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Owners vote down NBA Draft lottery reform, system to stay same for this season

David Griffin, Jeff Cohen

David Griffin, Jeff Cohen


For at least another season, Philadelphia’s uber-tanking system will pay dividends.

In a surprise move, NBA owners voted down plans to flatten out the lottery odds system, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Other sources have confirmed this.

Just 48 hours ago lottery reform seemed like a lock to pass, with only Philadelphia opposed, but a push from Thunder GM Sam Presti among others fearing it could hurt small market teams’ ability get top stars seemed to swing the vote (the no side needed at least 8 votes to block the proposal).

Wojnarowski, as well as Zach Lowe of Grantland, have the details.

The only large market among that group is Chicago, which notoriously doesn’t spend over the luxury tax like some bigger markets. Notice a lot of the San Antonio coaching/management tree opposed the move.

I think this was the smart play — the owners came close to making unstudied dramatic changes as an emotional reaction to the actions of one team. That is just courting trouble.

The current NBA draft lottery system was put in place to discourage teams from losing just to get a top pick. Now the team with the worst record has only a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick — it’s happened only three times in the last 21 years. The second worst team has a 19.9 percent chance at the top pick and the odds fall quickly after that (teams that are in the 10-14 range have little chance of moving up the board).

The proposed changes called for a flattening out of the odds. The changes would have had the four teams with the worst records all have a 12 percent chance at the first pick, fifth at 11.5 percent, then sixth at 10 percent, and teams farther down the board have better odds. The team with the worst record could fall to seventh. (The top six spots would be lottery, the rest in record order, currently only the top three are drawn.)

What that would mean is that teams that just missed the playoffs would have a much improved chance of moving up the boards. The goal was to reduce the incentive to be terrible.

This proposed change was a reaction to the Sixers, who have taken the “be bad to get good” idea to almost absurd levels. They are going to be terrible again this season. But they have the reigning Rookie of the Year in Michael Carter Williams, a candidate for it this year in Nerlens Noel, and they drafted Joel Embiid this past June (but he is not likely to play this season due to injury). This level of tanking has frustrated and disgusted some around the league, but the owners wisely chose not to make a dramatic move just because they are frustrated with the Sixers.

Chris Mannix: If lottery reform happened, what would’ve changed?