Well, another wasted season in the books, and for the second consecutive year, another lottery disappointment (in terms
of immediate results). I’ve been reading a lot on social media about how Tuesday night’s shakeup should “end” all future
tanking around the NBA, but I could not disagree more for the following reasons:
1) Despite a real location of lottery odds, a team STILL has to land #1 no matter what, and the three teams with the
worst respective records still have the best odds to do so.
2) The Lakers, who jumped from the 11th to the 4th slot also tanked at the end of the season, when they benched many of
their starters and cut down LeBron James’ minutes. This, despite the fact that they were among the better half of teams
in the lottery.
3) The Lakers’ luck should only incentivize future .500 teams to tank, as opposed to appearing in a quick 1st round
playoff exit as an 8th seed facing Golden State. In the past, finishing with the 11th or 12th worst record would
virtually guarantee a team the 11th or 12th pick. However now with the new odds, these teams stand an outside shot at
actually landing in the top four, as the Lakers demonstrated last night.
Although the Bulls only stood a 12.5% chance of winning the #1 pick and were just shy of a 25% chance at either #1 or #2
(I would have happily “settled” for Ja Morant), I, like so many other fans was hopeful for the best. I was realistic in
expecting the Bulls land at #4 or #5, their most likely outcome, but to drop three slots at the hands of LeBron’s Lakers
no less? Well that just adds insult to injury.
I know the NBA liked the narrative that maybe teams would stop tanking, though I agree with you, and Adam Silver really
does, as well, as he has said this is just a partial fix. Perhaps it won’t be as apparent when there isn’t a franchise
player draft like this one. I don’t agree with some who have suggested teams on the edge of making the playoffs will try
to lose. Mostly, I doubt owners would ever let them since a minimum of two playoff home games is a lot of gate revenue
they don’t have to split, and the competition isn’t so great that if you are seven or eight you cannot conceive of an
upset. Or at least a third playoff home game. Sure, there will still be teams that pack it in late in the season once
it’s clear they have no chance. Percentages matter some, and especially positioning once the top four are selected. But
to me what it did signal was Bulls executive John Paxson pointing it out. It suggested to me that even more than he’s
stated he wants the team done with the losing/tanking/draft positioning by embracing the narrative it doesn’t work. They
tried for two years and look where it got them. The point is with most of these rebuilds by purposely losing, like the
76ers did, you have to commit to five or six lotteries in order to hit the right picks once or twice. Look at the Kings,
the Timberwolves, even the Warriors, who missed the playoffs 17 of 18 years before the current run. OK, you say you’d
give up 17 losing seasons for that. Maybe, but it’s still not guaranteed. Check the Clippers of the 80s and 90s.
Sometimes decades can go by if you’re not paying attention.