The NBA Lottery is Not Doing its Job

For the sixth year in a row, the team that finished with the worst record in the NBA will not pick first in the NBA draft, to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on June 26 and 27.

Not only that, but the Detroit Pistons, who have finished worst overall both this season and last, will pick fifth again this year, after also having selected fifth in 2023.

The cause of this is that there is too much "parity" in the draft: since 2019, the three worst teams have each gotten a 14% chance at landing the top pick, with the four "play-in" losers also having a chance at getting it since 2020.

The total number of chances for all of the lottery teams is currently 1,000.

But what if this was reduced to a more manageable 100 chances (there were only 66 total chances in the 1993 lottery) and the play-in losers are excluded from the lottery (but concomitantly awarded shares in the postseason player's pool, equal to roughly one-third of the shares earned by the eight losers in the conference quarterfinals)?

This is what the number of chances for each lottery team could look like:

Team with worst record = 25 chances
Team with second-worst record = 20 chances
Team with third-worst record = 16 chances
Team with fourth-worst record = 12 chances
Team with fifth-worst record = 9 chances
Team with sixth-worst record = 7 chances
Team with seventh-worst record = 5 chances
Team with eighth-worst record = 3 chances
Team with ninth-worst record = 2 chances
Team with best record = 1 chance

In the event of any ties at the end of the regular season, the applicable tie-breaking procedures used to break ties for playoff spots and playoff seeds should pertain. (Presently, tied teams split the number of chances to which they are collectively entitled; should this not result in an equal division, the dreaded coin flip is held to determine which team gets the odd pick). If two (or more) non-playoff, non-play-in teams finish with the same record and neither won a lottery pick, the team with the inferior tie-breaker picks before the other team(s) in the first round, then the team with the superior tie-breaker picks before the other(s) in the second round (the NFL also does this).

A team — the Pistons in this case — must be presumed innocent until proven guilty of tanking games in order to obtain a higher draft choice (and maybe the NBA should consider adding a third — and perhaps even a fourth — round to the draft).

Such a format would strike the perfect balance between preserving the integrity of the game, and giving every team a fair shot to improve.

The Mets were "endearing" 60 years ago. These Pistons are not.

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