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Adam Silver says union rejecting cap smoothing slows draft-lottery reform

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HOUSTON, TX - MARCH 19: NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks to the crowd as the Houston Rockets honor the 20th anniversary of back-to-back NBA Championships at halftime of their game against the Denver Nuggets at the Toyota Center on March 19, 2015 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

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The NBA’s owners rejected the league’s lottery-reform proposal.

The National Basketball Players Association rejected cap smoothing.

See the connection?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver does.

Silver, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle:

“A new wrinkle is the fact that we’re not going to have smoothing and so this is a new issue for the league office and the teams,” Silver said in his first comment about the relationship of the union decision and the draft lottery revisions. “There’s clearly a consensus that we need to change and make an adjustment to existing draft lottery- the majority of teams voted for that last board meeting. It just requires a super majority.

“Now what I am hearing from some of the general managers in the league is that because it’s unclear how the cap will operate with a massive amount of cap room in ’16 and ’17 and potentially in the year after that it may be premature to change the lottery until we have a better understanding of what the changed behavior will be so it’s something we are going to continue to look at.

“I think it’s obviously a question of when we make a change. The expectation of the league office that we were going to have smoothing, we turned out to be wrong and I accept that. Therefore we have to study what that means because the lottery is just one aspect of a larger draft and free agency so we have to look at all those moving parts together.”


On one hand, I see how these issues are related. Small-market teams worried the proposed lottery reform would give big-market teams easier access to top prospects, and small-market teams are concerned a high salary cap would allow big-market teams to widen the spending the gap.

But this strikes me as unwisely risk-averse.

On a team-by-team basis, any given lottery-reform proposal is either better or worse than the current lottery system. The teams might not know whether it’s better or worse when they have to vote on it, but it’s still better or worse. This is not affected by whether the better system is the one currently in place or the one being proposed.

It seems if the situation were reversed – a proposed system were already in place and the current system were the one being proposed – owners would still vote no for fear of change. That’s illogical, though, given human nature, also understandable.

The NBA should continue propose its best lottery-reform ideas, and owners should vote yes if they think it’s more likely beneficial than not. That could backfire, but it offers a better chance of success than accepting the status quo only because it’s the status quo.