LAS VEGAS – The NBA is weighing dramatic changes to the lottery intended to further deter tanking, Grantland.com reported Wednesday, noting the shift could take effect as soon as the 2015 drawing to determine the draft order.
The proposal, different than the so-called Wheel plan that received attention early last season, calls for at least the four teams with the worst record in the league to have the same chance at landing No. 1 in the ping-pong drawing. While the odds are still open to revision from the current 11 percent, according to the Grantland story by Zach Lowe citing anonymous sources, the numbers would decrease beginning with the club with the fifth-worst finish.
The odds for the team with the best record among the lottery entrants would increase, though, a sign the league wants to give franchises scheduled to pick later a greater chance to jump to near the top on lottery night. The new terms under consideration call for a 2-percent chance to go from 14th to first, the report says, compared to .5 percent in the 2014 drawing.
The suggested plan also calls for the ping-pong balls to determine the order of the first six selections, a change from the process in place of the drawing for the top three, with teams then falling in order based on worst record.
League officials here for summer league and key meetings, including the Board of Governors gathering the day before, made it clear Wednesday that the new proposal is only in the discussion stages. The Competition Committee has not approved anything on the subject, a necessary step before it gets sent to the Board of Governors to be voted on, with the likelihood that whatever makes it out of committee would almost certainly be ratified by the Board.
NBA.com suggested a series of changes after the Cavaliers won the lottery for the second year in a row and third time in the last four tries, continuing the trend of the team with the worst record rarely getting the top pick. That fact should discourage tanking on its own. Not only is there nothing in the Grantland report that suggests the league will implement rules to stop that trend, the suggested new direction would increase the odds of teams that finished with better records, immediately after Cleveland won with a 1.7-percent chance, ninth-best, at No. 1.
Among the NBA.com suggestions in May:
*Create tiers. Hold a lottery for the teams with the worst three records to determine one through three, draw another set of ping-pong balls for the next four, then the next four, and then the next three. Or some similar combination. But no one should go from ninth-best odds to No. 1.
*Make the lottery odds based on the last two finishes, maybe longer. No one would purposely be bad two seasons in a row for what would still be the possibility of the top choice, especially when it would be more difficult to know for sure two years out who would be in the draft and who stays out. For a chance — a chance — at No. 1 when the numbers show the payoff almost never happens. The obvious drawback is that it hurts teams in transition and genuinely in need of a prime selection right away, as was the case, for example, of the Celtics going from a final playoff push with a veteran team to splitting with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen to begin the next generation. But a two-season body of work is an accurate read on a franchise, not about dealing with injuries or its ability to commit to stockpiling ping-pong balls.