Tuesday, April 01, 2008

An awesome idea to fix the NBA draft

Over at Truehoop (best blog about one sport? It's up there.) Henry Abbott responds to an idea a reader has about how to fix the admittedly horrible NBA draft lottery.
An interesting way to revamp the draft ordering system would be to assign teams points (for example one point for each loss they had during the season) and then auction off the draft slots.
I, for one think this is a great idea. Abbot points out a few problems with it (racist undertones, doesn't fix tanking), but overall, I love this plan - if only to make real sports more like fantasy ones.

In all seriousness, I think this is a really interesting idea. With a few tweaks, it could become a reality (not really, but let's pretend).

Why it would work
  • Giving teams the flexibility to essentially choose their draft spot is infinitely better than placing your franchises' hope on some 19 year-old top draft pick who may or may not stink. Smart teams or teams that aren't in love with the upper-tier players could actually restock talent on the cheap and *gasp* put a competitive team on the floor. A team like the Miami Heat this season (riddled with injuries, but with two bona fide stars in Marion and Wade) may not want/need a top pick next season. Instead, preferring to take a middle first rounder for cheap and a quality second rounder. Much better than trying to trade the pick with another team.
  • On the contrary, a middle of the road bad team who loves the top pick, could "overpay" for him, ensuring they get their man. Said team could then make the leap and become competitive - which is good for the league.
  • Speaking of trading picks, this would be eliminated from NBA trades - an element that makes 90% of all trades work. With lottery protection and all that mumbo jumbo, trading picks often blows up in team's faces - see Detroit getting the number three pick from Atlanta in 2001. This would force teams to make more balanced trades and, while making them more difficult to pull off, would probably be best for the league.
  • By adding a rule that teams only get one pick per round, the NBA would eliminate a really, really awful team from tanking and buying the top five picks.
  • It would create undeniable drama/chaos that would be must-see TV. I just imagine GM's screaming out bids like they're on Wallstreet, hoping to get Kevin Love for $25 imaginary loss-dollars. This would be much better than the totally unwatchable draft in it's current format. I would watch the whole thing to see what team gets some kid from Northern New Mexico State for $1 who turns out to be the next Steve Nash. Additionally, we could see sly GM's driving up prices for hyped guys and screwing over dumber GM's. The Spurs front office would force Isiah Thomas to spend $45 on one of the Lopez twins, laughing the whole time.
Why it wouldn't work
  • The racist undertones are a really big issue. As Abbott says, a room full of old white guys bidding on mostly young African-Americans? That's a huge problem.
  • Fans would be totally confused. "What is this? Why aren't they going in order?!" *head explode* Like many good ideas, this one is pretty out there and change is painfully slow to come.
  • A lot of front offices are dumb. Asking them to determine an order by which they think players are going to be taken is difficult enough (Chris Paul much?), asking them to place an abstract value on players while balancing an imaginary budget would be near-impossible. Fantasy auction pros are used to this and would probably dominate a draft, if given the chance. But as we know, they are too busy living in their mom's basement to do any real work.
  • David Stern is kind of a jerk. If he won't do something as simple as re-seed the playoffs (although that may be coming), asking him to do something as revolutionary as re-invent the way NBA teams are built is insane. Maybe when Mark Cuban is the commissioner in 2015.
Stern has to know the draft system sucks as it is now. Teams suddenly come up with injuries to increase draft positions, the most needy teams rarely get the top pick and leaving something as important as the draft up to chance is ridiculous. Something has to change. Whether it's as radical as this method, or something else (tanking be damned, just do it by the standings), remains to be seen.

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