Adam Silver Hopes NBA Lottery Reform Curbs 'Destructive' and 'Corrosive' Tanking

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 14, 2019

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver walks on the floor before Game 3 of basketball's NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors in Oakland, Calif., Wednesday, June 5, 2019. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
Tony Avelar/Associated Press

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said he feels the league's changes to the lottery system have had a positive effect, particularly when it comes to outright tanking.

"Where I think it's the greatest success is, hopefully it'll stop fans in those markets from rooting for their teams to perform poorly," Silver told ESPN's Rachel Nichols. "Because that race to the bottom is just destructive, I think, for everyone. Corrosive for players and franchises, and I think, in some cases, even some executives who knew better felt they couldn't withstand the pressure from the communities, from the media in some cases, saying, 'Why are you operating at this level when you should either get much better or much worse?'"

The NBA altered lottery rules beginning with the 2018-19 season, making it so each of the league's three worst teams have an equal 14 percent chance at landing the No. 1 pick. The lottery now involves the first four picks of the draft as well, with picks 5-14 being determined by record. 

The New Orleans Pelicans landed the No. 1 overall pick despite having only a six percent chance to win the lottery. 

Under the previous lottery system, the team with the worst record had a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery, whereas the second-worst had a 19.9 percent chance and third-worst 15.6 percent. Only the first three selections were previously determined by the lottery.

Silver pointed to the Warriors and Raptors as two teams that have been built without the benefit of a top pick. The Raptors are the first team to reach the Finals without a lottery selection. 

"I think in this case now with the change in the lottery, people are going to realize that there's only one way to build a franchise," Silver said. "Of course, you need to get great players, but at the same time you need to build culture, you need strong management, you need strong coaching. And players incrementally get better year after year. I mean, look at these two great franchises. It's wonderful from a league standpoint to see the Warriors and the Raptors, two incredibly well-run franchises from top to bottom, here representing the league."

It's impossible for Silver, or any professional sports league, to curb tanking. Getting the No. 1 pick is the easiest avenue toward a rebuild. The Pelicans went from a rudderless ship after Anthony Davis' trade demand to having Zion Williamson on deck as their franchise face. The best way to get a Zion is by stacking the odds as heavily in your favor as possible.

There is also going to be jockeying for position by teams toward the bottom of the lottery to get into that 1-3 range. The perfect system doesn't exist, but the NBA is getting closer to its realistic ideal.