Monday, October 27, 2014

The 42 of the NBA lottery

Hello everybody,

I think I just found the perfect (albeit crazy) solution how we can fix several things that are wrong about the NBA: Let us support the mediocre teams instead of the incompetent!

Before I explain my idea, first the status quo:

  • The goal of every team is to win a title. Therefore, you need to get good players, small markets are the most likely to get good players at the draft. Therefore it is good to be bad.
  • The problem with one good player is, that he is usually not good enough to give you a title. Unless his name is LeBron or Tim Duncan, your typical number one pick does not necessarily lead to being a title contender. Therefore, you need to be bad for several years. Which is not easy if you just drafted a good player
  • Let's face it: A general number one pick cannot make you a title contender. It makes you at best an eighth seed, aka 'the place where you do not want to be'
  • For an eighth seed on the other hand, a number one pick could be exactly what the team needs to make it a title contender
  • Over the last years, I have heard several times that a team is dumb for trying to be a number 8 seed. Examples are the Bucks of the last years, or the Hawks every year. Or the Pacers this year. 'This is a lost year, the team should just give up!' and the likes
  • Last year I heard several times 'these scrappy Suns should deserve the number one pick for trying so hard!'
  • I think that every smart basketball organization can become mediocre in 3 years. Even if the team would play in the depth of hell or any other place in North Dakota (hell actually might give you a huge home court advantage)
  • Furthermore, the lottery system leads to 30% of teams waving the white flag after less than half of the season. Hell, 30% of teams probably even wave the white flag before the season
  • This does not happen in European leagues, du to relegation. The last teams are even the one that fight the hardest to win. I know, this is not possible in the US system that in general likes to have neither poor nor rich people - sorry, I'll stop my bad jokes now...
I guess you get the by now. What I will propose might sound crazy, but I think it makes a lot of sense. It might need some tinkering, but my idea is to change the number of 'ping pong balls' in a way, that the number one seed of each conference gets one ball, the 2 seed to and so on, up until the number 9 seed, who would get 9. The number 10 seed gets 8, 11 gets 7 until the last place team of each conference gets 3 balls.
As before, the lottery decides picks 1 to 3 and afterwards the worst team that did not get pick 1 to 3 gets pick 4 and so on. The curve would be quite flat. It would give the highest 2 seeds and lowest seed of each conference a less than 2 percent chance to get the number one pick. 10 teams would have very similar excitement with around 5% probability of getting the next big thing. It is better if the curve is relatively flat, because like that times always want to be better. The momentary lottery situation is like trying to optimize something and then putting strict thresholds into the system that penalize you if you try too hard (that was as good of a nerd metaphor as they get).
As I said, there could be some tinkering, especially with the high places. But for a few reasons I would not make a cutoff for the very high seeds. First, cutoffs are always a bit stupid, as they severely penalize anybody that barely crossed it. See making fun of the Atlanta Hawks under the momentary conditions. Second, with the new CBA, its almost impossible to make a superduper team out of a super team for an extended period of time. And third (in all caps) HOW CRAZY WOULD IT BE IF THE SPURS WOULD GET A NUMBER ONE PICK!?
But back to serious, just imagine that the Suns had Jabari Parker or the Timberwolves had Andrew Wiggins - AND Kevin Love. Wouldn't that be way more fascinating than trying to play the game 'is it a 76ers player or is it a janitor?'

I guess you get the idea, but let me know what you think. (Preferably on Twitter @SportsTribution as I usually forget to check for comments...)


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