Reforming the Draft Lottery to Discourage Tanking

Tanking in the NBA divides fans like few other issues because the most desirable long-term goal (championship) is advanced by one of the least desirable short-term actions (working towards losses at the end of a losing regular season). The signs of tanking can include:
_ coaches making "defeatist" in-game decisions
_ coaches playing less winning lineups
_ an organization decides not to rush a key player back from injury, or, conversely, shelves a player who could play through discomfort and pain

If you believe the most dangerous form of censorship is self-censorship, the worst form of losing is tanking. This writer nicely summarizes the problems that follow on the heels of tanking, then proposes a dreadful solution. Here's a proposed overhaul to discourage tanking.

1. The draft lottery adds an additional pick and runs #1-15.

2. Lottery teams automatically enter into a one-and-done tournament, effectively an NBA consolation Sweet 16. They are seeded by winning %.

3. The playoff #8 seeds (currently Lakers and Bucks) decide between the playoffs or consolation tournament, a shot at a championship or an additional lottery pick. If one or both select the playoffs, consolation tournament reseeding occurs.

The Lakers and Bucks choose to face the Spurs and Heat, respectively. Consolation tournament seeding would look like (as of TU, 3/19): #1 Utah, #2 Dallas, #3 Portland, #4 Philadelphia and so on down to #14, with Utah and Dallas receiving a 1st rd bye. And if the Lakers and Bucks opted in to the consolation tournament, the Spurs and Heat would receive 1st rd playoff byes.

4. The consolation tournament champion receives the additional lottery pick and in the award ceremony discovers its order #1-15. A formula determines odds, generally the team will have earned a mid-lottery pick (7-10).

5. To accommodate the consolation tournament and ensure it wraps up before the playoffs begin, the regular season is shortened from 82 to 76 games.

6. There would be a delayed phase-in so that teams with contingent draft picks (i.e. "top 10 protected in 2013, top 8 protected in 2014...") based on the current #1-14 model would not be impacted.

7. The 2nd rd of the NBA draft would go from #31-61. The team with the highest regular season winning % is bumped down one slot to #31 and does not receive a 1st rd pick.

8. The current lottery system still applies in determining draft order with the other 14 picks.

This arrangement discourages tanking because non-playoff teams late in the season will seek higher consolation tournament seeding. They will want to win more games for the better chance to acquire the additional lottery pick, potentially the #1 overall pick. And with the possibility of a 1st rd playoff bye, the pursuit of the conference #1 slot also becomes even more competitive.

This is how the 2013 NBA consolation tournament draw would look, assuming the Lakers and Bucks opted into it.
#1 Lakers v. #16 Bobcats
#2 Bucks v. #15 Magic
#3 Jazz v. #14 Hornets
#4 Mavs v. #13 Cavs
#5 Trailblazers v. #12 Pistons
#6 76ers v. #11 Suns
#7 Raptors v. #10 Kings
#8 Timberwolves v. #9 Wizards

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