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NBA must avoid chasing 76ers’ ghost with lottery reform

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When the NBA considered lottery reform in 2014, a 29-1 vote in favor seemed possible.

The lone dissenter? Philadelphia.

The league was mad at the 76ers, who had just tanked their way to a 19-63 record and indicated a plan to tank for years to come. This was a large market team enacting a strategy that would reduce revenue, revenue that could have been shared among the NBA’s 29 other teams.

But no matter how much ire the 76ers drew, they were just cleverly working a system that rewards losers with high draft picks. So, the league tried to change the system.

Flattening lottery odds to disincentivize all-out tanking came up for a vote, a majority of teams – 17 of 30 – approved. But the measure fell short of the 23 votes (75%) necessary to pass. NBA commissioner Adam Silver put the issue on hold as new national TV contracts sent the salary cap skyrocketing.

The 76ers tanked again. And again. And, though not as forcefully, again.

Now, the league is re-considering lottery reform with a proposal similar to 2014’s.

NBA owners, who were once in a fervor to stop Philadelphia, ought to think twice about voting yes. It’s too late to punish the 76ers, who’ve moved past the extreme-tanking phase of their plan onto vying for the playoffs. Consequences, intended and unintended, of these rule changes would reach far further than Philadelphia.

Lottery reform isn’t necessarily a bad idea. Tanking hurts the product and should be disincentivized. Would flattening lottery odds actually do that, though?

High draft picks would remain just as coveted. They’d still provide dibs on elite prospects for four cost-controlled years plus a leg up for the following nine years, especially with designated-player contracts. That’s so valuable in a sport where it’s nearly impossible to win without a superstar. The easiest way to acquire a superstar, especially for small markets, is a high draft pick.

Maybe teams wouldn’t tank, because that’d be a too-uncertain path to a high draft pick. Or maybe they’d tank longer, needing more time until their reduced lottery odds resulted in a high pick.

Teams that are earnestly bad could get stuck, as they’d be less likely to land the star who lifts them from the cellar. It’s easy to say not to reward failure, but hope sells. In a collective like the NBA, it’s not a terrible idea to give fans of the most helpless teams reasons to be invested.

Maybe owners will cerebrally consider these issues and the countless others related to this proposal. After all, about a dozen owners changed their leaning in 2014 after hearing all the arguments.

But staying hell-bent on stopping the 76ers is the wrong approach. It’s too late for that. They’ve already built their young core – led by Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz – with high draft picks.

There should be better logic behind lottery reform this time around.

Perhaps, owners realize this and just want to stop the next multi-year tank. But the league might have found a more effective prevention mechanism.

The Process was massively successful at acquiring elite young talent. And Sam Hinkie still got forced out! What general manager would dare emulate his plan after that?

Hinkie was the first to set out to tank for so long, and it cost him his job. No matter how wise the strategy, real people are involved, and Hinkie’s bosses were ashamed of all the losing. That experience will curb tanking.

The lottery reform being discussed might. It might not.

It might curb tanking and lead to worse unintended consequences – like the 76ers barely missing the playoffs then riding increased lottery odds to another high pick.

They’re too good now to tank fully, but they’re also not playoff locks. In other words, they’re the exact type of team that would benefit from this proposal.

So, if the owners are going to get this right, they must find better rationale than the Philadelphia resentment that popularized this issue three years ago. Those 76ers are gone.

The bigger issues of competitive balance, tanking and revenue maximization remain and are ready to be tackled thoughtfully.

AP Source: Thunder trading Dakari Johnson to Orlando

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder are trading reserve center Dakari Johnson to the Orlando Magic.

A person with knowledge of the details confirmed the move to The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Yahoo Sports, which first reported the deal, said Oklahoma City will get guard Rodney Purvis in the deal. Purvis averaged 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16 appearances for the Magic last season. The Orlando Sentinel said the Thunder also sent cash to the Magic.

Johnson played 31 games last season for the Thunder with six starts. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. The 7-footer averaged 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 10 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, last season.

Center Alex Len reportedly reaches contract deal with Atlanta

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Five years ago, the Phoenix Suns had just drafted Alex Len at No. 5 overall and thought he would be the big man in the middle the team would build around. It didn’t work out that way, he never averaged double figures in either scoring or rebounding for a season. While Len has said he thought he was not used correctly, and there has been plenty of change and inconsistency in Phoenix, he never grabbed hold of the top job, either.

When the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 last June, there was no chance they were bringing back Len next season. The unrestricted free agent is headed to Atlanta instead, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent center Alex Len has agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Len received interest from several teams in recent days before finalizing an agreement with the Hawks on Saturday.

Len is not going to space the floor, 73 percent of his shots came at the rim last season, but he’s become an efficient finisher there. He is good as a roll man, will work off the ball, and can post guys up on offense. He’s also strong on the offensive glass and gets points via putbacks. His game is not that of a modern NBA center, but he’s become efficient at what he does.

Len is going to have to earn his minutes in the ATL, rebuilding team or not there is some quality along the front line. John Collins, who made the All-Rookie team last season and was one of the standouts of Summer League, will start up front, possibly at the four with Dewayne Dedmon at the five. The just-drafted Omari Spellman showed potential at Summer League and could be the backup four, which means Len gets the backup center minutes.

Len is getting his new chance on a team that can give him some run, we’ll see if a change of scenery is what he needed.

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.

Montrezl Harrell reportedly reaches deal to return to Clippers

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The Clippers liked Montrezl Harrell last season (he came from Houston in the Chris Paul trade), he averaged 11 points a game for the team with a very efficient PER of 24.7.

He was one restricted agent some around the league thought another team would try to poach, but in a tight market nobody was making an offer because the Clippers were just expected to match. So the Clippers and Harrell (and his agent) sat down and figured out something that worked for both sides, as reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The deal is fully guaranteed for both years, according to the report. That’s a fair price for his services, and Harrell gets back on the market in two years when the salary cap will have gone up by more than $15 million (at least by the NBA’s early predictions). He will have more options on 2020.

The Clippers are now just $500 below the luxury tax. They also have 16 contracts, which is bad news for C.J. Wilson and his non-guaranteed deal. (Technically Patrick Beverley has a non-guaranteed contract as well, but if healthy he will be back.)

For a couple of seasons, this is a good fit. Harrell will bring some athleticism and bounce to a frontcourt rotation that already includes Tobias Harris, Luc Mbah a Moute, Marcin Gortat, and Boban Marjanovic. The Clippers are a pretty good team, the problem is in the West pretty good could be the 10 or 11 seed. The conference is that deep and brutal.