Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — This year the NBA Draft is littered with superstars, and teams are shrewdly navigating the season to get their pick of the litter, while the NBA is looking for ways to make tanking never happen again.
The Utah Jazz are in the middle of the tanking event. Whether it is called a youth movement, rebuilding or simply tanking, ultimately the Jazz are positioning themselves to get the best pick — and thereby best player — possible.
Now according to ESPN's Grantland, the NBA is working on a way to stop this from happening in the future. The discussion is in the preliminary phase, but tentatively the idea is to set up a fixed system where every team has pick 1-30 in a mixed order over 30 years.
Grantland's Zach Lowe wrote about the proposal that ESPN obtained and how it will affect teams. Here is the basic idea behind it.
“Grantland obtained a copy of the proposal, which would eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a system in which each of the 30 teams would pick in a specific first-round draft slot once — and exactly once — every 30 years. Each team would simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year. Teams would know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle. The practice of protecting picks would disappear; there would never be a Harrison Barnes–Golden State situation again, and it wouldn’t require a law degree to track ownership of every traded pick leaguewide.”
Overall, it would be broken down so a team has a top-six pick once every six years along with a top-12 pick every four-year span. The pick order would be decided using the numbers on the wheel in the Grantland story.
So, a team starts with pick one and goes to pick 30 next year, then 19, 18, 7, 6, and so on where 15 years after having the first pick the team would have the second pick. The idea behind it is that teams would never tank and could theoretically be competitive year in and year out.
For instance if this was in place now, the Jazz wouldn't have to worry about tanking since they are playing .500 ball. They could just let their players play.
Here is an excerpt from ESPN's Tank Watch that the NBA is trying to avoid, “(Trey) Burke starting to look like a legit NBA point guard is a great thing but the Jazz currently have zero percent chance of making the playoffs in the West, according to the latest Playoff Odds. So if the Jazz keep piling up these wins, they'll slide down these rankings and decrease their chances of landing (Jabari) Parker.”
While the Jazz wouldn't make the playoffs either way, the “wheel” system wouldn't give incentive for them to magically lose games as the season goes along. Of course it might also have changed the Jazz's offseason plans.
If the Jazz knew which pick they were getting they could have set up to win now compared to winning in the future.
Now we can take a practical look at what this wheel could do by showing a random selection of players a team would get if this were in place say six years ago. Six years make a full rotation of two seperate top-six picks with other picks in between. With a random starting pick of nine, the draft picks would be 9, 4, 27, 24, 13, 12 and this year's pick would be 1, again it was a random starting spot.
Those picks would be, according to the original pick: D.J. Augustin, Tyreke Evans, Jordan Crawford, Reggie Jackson, Kendall Marshall and Steven Adams. While that doesn't instill a lot of confidence, team building would balance out a lot more and the top pick this year would add a superstar.
However, if the pick started one earlier with the eighth pick, it would look like this 8, 5, 26, 22, 15, 10 and this year would have the third pick.
Again looking at draft history those picks would be Joe Alexander, Ricky Rubio, Quincy Pondexter, Kenneth Faried, Maurice Harkless and C.J. McCollum. Add in a dominant big this year and the core is there.
Neither team looks dominant, but that is the idea, 30 teams with an equal shot at the crown by giving them all equal an shot at drafting. It wouldn't stop big markets from spending more or making Utah more attractive to free agents, but it would give teams a shot at the difference-making player and put it all on the front office to make the right play.
With all that being said, this won't happen for a long time, if it ever happens. It would at least take 10 years for the NBA to put into place so a team like the Jazz could miss out on the first pick for 40 years. There are other ideas like weighing odds over three years of a team's record instead of one year to keep teams from a year of tanking.