NBA tank jobs may have met their match: the wheel.
According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, the Association may have found a replacement for the draft lottery and will consider bringing said proposal to league owners in 2014.
Instead of draft orders being determined by weighted lotteries that take previous records into account, each team would pick in a specific first-round slot once every 30 years without repetition.
Each team would simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year. Teams would know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle. The practice of protecting picks would disappear; there would never be a Harrison Barnes–Golden State situation again, and it wouldn’t require a law degree to track ownership of every traded pick leaguewide.
This is essentially a three-decade-long cycle, where numeric sequences determine your draft order in advance.
For example, under the proposed system, a team that has the No. 1 pick would draft 30th overall the next year, 19th overall the one after that and so on and so forth until they've cruised through all 30 positions.
Per Lowe, the system is also set up so "every team would be guaranteed one top-six pick every five seasons, and at least one top-12 pick in every four-year span," basically ensuring that at no point in the "wheel" are teams forced to endure years of unfavorable draft spots.
That's the general idea of this proposal. Lowe's article is worth an entire read and gives a pointed, blow-by-blow breakdown of various scenarios.
He also notes that this is in the very early stages of development and couldn't be implemented until all current draft debts have been fulfilled, which could take up to a decade.
I want to stress the word "early" here. EARLY. Most owners haven't seen it. But idea has traction (and opponents) at the highest levels.— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 23, 2013
But while the idea has gained "traction" throughout the NBA, it's met by opposition too. And it will inevitably meet even more detractors along the way.
No system is perfect, including this one. Just as the current lottery caters to teams terrible by design, this one has its own flaws that must be addressed.
One such concern is how this impacts collegiate players' decisions.
A concern. RT @spncrrr: @[me]Wouldn't this system allow top college players to "aim" for certain teams and stay in school as long as needed?— Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) December 23, 2013
By knowing which teams select where in advance, college athletes could tailor their draft declarations accordingly, ensuring they wind up on a team or in a market of their choosing.
This idea also could ultimately reward contending teams or—to a more drastic extent—NBA champions. Theoretically, a franchise that just won a title could be drafting in a top-five slot.
Supporting this may potentially punish teams that are actually rebuilding as well. The NBA is basically saying, "Here are your next 30 draft picks. Plan your reclamation projects accordingly."
Is that necessarily fair? Injuries creep up and free-agency shockers abound, forcing teams into sudden rebuilds. That top-six pick every five seasons exists for parity's sake, but it's not a cure-all.
I'm also wondering how this impacts future trades. Does this mean teams can trade draft picks up to 30 years in advance? If it does, fans of the first-round averse New York Knicks are in trouble.
Lowe notes the proposal accounts for some of these glitches, including contraction, expansion and initial placement within the cycle. But there are still plenty of kinks to work out.
Would some version of this proposed system solve the NBA's tanking problem?
Imperfections and all, this is still an interesting course of action to consider and further proof that the NBA is readily aware that tanking is a problem.
"Our team isn't good enough to win and we know it," one anonymous general manager told ESPN the Magazine's Jeff Goodman in October. "So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players, let them learn from their mistakes—and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games."
Years from now, if this system or some version of it is in place, losing a lot of games will no longer have the advantages it does now.