A tanking epidemic has been the bogeyman of the NBA’s draft lottery system for the last year or so. The Philadelphia 76ers’ committment to losing worse than any team has ever lost before — a bottoming-out led by general manager Sam Hinkie, who has the backing of Sixers ownership — has turned heads, and upset many of the minds around the game. But it’s not representative of anything new, or particularly infectious to the league’s competitive spirit.
As a team-building strategy, tanking doesn’t generally work. Not even with the draft structure favoring the teams with the worst records every June. Hinkie is a gambler of sorts; There’s no telling whether his strategy will work or not. Most GMs find it safer and wiser to develop talent continuously, waiting for the luck of a big trade opportunity or having a diamond in the rough on hand. This campaign of intentional losing is not the plague it seems to be — Philly’s an outlier.
But that’s not stopping the league from voting on a system that will change the odds configuation which determines the draft order. The new draft — believed to be an almost sure thing to pass — will level out the probabilities of draft luck a bit. From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:
“Gone will be a weighted system where the worst team has 25 percent of the pingpong balls for the No. 1 overall pick and a guarantee it'll drop no lower than fourth in the draft order. Now, the worst four teams have a 12 percent chance at the first pick, No. 5 has an 11.5 percent chance, No. 6, 10 percent, and on down. What's more, the worst team can drop as far as seventh in the draft order, the second worst can drop to No. 8, and so on.
“Now, the bottom three teams have 64 percent, 56 percent and 47 percent chances of getting top-three picks, and that'll change to 35 percent, virtually the same as the fourth- (35 percent) and fifth-worst (34 percent) teams.”
Thus far, only Hinkie and Oklahoma City Thunder GM Sam Presti seem to be fighting, at the very least, for a plan that implements the new draft rules slowly — not all at once. Presti’s concern is that too much is made of the 76ers’ situation, and that large markets will benefit disproportionately from the new arrangement. The draft is the last refuge for a city as small as OKC, and when the micro-market hits its inevitable post-Kevin Durant nadir, they’ll need a sure path back to superstar acquisition. Geography’s never going to be in their favor.
— John Wilmes