could curb the most extreme forms. Currently, the team with the worst record has a 25% chance of picking No. 1, 47% chance of picking top two, 64% chance of picking top three and a 100% of picking top four. If those odds were lower, teams would presumably be less eager to chase last place.

However, by consequence, better lottery teams would be more likely to land a high pick. That could invite some unintended consequences:

Will fans of awful teams lose hope and become less likely to spend money on the NBA? Might teams tank into the lottery rather pursue a playoff berth likely to end with a quick exit? What else could happen that’s not predicted today?

A majority of NBA owners, 17 of 30, voted in 2015 to smooth the lottery odds. But the proposal fell short of the 23 votes necessary to change the system. At one point it looked like lottery reform would pass, but there was a push back by smaller and middle market teams that thought this could hurt their chances to rebuild down the line. Has that sentiment changed?

It’s so unclear what’s in each team’s self interest, especially because the reform could take effect at any time. Not only does every team have at least most of its own first-round picks, six – the Cavaliers (with that 2018 Nets pick acquired from Boston in the Kyrie Irving trade), Celtics, 76ers, Hawks and Suns – own another team’s pick that could land in the lottery.

Silver wants reform, and I think the owners will get behind him to pass something. But it’s far from certain.