Two weeks before Tuesday’s NBA draft lottery, we took a closer look at four lottery scenarios that – based on the odds – were more likely than not to happen. As we cautioned in that story, not all of those scenarios would actually play out. For instance, the Knicks technically defied the odds by landing in the top three (40.1% chance) rather than fourth or fifth (59.1%).
However, the first scenario we outlined in that story did, in fact, play out. As we explained, there was a 45.5% chance that a team in the 5-14 range of the lottery standings would land the No. 1 overall pick, as opposed to just a 42% chance that one of the NBA’s three worst teams – the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Suns – would win the lottery.
The Pelicans, who won the first overall pick, were seventh in the lottery standings, while the Grizzlies (picking No. 2) were eighth.
Neither New Orleans nor Memphis had a great chance to move up. The Pelicans only had a 6.0% chance at the No. 1 pick, and the Grizzlies’ odds of moving into the top two were just 12.3%. But those odds would’ve been substantially lower under the NBA’s old lottery format (2.8% and 6.1%, respectively).
In other words, by smoothing out the odds and giving middle-of-the-pack teams a greater chance to move up, the NBA got the chaos it expected, with three teams moving way up in the draft order and bottom-of-the-pack clubs like the Cavs, Suns, and Bulls getting pushed out of the top four. The league’s new lottery format worked as designed, writes Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today.
“One year doesn’t tell the whole story,” NBA executive VP of basketball operations Kiki VanDeWeghe told ESPN’s Zach Lowe after the lottery. “But the intent was to make it a little more random. It certainly doesn’t solve everything, but I think it was a good move by the Board of Governors.”
A common refrain in the wake of last night’s results was that the outcome should discourage tanking going forward. One team executive told Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic that “the war on tanking was a success,” while Rudy Gobert declared on Twitter that “we just witnessed the end of tanking.”
Still, others pushed back against that idea. After all, even if it wasn’t a great night for the Knicks, Cavs, Suns, and Bulls, teams like the Pelicans and Lakers intentionally held their stars out of action down the stretch, and were ultimately rewarded for it. Given how many mid-lottery teams benefited, is it possible that borderline postseason contenders in future years will wave the white flag on the playoff chase earlier than anticipated in an attempt to move into a similar position?
What do you think? Were the NBA’s new lottery changes effective, or do you think they’ll end up creating more issues (related to tanking or anything else) going forward?
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