There's no question that, during any given season, you'll find a number of NBA teams that are more concerned with their ping-pong ball total than victory total.
Some call it rebuilding, some call it tanking. But depending on who you ask, it's adversely affecting the league as a whole.
Count Sacramento Kings owner Vivek Ranadive in that contingent. In an interesting Q&A with Jared Dubin of ESPN.com's Truehoop Network, Ranadive went public with his solution to the tanking dilemma: The V Plan.
There’s two parts to it. Part one is that you freeze the draft order at the time of the All-Star break. Then, everything [pertaining to the current lottery system] remains the same, but it’s frozen based on the standings at the All-Star break. Then there’s no gain in not playing at the highest level for the remainder of the season. That’s part one.
Part two is that at the end of the season, the top seven teams from the Eastern Conference and the top seven teams from the Western Conference make the playoffs. Then for the eighth playoff spot, the remaining eight teams have a sudden-death, college-style playoff in a neutral venue, like Vegas in the West and Kansas or Louisville in the East.
Ranadive's plan is certainly intriguing, though on the surface, there are a few flaws. In freezing the draft order at the All-Star break, tanking wouldn't be totally eliminated, just more contained to the season's first half. Also, in opening the March Madness-style tournament to all teams, the value of regular-season wins could still be overlooked.
Still, it's a compelling proposal to a problem that has plagued the NBA in recent seasons.
Dan Feldman over at ProBasketballTalk sees it that way, too:
1. This could increase tanking during the season’s first half. One big disincentive to tanking is selling tickets. Teams still want to attract fans, and committing to a full season of losing will hurt attendance. But a half season of losing? Hey, that’s half as bad for ticket sales.
2. It could be difficult to balance schedules league-wide so every team has had an approximately representative sample. At minimum, each team would have to play the same number of home and road games.
But those obstacles could probably be overcome with a little more planning. The V Plan is certainly intriguing.
This season has given us what appears to be one of the most tangible examples of tanking in recent memory. In preparation for what's been dubbed as the most talented draft in over a decade, even prestigious organizations like the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are chasing futility instead of fame this year.
Particularly in the Eastern Conference, where the third-place Toronto Raptors wouldn't qualify for the postseason in the West (they'd be 10th-best in the conference), the race for the bottom has been just as hot as the one between Miami and Indiana for the conference's top seed. Philadelphia, losers of 26 in a row, has managed to remain a game in front of the Milwaukee Bucks—or from the Sixers' perspective, a game behind.
Under the V Plan, Philly would likely have a slightly altered view on "patience."