(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Thoughts Regarding How to Avoid Tanking in the NBA

In various international soccer leagues, the bottom teams of the top league can get "relegated" to the second-tier league.  For example, in the English Premier League, if you finish in the bottom three, you get relegated to the Championship League.  No one wants that for his team.

Professional leagues in the U.S. aren't set up that way, but perhaps the NBA can take a page out of the "relegation" book.  Today, I'm watching the Fulham-Norwich match, which is compelling because Fulham right now is in the relegation zone (18th of 20 teams) while Norwich is 17th.  The game is exciting because both teams are trying not to get relegated, and I would submit that a game between two "mid-table" teams (i.e., middle of the pack) isn't as exciting because those teams don't have a chance to win the league or get relegated.

In the NBA, whose season is too long already, the top teams are trying to get healthy for the playoffs, while the bottom teams are content to lose so as to increase their chances for as high a first-round pick as possible in the draft, which is one of the deepest in years.  While the lottery was intended to prevent outright tanking (because the worst team isn't guaranteed the first pick, just one of the first three), the poor squads that some teams have fielded are just not watchable, and what league wants to have in its ranks a team that almost deliberately loses 26 straight because of a potentially lucrative draft?

Do away with the lottery, then, in one of two ways.  Either automatically disqualify the worst two teams from getting the top three picks and have a lottery among the next four or create a one-and-done playoff system at year's end among the worst eight teams to determine draft seeding -- whoever wins the mini-tournament gets the first pick, the loser of the title game gets the second pick and so forth.  How teams fare will determine who plays its games at home.  And, if you're not in the bottom eight, you'll end up with the 9th, 10th or 11th pick in order of your record.

Or, as I sometimes write, something like that.  The disqualification system will punish tankers because they cannot get the first pick; the playoff system will give eight teams a chance to play for the first pick. Either way, the team that fields a bad team purposefully will not get rewarded.

It's a simple proposition -- the league should not reward losing as winning, which is what they're doing with the current set up.


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