NBA Approves Lottery Reform, Change Effective 2019

The NBA’s Board of Governors passed a motion to reform the draft lottery today, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN writes. The new rules will be in place for the 2019 NBA Draft.

Modifications to the lottery process were originally proposed earlier this month and include a number of strategies aimed at flattening the odds that basement dwelling teams have of landing the top pick. The idea behind the motion is to curb tanking.

Under the new rules, teams will be able to drop four places in the lottery. Previously teams could drop no more than three places, meaning that the worst team in the league would be guaranteed to pick in the top four. Now, in that same scenario, the team could fall as far as No. 5.

Beyond that, however, the odds of each team’s ping pong balls being selected have flattened dramatically, as portrayed in a tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski. Not only do the three worst teams have a lesser chance of winning the lottery, but there’s no longer any difference between finishing last, second-last or third-last when it comes to odds for the No. 1 pick.

In contrast, the team with the fourth-greatest shot at winning the lottery (ie; the fourth-worst team in the NBA) now has a better chance of landing the top pick, as does every team that finished ahead of it in the regular season with the exception of the best team in the lottery (which has the same odds as it had previously).

To demonstrate the point, consider the change in fortune that will await whatever team finishes ninth-last in the 2018/19 season. Whereas last season’s Mavs finished ninth-last and received a 2.8% chance of winning the lottery and a 10% chance of landing a top-three pick, under the new rules that team would have a 6% chance of winning the lottery and a 15% chance of landing a top-three pick.

All told, much of the incentive that middle-of-the-pack lottery clubs had of embracing a full-out tank and dropping to the bottom of the league has been reduced. Now the worst team in the league will have a 40% chance of landing a top-three pick as opposed to the 64% chance it previously had. That same team will now have a 14% chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick (vs. the 25% chance it had previously).

For a pick-by-pick breakdown of the probability changes, refer to the chart in the Wojnarowski tweet.

Another proposal formally approved by the league is one that extends commissioner Adam Silver’s authority to potentially fine teams for resting players in nationally televised games or in other select scenarios.

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