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Lottery Reform Fails - A look at the impact to the Lakers and Suns picks

Derick E. Hingle-US PRESSWIRE

The NBA fully expected to be able to pass lottery reforms this week, but the Phoenix Suns were one of 13 teams to surprisingly vote "no" on the proposition that would have improved middling lottery teams' chances to jump into the Top 6 next June.

The prevailing thought is the small-to-mid market teams did not want to give the big markets any more opportunities to jump start their franchises, and there was some worry that these proposed reforms ran the risk of doing just that.

For the Suns, that decision had to be a tough one.

Late lotto

As a team that has drafted 13 or 14 in four of the past six drafts (2009 - Earl Clark, 2011 - Markieff Morris, 2012 - Kendall Marshall, 2014 - T.J. Warren) and is predicted to do so again this coming season, the proposed lottery reforms would have more than tripled the Suns chances of jumping into a Top 6 position.


So you would think the Suns would vote "yes" on reform, right?

Yahoo! Sports journalist Adrian Wojnarowski postulated that some teams don't like the reform because it could entice the playoff bubblers, like the Suns, to tank the end of the season because they have a better chance of jumping into the top 6 than they used to have. Sure, but that's a lot of tanking. You have to get into the 11 range just to make it worth your while.

Would you really tank the last two weeks of a playoff race just because your chances of jumping to the Top 6 are in the 4-12% range?

Think about last season. The Suns spent the last month of the season fighting to stay in the playoff race and only dropped into 9th in the final week and could have made the playoffs with two more wins. No reason to suddenly tank at that point. Can you imagine the Suns benching everyone for the Spurs, Mavs and Grizzlies games just to cement their 4% chance at a Top 6 pick?

Or, maybe you are the Timberwolves, who were "locked" into the 13th position for what felt like most of the season. Do they tank the final month to maybe drop to 12th and gain 4% higher chance at jumping up?

Sure, there might be some late-season maneuvering, but there always was some of that due to pick protections anyway. If the Suns would have dropped down close to the Wolves in wins last season, you might have seen Kevin Love some down with an injury in the final week to ensure the Wolves kept their 13th overall selection (Suns would have gotten their pick if it were 14th). But then again, if the Wolves chances of jumping up were higher they might not be as worried about positioning.

Early lotto

Where the 13 "no" teams really struggled, though, was likely because of the impact to the 6-11 picks. While NBA front office folks were excited about the better possibilities to play roulette with the Top 5 picks, the new odds would have made the 6-11 range too much of a crap shoot.

From the Suns' perspective, that's the Lakers pick.


For those who watched the Suns take on the Lakers in a (meaningless) preseason game in which Ronnie Price (yes, that Ronnie Price) put up 10 assists for the Lake Show to help force overtime, you might have been excited for lottery reform.

The Phoenix Suns get the Lakers' first round draft pick next year as long as the Lakers don't end up with a Top 5 pick after the lottery balls bounce. With lottery reform, that would have become a lot dicier.

If you think the Lakers are going to be bottom-five awful, you have to like that the proposed Suns chances of getting their pick went up from almost nil to the 34-45% range. Yippee!

But if you believe the Lakers will be somewhat competitive this season, the Suns chances to get their pick take a dip with this reform. If the Lakers finish anywhere in the 6-11 range based on record, the Suns chances of getting their pick would have taken a huge hit.

It all depends on your perspective. But the Suns, apparently, decided that the devil you know (today's odds) is better than the devil you don't (proposed odds).

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