Golden State Warriors: Pick Protection Asks Dubs to Tank

Ethan Sherwood Strauss@SherwoodStraussNBA Lead WriterApril 19, 2012

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 27:  David Lee #10 of the Golden State Warriors smiles during their game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Oracle Arena on March 27, 2012 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

I am not here to declare the Warriors tankers. Others have done as much and quite convincingly. For instance, here's Jay Kaspian Kang's Grantland piece.  

NBA basketball is a long game and sometimes it's necessary to sacrifice a season for the future. But there's no way to defend how the Warriors are tanking this year. By sitting Stephen Curry, by trading away Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut, by sitting David Lee, by openly pining for the return of their first-round pick, Golden State set a new standard for no-shame tanking. Again, this might be forgivable if the Warriors were trying to get themselves in position to draft Anthony Davis or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, but to so openly piss on the standards of competition for the no. 7 pick is inexcusable.

Many objective basketball observers likely feel the same way and I don't fault them at all. But while we rip the Warriors, we should also look at the system that begs a team to do this. It is no coincidence that the starkest tanking might be happening on behalf of a No. 7 pick, as opposed to say, a possible No.1 pick. 

This is because Golden State's draft selection is protected, meaning they lose it if their pick falls below seventh in lotto selection. And if the Warriors finish "better" than seventh worst, that loss is all but assured. As the seventh worst team, the Warriors have a 75 percent chance of keeping their pick. As the eighth worst team, they have a 90 percent chance of losing it. 

The top of the draft is more random than latter stages, which is another way of saying that the lottery gets more predictable as it winds down. The third worst team has a much better chance of drawing above the third pick (31.33 percent) than the eighth worst team has of drawing above the eighth pick (10 percent). So when picks are protected, especially in the late lottery, the impetus begs certain squads to tank. 

All of this makes me wonder: Why is pick protection even legal? Why not excise this practice?