The NBA and commissioner Adam Silver are doing a smart thing.
By proposing changes to the draft lottery system, the league is looking to curtail tanking and give teams more incentive to field competitive rosters and win games instead of doing the exact opposite, which is essentially what the current system promotes.
The league has to be careful with how it executes this plan, however. It's not exactly fair to punish teams that are using the current rules in place to their advantage right now.
The Philadelphia 76ers are probably the most obvious example of a team that is using the draft to rebuild their entire franchise. By changing the rules this year without enough advance notice to alter any plans, the 76ers would have a serious wrench thrown into their rebuilding period.
Here's Brian Windhorst at ESPN.com:
The NBA is pushing toward changes to the draft lottery system by next season but is facing a strong objection from the Philadelphia 76ers, the franchise that could suffer the most from it, multiple sources told ESPN.com.
Although there are several facets and the proposals haven't been finalized, the goal of commissioner Adam Silver is to balance out the lottery odds so the worst team or teams wouldn't have the highest chances of landing the top pick, sources said.
The rough draft of this plan was met with opposition by 76ers management, which is in the midst of a multiseason rebuilding project that is dependent on a high pick next year. The 76ers, sources said, are hoping to get the NBA to delay the plan's implementation for at least a year because it would act as a de facto punishment while just playing by the rules that have been in place.
The 76ers, however, may struggle to gain support from Silver or fellow teams for holding off on the changes. Philadelphia's planned sink to the bottom has caused a drag on revenues in one of the league's largest markets and has upset some other teams, sources said.
This is a difficult position for the league. Tanking in all its potential forms, whether it be sitting star players for the last few weeks of the season with mysterious injuries or something else, needs to be avoided.
Even if having the league's worst record doesn't always yield the first pick in the draft, multiple teams have willingly thrown away seasons in order to earn a better draft pick. That's not good for the league, as attempting to win shouldn't drastically lower the chance of a team landing a star.
It's not hard to understand the thought process. If you're going to lose, you might as well lose better than everyone else. Philadelphia has embraced that by stockpiling draft picks and keeping an incredibly cheap payroll, essentially punting away a few years with little consequences.
By not having any delusional thoughts about contending, Philadelphia has wisely set itself up.
With a young core of Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and another top pick, along with loads of cap space as all those players remain on cheap rookie deals, Philadelphia could be in good shape for the future.
Philadelphia's ownership and management feels the same way. Here's more from ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst:
'I think the season has been a huge success for us,' 76ers owner Josh Harris said in April. 'All these pieces are in place to make this an elite team that will compete consistently for the NBA championship. There are no shortcuts to it. Unfortunately, it takes a long time. I'm really happy with the progress.'
Philadelphia is progressing toward becoming a competitor again eventually, and the 76ers are wisely exploiting the league's source of cheap labor to do so. An alteration to the current system could definitely impact the plans quite a bit, as the biggest stars usually don't fall outside of the top three selections. Philadelphia can all but guarantee a top-three pick for next year given its roster, but not if everything is switched up on it after the offseason is already over.
It's important to remember, though, that nothing is set in stone here. The league is floating different ideas, and it could be a long process for something to get approved and implemented right away. Silver needs to be careful and consider all the different consequences and potential loopholes in a new plan, so rushing one out may not be ideal for anyone.
Here's Zach Lowe at Grantland with more:
The discussion is still in its early stages, and there are more proposals floating around from team officials. Those ideas could get more air time, and the league could always tweak its own proposal or put forth another.
But it’s clear that Adam Silver is serious about tweaking the lottery system, possibly as early as next season. It’s important that the league examine all unintended consequences before instituting a revamped lottery. This is gonna get interesting, fast.
The 76ers have a right to be upset at any proposed changes to the system this year, particularly since free agency is all but over.
You can certainly argue that Philly should have been trying to field a competitive team regardless, but saying that is blindly ignoring that there is a very clear incentive for a team that doesn't have realistic championship aspirations to lose as much as possible. It's a don't hate the player, hate the game type of situation here.
While it would undoubtedly hurt Philadelphia's rebuilding effort if even odds were given to the bottom five or six teams regardless of record, it's not necessarily a deathblow as it would still have a good chance at the top pick.
Again, the Sixers aren't bogged down with expensive contracts at all, so the slate is clean to do some building through free agency as well.
And although the odds are weaker, players like Paul George slip in the draft sometimes as well. With all the lottery tickets and future second-round picks that general manager Sam Hinkie has to utilize, it might only take one lucky late pick to really spark the future, just like Manu Ginobili helped do for the San Antonio Spurs.
Those examples are definitely the exception and not the rule, but ultimately, smart organizations find ways to acquire talent and accumulate assets.
The 76ers should be able to do that, but either way, no immediately implemented changes to the rules would help for the time being.
The NBA is taking a good step toward rewarding winning and curtailing tanking, but any agreed-upon adjustments shouldn't take place until the 2015-16 season in order to give teams like Philadelphia ample time to adjust properly.
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