This week, the NBA announced a lottery-reform plan to cut down on tanking. From now on, the three teams with the league’s worst records will have identical 14 percent chances at the first overall pick, as opposed to the previous system in which the worst team had 25 percent odds and each subsequent team had slightly a lower shot.
But Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has a different, slightly more radical, plan for fixing the league’s tanking problem: do away with the draft entirely. Via ESPN:
“I’d get rid of it, just get rid of the draft altogether,” Van Gundy told reporters after practice Friday. “We’d just deal with the salary cap. Make all [rookies] free agents coming in, and if I want to go give a guy $50 million a year, good, but I got to do it under the cap.”
Eliminating the draft would make tanking obsolete, while also giving rookies the same freedom to choose where they work that just about everyone else in America enjoys. Yes, competitive balance might suffer a little bit, but the salary cap would prevent a couple teams from grabbing all the top rookies, and some high-profile newbies would presumably choose to join lesser teams where they could assume bigger roles.
As Van Gundy points out…
“They say everybody would want to go to L.A. Well, how much money are they going to give up to go to those places?” Van Gundy said.
The Comeback’s Michael Grant made a similar argument earlier this month.
You don’t need a draft to run a sports league. The draft basically exists for two reasons: controlling player costs and for marketing purposes. The draft sets a limit on what the incoming workforce is going to be paid. Why? Because the owners don’t trust themselves when it comes to spending for talent.
The draft is also used to hype the league. It has always been more of an infomercial than an event. Mock drafts, the actual draft and players in suits are strictly for the fan base to feed upon. Did your team get better? Maybe. Maybe not. But for now, let’s all celebrate the hope that Team X has selected guy with upside.
Not only can sports exist without all this, but the draft is inherently un-American and anti-capitalism. In what other occupation are you forced to work for a designated employer?
Of course, the NBA’s teams would never agree to eliminate the draft because it gives them infinite leverage in salary talks. Allowing rookies to negotiate with as many teams as they want would almost certainly result in higher salaries. But if the NBA is serious about eliminating tanking (while also creating a more equitable entry system), Van Gundy has the right idea.