Freelance Friday: How Would Potential Lottery Changes Impact the Jazz?

August 1st, 2014 | by Freelance Friday
Flickr / markybon

Flickr / markybon

Editor’s note: This is one of our Freelance Friday posts, a chance for users from around the Jazz community to contribute to Salt City Hoops. This post was written by Kyle Robbins. Kyle Robbins is married with 2 kids and works as an Audit Manager at a CPA firm in Sandy, Utah. His current favorite things are family, basketball, tennis, reading, ultimate frisbee, and training for his first marathon. He knew his wife was a keeper when she took him on a date to a Jazz game with courtside tickets on the 5th row.

As reported by ESPN, the NBA is currently in discussions to change the current lottery format, to help eliminate the incentive for teams to tank, most notably at the end of a season. “Riggin for Wiggins” and “Sorry for Jabari” were commonly-used phrases during the past NBA season, embarrassing the league.

Tanking has also impacted the Jazz fairly recently with the pick Utah received from Golden State. In 2012, Golden State tanked in order to maintain their pick, which was top 7 protected. The Warriors lost 22 of the final 27 games of the season, leaving them in a tie for the 7th worst record with Toronto. When Golden State won a tie breaker with the Raptors, they maintained the 7th spot to keep their pick. Had the Warriors won just one more game (or lost the coin flip), the pick, and possibly Harrison Barnes, would have gone to the Jazz.

In order to help eliminate the incentive for tanking, the NBA has proposed giving lottery teams more equal odds in the lottery. In fact, one potential proposal gives the bottom 5  teams equal odds of winning the #1 pick. Naturally, the 76ers are fighting this; they have set themselves up to have the best odds of winning for the next two to three years, and don’t want to share those odds with 5 other teams.

So how could this proposed format impact the Jazz? Several reader comments to the recent ESPN article argue that this will be harmful to smaller market teams, as they are the teams that build through the draft. While this may harm some small market teams, I would argue that this may actually benefit the Jazz. Why?

The simple reason: the Jazz will not tank. This past season, the Jazz were in a prime position to tank, and they didn’t do it. In fact, several Jazz fans complained that the Jazz won too many games. At the end of the season, when they beat the Timberwolves, resulting in a tie with the Celtics for the 4th worst record, I read complaints about the Jazz not losing that game. Had this past draft been under the new format, the Jazz would have had the same odds to win the lottery as 5 other teams. Instead, this year, the Jazz only had a 10.4% chance, compared to the Bucks’ 25% chance.

In future years, the proposal could also benefit the Jazz. I don’t anticipate the Jazz making the playoffs next year; they will once again be participating in the lottery. That being said, I also don’t anticipate them being near the bottom of the NBA. Thus, providing a more equal chance for lottery teams will once again help the Jazz potentially get a better pick.

Now, the downside is that with a higher chance to move up in the lottery, there is also a higher chance to move down from a top position as the odds are more evenly spread. While specifics of the changes are still under consideration, the NBA is leaning towards providing the better 14 lottery teams with a larger chance of landing the top pick. This creates a greater risk for the bottom dwellers and a greater reward for teams just missing the playoffs.  With an improved roster next season, the Jazz are less likely to be at the bottom of the league and instead could benefit from the greater odds.

What are some of your thoughts on the lottery? Any ideas on a better method? Does anyone think the NFL’s method (of no lottery whatsoever) is the best way to go?

Freelance Friday

Freelance Friday

The post above is one of our Freelance Friday posts, giving those from the Jazz community as a whole a chance to contribute to Salt City Hoops.

5 Comments

  1. IDJazzman says:

    Good subject and provoking thoughts. I agree with you that a change in the lottery would be good for the Jazz, but also every team in the NBA. I just hate the thought of rooting for my team to loose and it has to be demoralizing for the players. Since when is that a part of sports or good for sports? A number of teams in the NBA have been allowed to put an inferior product on the floor all in the interest of tanking. Changing the draft, so that the teams with the worst records would still be in the lottery would not hurt the small market teams as they would probably still have the chance to rebuild in the draft, they just wouldn’t be able to monopolize the top picks year after year by tanking without shame. So the only teams it would hurt are the ones that are tanking on purpose, while the teams that are still trying to compete would be rewarded much more than they are now. I like seeing this subject being discussed among fans and hope the NBA changes it, to a more equitable system.

  2. Clint Johnson says:

    Nice piece, Kyle, and on a topic I care about greatly. I think any lottery will at times and in certain contexts encourage tactical losing (which I loathe with all my being). This idea, for example, will give incentive to teams clearly out of the playoffs but not at the absolute bottom of the standings to try to crack that “bottom of the crop” tier to maximize their chances in the lottery. That said, I think this system would be a definite improvement. It would diminish the incentive of fielding a dumpster fire of a team (the Sixers) while at the same time not drastically increasing incentive to drop from the eighth spot in the playoffs into the lottery.

    Overall, I think this would slightly benefit the Jazz. But mainly I think this puts poorly run teams at a PR disadvantage, as they can no longer claim bulk-losing as so statistically justified as under previous lottery systems. It isn’t small market teams that benefit most from the lottery; it’s dysfunctional franchises. So long as the Jazz are a well-run organization, they should gain a slight advantage over the current system. But the problem with a lottery, which will always be a problem, is that Cleveland’s competitive strategy of loosing leading to a talent influx is still the paradigm. So long as that is the case, it is bad teams that benefit, not small market ones.

    • Mewko says:

      Yes, the current lottery system has proved to have a team with 30+ wins jump in the top 3, and the #1 pick almost never goes to the team with most losses. Look how the Wizards got Otto Porter, how the Cavaliers got Andrew Wiggins, and how the Bulls got Derrick Rose.

      Like Clint said, it benefits the bad teams. The worst team always gets a top 2 pick, worst case scenario is 4th pick. That’s a pretty good range, guarantees you a nice prospect.

      The small market teams that don’t intentionally tank have to do their homework on their picks, and get it right, and pray for some luck on lottery and draft night.

  3. David Olsen says:

    I think it says a lot that for the most part all the teams but the Sixers seem to realize that basketball (and even the business-side) is guided by the spirit of competitive sports. Go as far as calling the lottery changes the “anti-76ers lottery rules” as a form of shame.

    4 quicks lottery fixes:
    1-No more consecutive #1 picks when it is your own pick–teams shouldn’t get to be too lucky by sucking (ahem, Cleveland)
    2-Semi-balance the schedule for the last part of the season (20 games or so) and the lottery team with the worst record for that period is barred from the #1 pick
    3-Give an extra second round pick and/or some cash to use on buying picks or upgrading facilities to the lottery teams with the best records for the last part of the season–reward wining when it is extra difficult
    4-No more pick protection in the non-random lottery range…for example: top 3 would be okay, top 14 would be okay but top 9 or top 13 would not

  4. Aaron says:

    It’s such bull to try to slant things in favor of your own team’s strategy to suck hard for multiple years. The Jazz could easily have lost another 2-3 games last year and increased their lottery chances significantly, and as you said, after winning that meaningless finale at Minnesota, we had multiple fans cursing them. This proves the whole damn process is screwed up, despite the NBA’s insistence that no one has ever tanked. I hope the Sixers pick fourteenth next year and miss the playoffs for the next decade.

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