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Proposed change to NBA draft lottery would be big improvement

07.18.14 at 1:16 pm ET
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Last season the NBA took a ton of criticism regarding teams tanking games in order to land a better draft pick. In the end, the Cavaliers jumped up to win their third top overall pick in the last four years. But the Bucks and 76ers — the two worst teams respectively — wound up drafting second and third, selecting potential franchise-altering players.

As expected, altering the draft lottery system has been a major topic of the NBA offseason. Zach Lowe, from Grantland.com, now is reporting that the league has officially submitted a proposal that would allow all 14 teams that miss the playoffs to have significantly more similar odds of taking home a high draft selection.

From Lowe: ‘€œUnder the current system, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of snagging the No. 1 pick, perhaps the most valuable asset in the entire NBA. The team with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, and the third-worst team enters the lottery with a 15.6 percent chance of moving up to the top slot. The odds decline from there, with the final five teams in the lottery — the teams with the five best records — each having a 1.1 percent or worse chance of moving up to No. 1.

‘€œThe league’€™s proposal gives at least the four worst teams the same chance at winning the No. 1 pick: approximately an identical 11 percent shot for each club. The odds decline slowly from there, with the team in the next spot holding a 10 percent chance. The lottery team with the best record will have a 2 percent chance of leaping to the No. 1 pick, up from the the minuscule 0.5 percent chance it has under the current system.’€

Firstly, it’€™s pretty clear that there would be a shift in balance amongst the 14 teams eligible to win the lottery. All of them would have between an 11 percent and 2 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, while the worst four teams essentially would have the same odds to win it.

Secondly, rather than the lottery only awarding the top three picks, changes in this format would now allow the top six selections in the draft to be raffled off. This would provide teams with far less incentive to finish lower in the standings with so many picks now to be randomly determined. Imagine tanking to be the worst team and ending up with the No. 7 pick! That would not sit well with any fan base. Problem solved.

Of course, there is a potential issue with the format. It may sound silly, but there is concern that teams may purposely fall out of the 8 seed, opting to take their chances in a low lottery spot, rather than face off with a 1 seed in the playoffs.

When it comes down to it, it would be incredibly tough, not only for a team to lack the competitiveness to fight for a playoff run, but also for an owner to pass on the extra playoff revenue they would be choosing to skip out on. It just doesn’€™t make sense considering there would still be no guarantees in the lottery, simply a better chance.

To play devil’€™s advocate, if a deep, talented draft class (like 2014) came along, maybe a team believes the chance of winning a top-six pick gives it the player it needs to contend in the following season.

The Mavericks were the 8 seed in the ultracompetitive Western Conference last season, losing at the hands of the eventual champion Spurs in the first round. Would passing on that experience/revenue to try to even win the No. 6 pick (Marcus Smart) have been worth it for them? It would definitely make them a better team for the future.

Would Mark Cuban realistically go through with this? Doubtful.

The proposal is in the early stages, and could still involve tweaks, but we all expect to see something along these lines put in place over the next couple of years. No doubt, it is far better than the system currently in place — a win for the NBA.

Follow Julian Edlow on Twitter @julianedlow.

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