Adam Silver has been quite busy during his brief time as NBA commissioner.
Even with the stat-heads of the world uniting at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, David Stern's replacement didn't slow down for a single second. Instead, he took to the podium and spoke about the future of the NBA, primarily dealing with the playoff format, the NBA draft and the whole notion of tanking.
First, we have the ever-interesting concept of a play-in tournament for the final spot in the postseason:
Asked for ideal playoff format, Silver says, "I'm fascinated with the notion of a play-in tournament." #ssac— Howard Beck (@HowardBeck) March 1, 2014
It's hard to disagree with this idea.
While the current system does work, a play-in tournament—ideally something similar to what MLB is using for the final wild-card berth—would be rife with drama and reward teams that were playing their best basketball down the stretch.
Would you rather see a struggling team that got off to a hot start before losing its best player hold down the fort with the No. 8 seed or the red-hot team that put it all together in the second half take its place?
It's an easy answer for me.
Not so simple, though, is the process of fixing the draft lottery:
"I'm not sure whether we're at the optimal point." NBA commish Adam Silver on the way draft lottery is done. Understatement? #SSAC14— Mike Wilson (@mWilstory) March 1, 2014
That's pretty clear, as tanking is running rampant in the NBA, and there's no guarantee of the worst team getting the best pick. The lottery is entertaining and random, but it's not optimal for promoting parity throughout the league.
At least it's better than the wheel system, though.
On the "wheel" draft proposal: Teams said that certain mkts have advantages & that a player could wait a year to come out of school. #SSAC14— Mason Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg) March 1, 2014
For those of you who don't remember what this is all about, Zach Lowe wrote a wonderful article for Grantland on the topic back in December. In summary, teams would draft in each first-round draft slot once every 30 years. Lowe makes it clear, though, that this proposal is still in its infancy (thank goodness):
This proposal is in the very early stages of a life cycle that may lead nowhere. It has engendered both excitement and strong opposition in the NBA’s offices, and it would require the support of three-quarters of the NBA’s ownership groups in order to actually become a real thing. And there are some fairly conservative folks among the league’s ownership groups. Also, the players’ union may demand a say in any full-scale makeover of the draft process.
Finally, we have the divisive topic of tanking.
"My understanding of tanking would be losing games on purpose,” Silver told reporters while in New Orleans for All-Star Weekend, as relayed by Brett Pollakoff of NBC Sports. “And there’s absolutely no evidence that any team in the NBA has ever lost a single game, or certainly in any time that I’ve been in the league, on purpose."
As you can see, that stance hasn't changed in the weeks following.
Adam Silver says one of the issues in the NBA is if you don't have one of 12 or 15 star players, you have very little chance to win. #SSAC14— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) March 1, 2014
To Silver, "tanking" implies teams intentionally trying to lose & doesn't think that happens. Seems to condone "rebuilding." #SSAC14— Mason Ginsberg (@MasonGinsberg) March 1, 2014
In the commissioner's mind, there's a major difference between intelligent rebuilding and intentionally losing. Tanking is something done primarily by a front office, altering personnel and putting together a team that can't be competitive right now, all in the hopes of being more suited toward chasing the Larry O'Brien Trophy in the future.
Is there anything wrong with that? Not really, so long as the mentality doesn't sneak its way into the locker room as well. That said, his view might have to change if he keeps hearing testimonies like Bryan Colangelo's.
"Admittedly, I tried to tank a couple of years ago," the former Toronto Raptors general manager said at the conference, via Sports Illustrated's Matt Dollinger "I didn't come out and say, ‘Coach you have to lose games.’ I wanted him to establish a winning tradition and culture, but I wanted him to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players."
Do you feel like the NBA is in good hands?
That's toeing the line Silver is creating, and subsequent examples could force him to take a firmer stance.
So far, no major changes have been made. But despite the stagnancy, it's already abundantly clear that Silver intends on being an active commissioner, one who will leave the Association in better shape than it was in when he inherited the league from Stern.
You may not agree with all of his sentiments, but at least he's out there promoting change where necessary.