Should the NBA Change Draft Format to Eliminate Tanking?
Tanking has become a cancer.
It’s a disease plaguing the NBA, so much so that the NBA has sought to eliminate it by all means necessary. In its simplest terms, tanking is when a team willingly gives up an entire season in order to win a high lottery pick in the draft, ultimately allowing them to pick a top, franchise-altering prospect. The entire ideology of tanking has been twisted to the point that it essentially pits the league’s governing body into a state of paranoia.
Now, they are set to vote for its elimination.
The NBA has proposed a tentative plan which would come into effect in time for the 2019 draft. The idea is to even out the odds among the league’s lottery-eligible teams meaning the worst team in the league will have a 14% chance to win the first overall pick, so to will the top non-playoff team.
The first few questions in need of answers are, why is the NBA doing this? Why is the league so paranoid? Why is tanking such a sinful crime?
I will go slightly against the grain and state that tanking is actually good for the league. It is good for the NBA, but like everything in life, it is imperfect. Just like taxes. Just like the school systems.
If something is imperfect, it does not mean that it requires fixing – the situation isn’t broken.
A man can have a loving wife, kids, a good job, yet he doesn’t make the amount of money he would like in his career choice. He therefore sees his life as imperfect. He gets by. He’s not in ruins. He doesn’t hate his life – his life isn’t broken and in need of fixing, it’s simply imperfect.
The NBA draft system is exactly that. Imperfect. Not broken and not in need of fixing.
Why do teams tank?
They tank because they cannot compete and instead of sitting in limbo and waiting for a free agent to jump onto a bad team and right they ship, they try to fix their problems internally by tanking. In essence tanking is the evil word for rebuilding, retooling, improving for the future – you know, the good words.
Who was the last big name free agent the Philadelphia 76ers signed post Allen Iverson? J.J. Redick doesn’t count.
The 76ers were losing. They couldn’t compete, so they traded off any assets they had an acquired picks. They themselves kept losing and got high draft picks for it. Now, with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Markelle Fultz in the fold, they are ready to rebuild. Was their tanking bad for business?
Look at how Philly has s0ld tickets since Joel Embiid arrived. Look at how the Los Angeles Lakers have sold tickets this past season. The Los Angeles Lakers, a team that only wins, yet fans paid money to sell out the Staples Centre on a nightly basis.
Tell me tanking is bad for business.
Tanking is necessary. When the Memphis Grizzlies lose Marc Gasol and Mike Conley, which big name free agent will be dying to come to play in Memphis? How about Indiana? Who is running to come join Indiana? What were the New Orleans Pelicans going to do if they didn’t tank and didn’t draft Anthony Davis?
For these teams, tanking is the only way to rebuild. This is their ticket to a successful future.
And correct me if I’m wrong, but a team that is losing, has no direction, and cannot attract free agents is bad for business. Good for business means a fanbase sees a future. If you are a Lakers fan who had to sit through a horrible 2016/17 season, you knew this team is gunning for Lonzo Ball.
Many superstars don’t want to go to bad teams, so said teams must build through the draft, and to do that, they simply have to bottom out. They have to undergo a few years of losing, wait until their high picks develop, then they are ready to compete. If the 17th worst team in the league drafts the next LeBron James and the worst team in the league is stuck with the last pick of the lottery, how is the NBA helping business? How is the NBA helping teams improve? Isn’t that the goal to have as many teams as possible competing for a champions?
It is unknown at this point how the vote will go. No one knows if come 2019 the draft format is completely different, but one thing is for sure. The sole purpose of the draft is to help the worst teams in the league improve and even out the competition. If the blueprint of the draft is altered, then to the NBA I ask…
What is the draft’s purpose?