I’m supposed to write about the NBA Draft we just had Thursday night – and I will. I’m doing the research, crunching #’s, racking my brain. But at the moment, I was inspired (by a question on the APBRmetrics board) to address how the NBA comes up with the seeding of the draft. The whole idea of “tanking” drives everyone crazy – so I think the obvious solution to get the #1 pick in the draft is simple….
Have them play for it and EARN it.
Yes, I am on board with a NBA lottery tourney (we won’t call it playoff to avoid confusion with the “real” playoff). Yes, I know it seems counter-intuitive to award the #1 pick to a team that wins a tourney, when it should go to the “worst” team. But, as we have it now – the #1 pick RARELY goes to the worst team. There’s just dumb luck that lands many teams the #1 pick.
So, I say TOURNEY. We can easily set the tourney up to FAVOR the worst teams. I’m thinking best of 3 game series, 2 home games for the worse record team. Seed the worst teams together every round (thus also making the better teams knock each other out early). It doesn’t really matter to me HOW it’s done, just so that I – and the fans of bad teams – can enjoy watching these teams that have languished for months actually have, finally, something REAL to play for. Teams that maybe have been “tanking” better get their best team on the court and start “playing”. All the extra games would earn the non playoff teams and the NBA some extra $$ to boot!
Based on this last season, I’d maybe set it up like so (top team gets 2 home games, bottom 1):
|3 Magic||>||W 1-6|
|4 Jazz||W 3/4||I||I|
|5 Celtics||W 5/6||I|
|8 Pistons||W 7/8||I|
|9 Cavs||W 9/10||I||I|
|12 Knicks||W 11/12||I|
|13 Wolves||W 13/14|
When it’s all said and done – I’d probably re-seed each bracket (top 1-6) & (bottom 7-14) separately based on results after #1 pick is rewarded to the champ to get the final draft seeding. So, 1-6 will get shuffled a bit, as well as 7-14 – based on how far the teams get in their bracket (initial seeding obvious tie breaker). The very worst (and 2nd worst) team going into this tourney would end up – at the very WORST if they lose their first series - the 5th pick. If they win that first series (again, that game is against the OTHER worst team), the worst pick they’d get is the 3rd pick.
At first glance, maybe it would seem unfair that a “better” team will end up in the finals (seeded 7-14) – BUT they will have a much harder road to get there, AND they will have to WIN the finals to get that #1 pick, otherwise they will end up pick #7 (when we seed the draft from the two brackets separately). Still a nice reward if the team (say, the Suns last season) went into the tourney at #14. If the runner up is from the weaker bracket (1-6), they’ll still will have earned the #2 pick – again, not too shabby.
Anyway - only two teams could drop more than 3 spots based on results (#1 could end up with the #5 pick if they lose their first series and a team in the better bracket wins it all, #7 will end up #11 if they lose the 1st round). No other teams will drop more than 3 spots.
Of course, all future traded draft picks would have to be lottery protected unless the lottery playoff for the pick (ie, that very offseason before that draft) has already been played. I don’t care how it may complicate trading of future draft picks, I just want the playoff – less talk of “tanking”, more talk of “earning”.
I know the NBA probably will never implement something like this – but man, how great would it be if they did. How progressive as a pro league would the NBA look if they did something so radically different to “decide” winner of that coveted #1 draft pick – and to give fans of the “lesser” teams something fun to root for after the regular season ends.