In the space of 24 hours, two of the worst managed teams in the NBA made moves —or said things— that caused pundits to shake their heads and wonder if the current draft lottery system, even with its “reforms”, is working.
First, Knicks coach David Fizdale described New York’s derelict season this way: “It went according to plan,” suggesting that tanking —a strategy of losing night in, night out— had worked, that getting a 14 percent chance at Zion Williamson was worth all that pain.
As Stefan Bondy tweeted...
Just think about this — the Knicks are now telling fans that the plan was to have the worst record in franchise history. And that’s fine. https://t.co/LkPssZEMgv— Stefan Bondy (@SBondyNYDN) April 22, 2019
Then, overnight, the team with the second worst record in the NBA fired its head coach so they could hire Monty Williams, the 76ers assistant also being pursued by the Lakers. Here’s Kevin O’Connor’s take on the Suns’ “strategy.”
The Suns fired their coach and GM in consecutive Octobers, picked Ayton over Doncic after hiring Doncic's national team coach, fired him in less than a year, and have made countless short-sighted decisions that stem from their Mad King owner. Nothing bad the Suns do is a shocker.— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) April 23, 2019
Still, both will be rewarded next month with an equal chance at a transformational player or two. Is this any way to run a Draft? Rewarding bad management? Kevin Pelton of ESPN suggests that no, a better way may be to reward competence, citing the Nets rebuild. The story, headlined “Are the Nets dispelling the need for an NBA draft lottery?,” suggests the NBA needs a different model.
Pelton first gets into a detailed recitation of how Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson brought the Nets back from the dead in record time. He notes that the biggest piece, the most shrewd move, was acquiring D’Angelo Russell describing him as “the best prospect possibly available via trade,” a then 21-year-old who was the No. 2 pick only two years earlier. (He also calls the trade for Allen Crabbe “a rare miscue” by Marks.)
Pelton then suggests the Nets rebuild should give the NBA some food for thought regarding the lottery.
The Nets still represent an exception that shouldn’t be possible if high draft picks are truly necessary for losing teams to rebuild. And that has caused me to rethink my position on the lottery. Whether directly or via lottery, giving top picks to bad teams creates all sorts of problems for the NBA -- specifically teams tanking either part of a season or, in the case of the 76ers, multiple seasons in order to collect promising young talent via the draft. Nobody wants that, but defenders of the status quo (a group I’ve vocally been part of) have pointed out that it’s necessary to give fans of these losing teams reason to hope for the future and a chance to eventually compete.
I’ll concede I’m no longer certain that’s actually true.
Perhaps, he suggests a “wheel” that would assign picks using a fixed rotation over time might work better than having bad teams be rewarded for a strategy of losing as much as possible,
“Maybe encouraging teams to follow Brooklyn’s lead is a better idea,” he concludes.
- Are the Nets dispelling the need for an NBA draft lottery? - Kevin Pelton - ESPN+