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?