The NBA made changes to its draft lottery system over the offseason, changing the odds for teams to land certain picks to dissuade teams from tanking.
The change was a minor one that got approved overwhelmingly, voted 28-1, with just one member of the board of governors abstaining — Mark Cuban.
According to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, if Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks, had had his way, the NBA draft would have been radically changed with one of his two ideas.
Cuban’s first idea truly would have overhauled the entire system. Cuban reportedly pitched abolishing the draft altogether, and giving teams a money pool based on their final record. It would be a free agency for rookies, and teams with the most money, the worst teams, could bid on the most prized rookies.
It apparently didn’t make it far.
“Nobody liked that at all, not a single person,” Cuban told MacMahon.
Cuban’s second idea was less radical, but still would have changed how late-season games work for lottery teams. Cuban pitched locking the team with the worst record into the third or fourth pick, ensuring bad teams would still compete to avoid picking third or fourth.
“Now all of the sudden, if it’s close at the end, you’re going to see teams play as hard as they can because if they end up with the worst record, they don’t get the best pick,” Cuban said. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reportedly was not into it, and Cuban decided not to pitch it to the Board of Governors.
“I brought up [the other proposal], but after that one got shot down, I didn’t bring up the other one,” Cuban said. “When I got no response on the one, I just dropped the other because it was obvious that what they had proposed was going to pass.”
In the new system, the three teams with the worst records will share a 14% chance at landing the top pick in the draft. Previously, the odds went in descending order from 25% to 19% to 14%. Additionally, the last-place team can’t drop lower than fifth, a change from fourth in the previous system, the second-to-worst team can’t drop lower than sixth, and so on.
“It’s OK,” Cuban said of the new system, “but you still have the best chance of getting the best pick if you have the worst record. The hope is if you’re one of the bottom three, you’re going to try. Now, if you’re one of the bottom three, the odds are all the same. It doesn’t get any better if you get any worse, and that’s OK, but you’re still going to try to tank to get a chance at the best pick.”
Lottery reform doesn’t seem likely to come up again any time soon, but if the league still experiences problems with tanking, perhaps some owners will open up to Cuban’s more radical ideas.