With every Jazz loss this season—and odds are there will be plenty—many Jazz fans will salve their pain with thoughts of the 2014 NBA Draft. Enough L’s might translate into Andrew Wiggins, after all, with Jabari Parker and a slew of other potential franchise talents waiting as fine consolation prizes.
In this context, what I write here is likely to be particularly unpopular, but it’s how I feel:
I think the current NBA Lottery, which awards the best young prospects to the least successful teams, is a corruption of everything professional sport should be. I don’t think losing should be grossly rewarded in elite competition. Ever. Doing so distorts the competitive core of athletics, positioning profitability and the self-interest of owners against the simple goal of winning as best one can under any circumstance.
I won’t rehash all the problems of incentivizing losing. For a fine exploration on the subject, and alternate proposals different from my own, read ESPN’s TrueHoop series from 2012.
Of all years to change the lottery and draft structure, this would be the least palatable for Jazz fans—but that is exactly what I wish would happen.
I wish the draft lottery would change this season, and I wish it would change in such a way as to offer the Jazz zero consolation on a likely season of losing—just as it would never again reward any team for failing to achieve the primary goal of sport: winning.
Here is my proposal.
The NBA Lottery would no longer grant the greatest probability of landing high draft picks to the teams with the most losses. Instead, the probability of receiving a high draft pick would be based entirely upon a team’s draft position the previous season. The team coming off last draft’s first overall pick would have the lowest chance of getting a prime pick the following season; the team drafting thirtieth the previous year would have the greatest probability of landing a prime pick.
Pure probability, which might reward karma, but never losing.
The following particulars form what I believe to be a workable system, or at least the origins of one that could be built upon and refined through debate: