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Proposed NBA lottery changes and its impact

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The NBA is expected to vote for changes in the lottery system in the draft. Here's how it affects some more than others.

Mike Stobe

Zach Lowe tweeted out potential changes in the lottery system, where each of the top four teams would see their odds reduced and lower teams would see an increase in the chances they have of landing that coveted No. 1 pick.

Essentially, the proposed changes are that each of the worst four teams would have an equal chance (12%) at getting the top pick and a chance to land a potential superstar like Kwame Brown or Anthony Bennett.

The future of Cleveland Minnesota

The main idea behind reducing odds for the worse teams is to obviously try and reduce tanking in the league. There is general consensus that this bid will be met with approval by NBA teams, with 23 votes needed to pass the bill.  Obviously there are some teams who would be seemingly opposed (Philadelphia) and may try and block the proposed change in structure (Philadelphia).  In short, the worst team can now slip as low as 7th instead of 4th under the old rules, and middle seeds (6-10) will see large increases in the odds to land a top 5 pick.

#1 pick Top 3 pick Top 5 pick
Seed Old New Diff Old New Diff Old New Diff
1st 25% 12% -13% 64.3% 35% -29.3% 100% 56.3% -43.7%
2nd 19.9% 12% -7.9% 55.8% 35% -20.8% 100% 56.3% -43.7%
3rd 15.6% 12% -3.6% 46.9% 35% -11.9% 95.9% 56.3% -39.6%
4th 11.9% 12% +0.1% 37.8% 35% -2.8% 82.8% 56.3% -26.5%
5th 8.8% 11.5% +2.7% 29.2% 33.8% +4.6% 55.3% 54.8%

-0.5%

6th 6.3% 10% +3.7% 21.5% 30% +8.5% 21.5% 49.7% +28.2%
7th 4.3% 8.5% +4.2% 15% 26% +11% 15% 44.1% +29.1%
8th 2.8% 7% +4.2% 10% 21.7% +11.7% 10% 37.7% +27.7%
9th 1.7% 5.5% +3.8% 6.1% 17.4% +11.3% 6.1% 30.9% +24.8%
10th 1.1% 4% +2.9% 4% 12.9% +8.9% 4% 23.4% +19.4%
11th 0.8% 2.5% +1.7% 2.9% 8.2% +5.3% 2.9% 15.2% +12.3%
12th 0.7% 1.5% +0.8% 2.5% 4.9% +2.4% 2.5% 9.2% +6.7%
13th 0.6% 1% +0.4% 2.2% 3.3% +1.1% 2.2% 6.3% +4.1%
14th 0.5% 0.5% 0% 1.8% 1.7% -0.1% 1.8% 3.2%

+1.4%


The above table, courtesy of our friends at Liberty Ballers, details the odds of obtaining the No. 1 pick, as well as a top 3 and top 5 pick under the old and new lottery system.  As you can see, the proposed changes would greatly benefit teams in the 6-10 range, as they have a substantial increase in the chances of getting a top 3 and/or top 5 pick.  Also, this removes a lot of the guarantee associated with having the worst record.  Previously, teams could only slip as low as 4th if they had the worst record.  Now, the worst team can possibly pick as low as 7th, therefore hopefully discouraging "strategic self-destruction."

Proposed Odds
Seed 1st Pick 2nd 3rd 4th 5th 6th 7th 8th 9th 10th 11th 12th 13th 14th
1st 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 33.8%
2nd 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 24.4% 9.5%
3rd 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 17.0% 14.8% 2.1%
4th 12% 11.7% 11.3% 10.9% 10.4% 9.8% 11.3% 17% 5.2% 0.3%
5th 11.5% 11.3% 11% 10.7% 10.3% 9.8% 7.4% 17.6% 9.1% 1.3% ~0.1%
6th 10% 10% 10% 9.9% 9.8% 9.7% 4.5% 17.8% 14.7% 3.4% 0.2% ~0.1%
7th 8.5% 8.7% 8.8% 9% 9.1% 9.3% 1.7% 15% 21.1% 7.9% 0.9% ~0.1% ~0.1%
8th 7% 7.2% 7.5% 7.8% 8.2% 8.6% 8.4% 25.8% 16.3% 2.9% 0.2% ~0.1% ~0.1%
9th 5.5% 5.8% 6.1% 6.5% 7% 7.6% 21.9% 29.9% 9% 0.8% ~0.1% ~0.1%
10th 4% 4.3% 4.6% 5% 5.5% 6.1% 40.9% 25.8% 3.6% 0.1% ~0.1%
11th 2.5% 2.7% 3% 3.3% 3.7% 4.2% 61.1% 18.3% 1.1% ~0.1%
12th 1.5% 1.6% 1.8% 2% 2.3% 2.7% 77.1% 10.7% 0.2%
13th 1% 1.1% 1.2% 1.4% 1.6% 1.8% 88% 3.9%
14th 0.5% 0.6% 0.6% 0.7% 0.8% 0.9% 95.9%

This table shows the proposed odds per pick under the new format (again courtesy of Liberty Ballers).  As you can see, the worst 3 teams have a far reduced chance of gaining the coveted top selection, whereas the middling teams in the lottery have far improved odds.  The teams in the high lottery range (11+) are fairly unaffected as their percentages rise a negligible amount, as it should be, as often those teams are on the cusp of playoff contention and don't need a franchise-changing player.

Drafting a superteam?

This is where the perceived problem is with the proposed system.  It seems to cripple the chances of the teams who have a pressing need for a potential superstar.  Under the changes, teams like Philadelphia, Utah and Orlando, who it could be argued are invested in the lottery, would have a reduced chance at the No. 1 pick.  Of course, this may encourage teams to not set up to fail, but if a team is genuinely trying to win and just aren't very good (Milwaukee) and end up with the worst record, they may end up with the 7th pick, while a decent team in the lottery (Minnesota/Phoenix) may end up with a top 3 pick and select a franchise-changing player.

This new system may however, mean draft night will be more exciting, as teams desperately try to trade up to land a good player.  A lot more incentive will be placed on draft picks, as even teams who aren't projected to be among the worst, will be more inclined to keep their draft picks as their chances of getting the No. 1 are increased.  This may have been useful in the Ben Gordon trade, and maybe it would have motivated Joe Dumars to simply amnesty Gordon instead.  It would likely also mean that teams like Phoenix and Boston wouldn't be able to hoard draft picks so easily.

Vonleh could've been a Piston if we still had the pick.

One problem I have noticed, however, is that this opens up the possibility for more superteams, and a larger gap between the top and bottom of the conference.  Imagine if this system was in place, and Phoenix landed the No. 5 pick for argument's sake.  Based on their needs, let's say they draft Randle or Vonleh.  Now you have a starting 5 of Dragic-Bledsoe-Green-Randle/Vonleh-Plumlee.  Obviously the chances of drafting a superteam is low, and the example I've just given isn't exactly a super team, but the possibility remains.  Then say Philadelphia, who have the 2nd-worst record, bomb out in the draft and get their lowest pick possible (8).  Embiid isn't available anymore, and neither is Wiggins, Parker, Randle, Exum, Smart and maybe Vonleh.  Who do they take?  Stauskas?  Payton?  Saric still?

My point in all this rabble is, while I recognize tanking is a serious issue that needs to be looked at, affecting the lottery to potentially bolster the middling teams (of which Detroit being one of them is a very real possibility) and letting the poor get poorer, is wrong.  I think that it's great that the NBA has recognized that something needs to be done, but maybe affecting the lottery odds isn't the answer.

For an alternate view, check out Liberty Ballers' perspective.