Listeners to the RealGM Radio podcast are hopefully aware of the special podcast that is coming down the pike one of the next two weeks, but it felt best to set the table for everyone.
As someone who believes the NBA can do better, I always intended to use the podcast to bring in intelligent and proactive people to help discuss ways to improve the league. One of the biggest problems has been the flawed process that new players come into the NBA. Using a term more broad than “the lottery” proves necessary because proposals to fix the system can be much bigger than just tweaks to that part. While I have not asked any of my guests what their desired solutions are ahead of time, the whole process should be examined and considered for improvements even if we end up right where we started.
When considering my own preferences on the matter, one question loomed over the entire process and does not get nearly enough discussion:
Should the process by which new players are added to the NBA serve the aim of balancing and/or equalizing talent?
While no right or wrong answers exist to this question, it looms over every potential outcome, including the status quo.
Those who feel that making the league more balanced (or less top-heavy) should be one objective of the system will likely favor proposals that factor in components like record either from a single season or over the course of multiple years like the present system or a more straight record order like the NFL employs. Critics of these kinds of proposals will say that they will encourage teams to deliberately lose, though some ideas in this general grouping have methods of reducing that incentive.
Those who feel that the method of bringing new players into the league should not account for these factors would be more inclined to support an equal weight lottery or “The Wheel” proposal Zach Lowe reported on for Grantland. Critics of these kinds of proposals will argue that they will only increase the distance between the haves and the have nots and make the league as whole less competitive and interesting.
Additionally, there can be a middle ground between the two, including the modification to “The Wheel” Bills Simmons discusses on his podcast where teams are systematically put in one section of the wheel and ordered within that section or a differently weighted but not equally weighted lottery, such as one that gives non-playoff teams equal chances of getting the #1 pick.
The beauty of an intellectual discussion like this is that there are no wrong answers but every one of us must be open about our preference on this central question in order to fairly and completely discuss potential options and solutions.