How to stop the tankathon

Nick Kaufman

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I am not sure I buy the argument. The bottom ten teams would have losing arguments by virtue of being the worst teams.
 

reggiecleveland

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It is full scale tankathon though. This reminds me of a Diamond Baseball league when Vlad G was going to be the #1 pick. Guys were sending out pitching rotations with position players.

Oh and players can tank, not on purpose. But it is easy to rationalise hustling on D less, taking more selfish shots, etc, when the team is actively trying to improve draft postilion. Look how a team can implode with a selfish team maybe or lousy coach. The emotional atmosphere of the Suns, Lakers, etc must suck.
 

NoXInNixon

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I am not sure I buy the argument. The bottom ten teams would have losing arguments by virtue of being the worst teams.
So you'd expect mist of them to have losing records. But what are the chances that the two which don't just happen to be the ones who don't benefit from tanking?

It's such a simple fix. Award ping pong ball combinations based on some formula based on final record, not absolute position.
 

Nick Kaufman

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So you'd expect mist of them to have losing records. But what are the chances that the two which don't just happen to be the ones who don't benefit from tanking?
A lot actually. I am reading a book on randomness right now and it could be just luck of the draw and coincidence. I am not saying that tanking isn't affecting competitive performance, I am just saying that this doesn't prove it.
 

sezwho

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It's such a simple fix. Award ping pong ball combinations based on some formula based on final record, not absolute position.
It's simpler than that, though it does eliminate welfare for the billionaires who can't/won't compete.

Abolish the draft and they are all free agents as soon as they declare. With a salary cap in place, go sign them.
 

tims4wins

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It's simpler than that, though it does eliminate welfare for the billionaires who can't/won't compete.

Abolish the draft and they are all free agents as soon as they declare. With a salary cap in place, go sign them.
For this to work there couldn't be a max contract on an individual player. A move I would also agree with
 

sezwho

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For this to work there couldn't be a max contract on an individual player. A move I would also agree with
I'm not necessarily advocating for the max annual contract rule, but why couldn't it still work?

If 19 year old Lebron Jr gets 3 equal max contract offers then he picks the one that gives him most minutes/offers best chance to win/has a beach/whatever else makes him happy. That's fine by me.

Just to be clear that I'm not advocating pure contract anarchy, I do support a max term which potentially keeps GMs from writing checks they wont be around to cash.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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It doesn't matter because you're never getting the owners to agree to such a massive increase in rookie salaries.
 

tims4wins

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I'm not necessarily advocating for the max annual contract rule, but why couldn't it still work?

If 19 year old Lebron Jr gets 3 equal max contract offers then he picks the one that gives him most minutes/offers best chance to win/has a beach/whatever else makes him happy. That's fine by me.

Just to be clear that I'm not advocating pure contract anarchy, I do support a max term which potentially keeps GMs from writing checks they wont be around to cash.
Well mainly because the best player coming out of the draft could sign with the best team if their stars are all capped
 

sezwho

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It doesn't matter because you're never getting the owners to agree to such a massive increase in rookie salaries.
It doesn't cost them a dime as I'm not changing the cap, and eliminates tanking overnight which should increase the value of the product for the rights holders who actually pay the freight.

As to building a super team, if the best team already has room for a max player they would have to think pretty carefully about paying a rookie as opposed to the best available FA (which they could do in this scenario today). The top teams almost never have room anyway though.
 
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wade boggs chicken dinner

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If the NBA were to abolish the draft, the one way to keep some semblance of parity - or helping the bad teams - would be to give teams at the bottom of the league that have the worse record slightly extra temporary cap space.

Well mainly because the best player coming out of the draft could sign with the best team if their stars are all capped
I would assume, however, that under this system the best teams would already have stars in place that would eat up a lot of their cap.

Not that it would ever happen but the years leading up to the transition years would be insane.
 

In my lifetime

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I would think a system that might make a little more sense and make tanking less likely for all but the true bottom feeders would be to lock the spots in the lottery order according to the standings on March 1st (or even Feb 15th). More teams would be in the hunt for a playoff spot and thus less likely to tank.The end of the season could be for development of players, their system, attempting to make the playoffs and just getting better vs. improving the number of lottery balls. One would hope that games would be a little more interesting to watch late in the season
 

Eddie Jurak

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I'd like to see Mike Zarren's wheel.

Failing that, I'd like to see a cap on the number of lottery ball combinations a team can have in a span of X years, to get rid of the perrential bottom feeders.
 

sezwho

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Failing that, I'd like to see a cap on the number of lottery ball combinations a team can have in a span of X years, to get rid of the perrential bottom feeders.
Yeah, that is certainly more realistic than my suggestion. I've thought teams should be precluded from having back-to-back lottery picks but perhaps that is too punitive. Perhaps a top 5 pick means you can draft no better than 6th the next year.
 

moondog80

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I'd like to see Mike Zarren's wheel.

Failing that, I'd like to see a cap on the number of lottery ball combinations a team can have in a span of X years, to get rid of the perrential bottom feeders.
All hell will break loose the first time a dominant team adds a can't miss first overall pick. Remember how people freaked out when the Magic got the first pick the year after drafting Shaq? After that happened they changed the weights to make it more likely the worst team would get the first pick. At one point it was completely unweighted, but that was deemed unfair as well.

The system we have now is imperfect but it's close to as good as it's going to get.
 

cumicon

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Not sure where I saw this, but my favorite anti tanking idea is to make it so no team has their own pick. Instead, the team with the worst record (I'd be up for keeping the lottery format as well) at the end of the season gets first choice on which team's pick they get in the following year, and proceed down the line. It eliminates tanking and increases fan interest in the team that holds their pick that year.
 

moondog80

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Not sure where I saw this, but my favorite anti tanking idea is to make it so no team has their own pick. Instead, the team with the worst record (I'd be up for keeping the lottery format as well) at the end of the season gets first choice on which team's pick they get in the following year, and proceed down the line. It eliminates tanking and increases fan interest in the team that holds their pick that year.

I like it in theory but it's probably too gimmicky. There's also the issue of how to initiate it. In year 1, does the team get both it's own pick and the right to pick next year? So if that was now, the Celtics get the Nets' pick AND the 1st crack at deciding whose pick they get next year? And that's just the value of the 2017 pick swap, not taking into account the Nets' pick in 2018.
 

teddykgb

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Not sure where I saw this, but my favorite anti tanking idea is to make it so no team has their own pick. Instead, the team with the worst record (I'd be up for keeping the lottery format as well) at the end of the season gets first choice on which team's pick they get in the following year, and proceed down the line. It eliminates tanking and increases fan interest in the team that holds their pick that year.
Maybe I'm not understanding but in what scenario would this not result in what is effectively a simple reverse ordering of teams by record? Why would the team with the worst record ever not choose the #1 pick? Wouldn't teams still tank in order to get the opportunity to pick?
 

sezwho

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If I understand it properly, Its because the pick you are choosing is awarded the following year.

My scrapping the draft and treating incoming players as FA will never happen, but a simple tweak prohibiting back to back top 5 picks is pretty compelling. If you end up with a top 5 pick the second year, its moved to 6th and everyone else sorts out around it.
 

Jed Zeppelin

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I would love to see a GM choose his own team to be the worst the following year. Probably only Hinkie would have had the gall to outsource his tank to himself.
 

moondog80

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I would love to see a GM choose his own team to be the worst the following year. Probably only Hinkie would have had the gall to outsource his tank to himself.
Presumably that would not be allowed, unless it's the last pick of the round and it's the only pick left (which would probably happen with Golden State this year).
 
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Hmmm... anti-tanking idea: lottery like it is now, only the weighting is determined by the record before the All-Star break, rather than the whole season. Furthermore, the 8th playoff spot goes to the team with the best record in the second half that isn't already in the playoffs.

At least that way teams have no incentive to bail out on the second half -- everyone wants to play spoiler. Furthermore, bad teams have an additional incentive to makes moves and play hard in the second half. A possible Philly-Cleveland season would have been eminently watchable this year.
 

Devizier

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I've always favored financial penalties for bad teams. Make them big enough to dissuade tanking (e.g millions per year). That will end tanking tout suite while allowing bad teams a fair chance to rebuild with the draft.
 

DrewDawg

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Any chance that the interesting tanking/draft idea talk could be broken out?
 

cumicon

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Maybe I'm not understanding but in what scenario would this not result in what is effectively a simple reverse ordering of teams by record? Why would the team with the worst record ever not choose the #1 pick? Wouldn't teams still tank in order to get the opportunity to pick?
The team with with the worst record gets first choice at whose pick they receive in the following year. For instance, if the Nets finish with the worst record this year (forget the Celtics pick swap) they would choose among teams like the Lakers, 76ers, Suns, Kings for whose pick they receive in 2018 since they are most likely to be at the top of the lottery in 2018.
 

cumicon

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I like it in theory but it's probably too gimmicky. There's also the issue of how to initiate it. In year 1, does the team get both it's own pick and the right to pick next year? So if that was now, the Celtics get the Nets' pick AND the 1st crack at deciding whose pick they get next year? And that's just the value of the 2017 pick swap, not taking into account the Nets' pick in 2018.
Implementing it would be a problem. It would probably have to be some kind of random lottery, possibly weighted to prevent top teams from getting a high pick.
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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The team with with the worst record gets first choice at whose pick they receive in the following year. For instance, if the Nets finish with the worst record this year (forget the Celtics pick swap) they would choose among teams like the Lakers, 76ers, Suns, Kings for whose pick they receive in 2018 since they are most likely to be at the top of the lottery in 2018.
Teams would still tank to make sure they got the first pick of the teams for next year.

The only way to avoid tanking is to remove any incentive for being the worst team in the league; however, the draft is supposed to be a way to make bad teams better so there is a needle to be threaded here.
 

smastroyin

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The problem is the the draft and the idea of parity, is counter to everything else the NBA does (the soft cap, the supermax, etc.) in terms of player equity. This is why so many people just want to draft until you get a superstar then build around them. Because superstar movement is rare, and superstars have an outsized effect on games.

I don't think you can abolish the draft and make amateurs FAs without also getting rid of Bird rights and installing a hard cap or a more stringent luxury tax. With the latter two, it would also be great to get rid of the max. There is no reason for LeBron James, Al Horford, Demar DeRozan, and Mike Conley to all be making similar money (I know LeBron makes more, but it's not enough more)
 

bosox79

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The max contract is here to stay. It is definitely not going to be abolished anytime soon because it benefits 95% of the players in the NBA.
 

the moops

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The biggest hurdle towards changing the draft is the fact that teams have made major trades involving future draft picks with the current system in mind.
 

NoXInNixon

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Is tanking even really a problem? Would people care about Suns games if they were trying to win?
 

smastroyin

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The max contract is here to stay. It is definitely not going to be abolished anytime soon because it benefits 95% of the players in the NBA.
Right, but if the players and the league don't care about parity, then they shouldn't care about tanking either.

If everything else about the system is fine, then get rid of the stupid lottery, which is a dumb way of introducing another element of luck to the system that has nothing to do with results on the court, and may actually encourage more tanking.
 

lexrageorge

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Is tanking even really a problem? Would people care about Suns games if they were trying to win?
I agree it's not a real problem that's worth solving. Other than a completely random draw, there will always be an incentive to find a way towards a higher draft pick. Disbanding the draft will just create other problems elsewhere.
 

joe dokes

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Right, but if the players and the league don't care about parity, then they shouldn't care about tanking either.

If everything else about the system is fine, then get rid of the stupid lottery, which is a dumb way of introducing another element of luck to the system that has nothing to do with results on the court, and may actually encourage more tanking.

This makes some sense to me. The lottery is like the reverse wildcard. Gives many more teams hopes of getting the top pick. So more teams try. The idea may have been good "Dont tank, you may still not get the #1 pick", but it seems not to be working. Like any lottery, people play who have no business doing so.

For historical context's sake, the first draft I remember was after the 68-69 season. The bottom teams in the East and West flipped a coin. Milwaukee 27-55, won the flip and took Kareem. Phoenix 16-66, took Neal Walk, who didn't suck, but wasn't Kareem. The draft was also 10 rounds or more.
 

tims4wins

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This makes some sense to me. The lottery is like the reverse wildcard. Gives many more teams hopes of getting the top pick. So more teams try. The idea may have been good "Dont tank, you may still not get the #1 pick", but it seems not to be working. Like any lottery, people play who have no business doing so.

For historical context's sake, the first draft I remember was after the 68-69 season. The bottom teams in the East and West flipped a coin. Milwaukee 27-55, won the flip and took Kareem. Phoenix 16-66, took Neal Walk, who didn't suck, but wasn't Kareem. The draft was also 10 rounds or more.
Maybe the solution then is that only the worst X amount of teams are eligible for the #1 pick. I don't know what that optimal # is, maybe 3. But it would discourage some tanking, at the least.
 

the moops

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Maybe the solution then is that only the worst X amount of teams are eligible for the #1 pick. I don't know what that optimal # is, maybe 3. But it would discourage some tanking, at the least.
I doubt this would do anything. The only teams that are currently in full on tank mode are LAL and PHX
 

cumicon

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Teams would still tank to make sure they got the first pick of the teams for next year.

The only way to avoid tanking is to remove any incentive for being the worst team in the league; however, the draft is supposed to be a way to make bad teams better so there is a needle to be threaded here.
If the lottery system was still intact as well, I think the type of tanking where coaches and front offices are intentionally trying to lose would be all but gone. The chance of landing the better pick in the following year from the 5th worst record to the 1st worst record would be fairly insignificant.
 

joe dokes

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The problem (No kidding) is 2 mutually exclusive goals. Giving the worst team the best draft while also dissuading teams from losing on purpose. I think shrinking the pool of teams eligible for the first group goes in that direction.
I've never understood why a team that finishes as high as 14th worst should have *any* shot at the #1 pick.
 

JakeRae

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Is tanking even really a problem? Would people care about Suns games if they were trying to win?
Nope. Also, teams in all sports with drafts tank at the end of the season, if we define tanking as playing young players at the expense of caring about winning. This will remain rational behavior even without an incentive to lose. Bad teams, and we are only talking about bad teams, don't gain anything by trying to win a handful of extra games at the expense of gaining experience for young players. To prove this point, does anyone besides Celtics fans care about the Nets this year?
 

moly99

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All of the proposed "fixes" ignore the fundamental reality that the problem with the NBA is not the bottom, but the middle.

The NFL, NHL and MLB don't even have a lottery and they don't have a problem with tanking. Only in the NBA do teams intentionally sabotage themselves and deliberately construct teams designed to lose. Why? Because 1) teams in those sports can easily rebuild through marginal improvements, and 2) you have a realistic shot at the title as a wildcard in baseball or even the NFL. The Giants and Packers have won championships as wildcards in the past decade. Meanwhile a number 8 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the playoffs since the NBA went to best of seven for the first series. Being a 8 or 7 seed essentially means "enjoy your 2-3 home playoff games and then GTFO."

The NBA is a superstar driven league. It is really, really hard to win a title without a top 25 player. Everyone mentions the Pistons as a team that did it, but Rasheed Wallace had the talent of a hall of fame player even if he didn't use it very well.

As long as players like Lebron, Durant and Steph are paid 1/2 their market values thanks to the idiotic max contracts, some teams are going to tank to try to get a superstar. Even if the NBA switches to a system where teams get no benefit for losing some teams would still trade away their assets to stockpile picks, since there is essentially no point in improving a 20 win team to a 40 win team anyway.
 

MainerInExile

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That's a great post. I have no idea why people worry so much about tanking, and so little about parity. You have to give bad teams a way to get better.
 

Papelbon's Poutine

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All of the proposed "fixes" ignore the fundamental reality that the problem with the NBA is not the bottom, but the middle.

The NFL, NHL and MLB don't even have a lottery and they don't have a problem with tanking. Only in the NBA do teams intentionally sabotage themselves and deliberately construct teams designed to lose. Why? Because 1) teams in those sports can easily rebuild through marginal improvements, and 2) you have a realistic shot at the title as a wildcard in baseball or even the NFL. The Giants and Packers have won championships as wildcards in the past decade. Meanwhile a number 8 seed has never beaten a 1 seed in the playoffs since the NBA went to best of seven for the first series. Being a 8 or 7 seed essentially means "enjoy your 2-3 home playoff games and then GTFO."

The NBA is a superstar driven league. It is really, really hard to win a title without a top 25 player. Everyone mentions the Pistons as a team that did it, but Rasheed Wallace had the talent of a hall of fame player even if he didn't use it very well.

As long as players like Lebron, Durant and Steph are paid 1/2 their market values thanks to the idiotic max contracts, some teams are going to tank to try to get a superstar. Even if the NBA switches to a system where teams get no benefit for losing some teams would still trade away their assets to stockpile picks, since there is essentially no point in improving a 20 win team to a 40 win team anyway.
NHL has a lottery as well. And while I agree with your overall point, the NFL has gotten to the point where I don't think it's all that different than the NBA to have the top pick, simply because it's so QB driven and if you catch it the right year - "Suck for Luck" - you can turn it around and be at least competitive immediately. Superstars in the NBA make a huge difference but it's usually takes a few years. QBs are no different. I think the biggest difference is there's so little impactful talent in the NBA draft overall, but that's tampered by the smaller rosters.

I have no issue with the current playoff structure, even if you're a 7/8 seed with no chance, making the playoffs gives your fans some hope, puts some money in the coffers and is a learning experience for your young guys. NBA and NHL I think are unique in that aspect, that even a 'one and done' can be used as a building block for your younger guys to get a taste.

As to tanking, as others have mentioned, I don't see the issue and I think the lottery is fucking stupid. If the argument is that it's a poor product for fans, well, get better fans that realize you're better off shitting then bed for a year or two and rebuilding as opposed to wasting time and money being mediocre. Suck it up for a couple seasons. I'm pretty sure that Astros fans are ok with the process now. Whether or not Hinke's plan works in Philly, doesn't mean he was wrong. And if ownership is willing to take short term hits - and let's be honest, most $ teams make now is on league wide media deals - then they should do it. Doesn't mean it will always pan out, but it's better than wasting money on marginal veterans to get you to the middle with no real chance of anything to make it look like you're doing something.
 

sezwho

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That's a great post. I have no idea why people worry so much about tanking, and so little about parity. You have to give bad teams a way to get better.
I'm interpreting this statement to mean that teams need an additional way to improve beyond competing in the free market for GMs, coaches, and free agents. I can see this was once necessary, but with small market success and the propagation of multimedia opportunities I don't think it needs to be any longer - the max contract problem excepted.

Molly's suggestion of eliminating max contracts solves so many problems. If Lebron made $45m then it would be nearly impossible to also pay Kyrie and Kevin Love their worth. Talent would shuffle as elite players moved to a team that could pay them their fair value. Smarter GMs would optimize efficiently. Thus, hopefully competing in the free market would be enough

Its true that winning an NBA championship is nearly impossible without a top 25 (or better) player. This system encourages teams to wallow around in the mire while they wait for fortune to smile on them. It disincentives achievement and rewards luck instead.

As the max contract issue would be tricky to sell (though I love it), the simplest is still to simply legislate you can't have a top 5 pick in back to back years. Go ahead and bottom out, but have a plan to complete a rebuild via the bootstraps.
 

MainerInExile

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I'm interpreting this statement to mean that teams need an additional way to improve beyond competing in the free market for GMs, coaches, and free agents. I can see this was once necessary, but with small market success and the propagation of multimedia opportunities I don't think it needs to be any longer - the max contract problem excepted.

Molly's suggestion of eliminating max contracts solves so many problems. If Lebron made $45m then it would be nearly impossible to also pay Kyrie and Kevin Love their worth. Talent would shuffle as elite players moved to a team that could pay them their fair value. Smarter GMs would optimize efficiently. Thus, hopefully competing in the free market would be enough

Its true that winning an NBA championship is nearly impossible without a top 25 (or better) player. This system encourages teams to wallow around in the mire while they wait for fortune to smile on them. It disincentives achievement and rewards luck instead.

As the max contract issue would be tricky to sell (though I love it), the simplest is still to simply legislate you can't have a top 5 pick in back to back years. Go ahead and bottom out, but have a plan to complete a rebuild via the bootstraps.
Yeah, that's exactly my point. If you're going to remove bottoming out and building through the draft as a viable way of getting better, then the league should be providing some alternative way of getting better.

The best regular season team in history signs at top-5 player in the league as a free agent, and yet people think tanking is the league's biggest structural problem? To me, parity is a way way bigger issue.