Poll: Were NBA’s Draft Lottery Changes Effective?

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?

Vote in our poll, then head to the comment section to share your thoughts!

Trade Rumors app users, click here to vote.

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27 thoughts on “Poll: Were NBA’s Draft Lottery Changes Effective?

  1. Guest617

    lottery selection wasn’t done in public because it’s rigged – why hide something if it’s perfect?

    • mikey

      That doesn’t make sense. If it was really rigged, the Knicks would’ve gotten the first pick, and the lakers number 2. That would’ve generated much more revenue for the nba. New Orleans and Memphis are not the choices for markets the nba would’ve liked to get those picks. That’s for sure.

    • Jason Lancaster

      It’s not hidden. It’s just not public. Several reporters have attended the actual selection, and they have written about how it works, how it’s monitored, etc.

      The issue is that the NBA wants a dramatic TV program, so they present the picks after the drawing. It’s typical Hollywood bs.

  2. unclemike1525

    The Bulls even stink at Ping Pong Ball. Gee, I guess it’s all up to the GREAT FA’s who are gonna flock here to play for Forman and Boylen. Haaaaaaaaaaaaa Heeeeeeeeeeeeeeee Hoooooo

  3. Nebraska Tim

    How many of those “no” votes were from Knicks or Bulls fans? Take those votes out, and we’re looking at a much more lopsided poll in favor of this change.

    This change was a gigantic success and a great move. If anything, they should expand this idea and draw for the top 5 picks – or even draw for every lottery pick.

  4. HubcapDiamondStarHalo

    There’s an old saying, “any system man can make, man can break.” There’s NO such thing as a perfect system in the NBA or anywhere. Especially with so much money on the line, the front office people will, at the very least, find the best way to exploit the rules…

    So yeah, there will be new problems going forward, but based on one lottery night, yes also to “steps in the right direction.”

  5. agentx

    Yes to “steps in the right direction” from me, too… though I’ll stand by my belief the NBA should award picks 5-14 in true order of finish among lottery teams.

    Use the current odds to determine which teams win picks 1-4, then slot the lottery teams that don’t have their ping pong ball drawn from best record to worst, so that a team just missing the playoffs is guaranteed no worse than the 5th pick.

  6. greg1

    I’ll preface this by admitting I am a Knicks fan, but I do believe that there should be a little better chance of landing the top pick if you’re in the bottom 3-4 than what exists now. Take NY out of the equation and look at two fan bases and teams that need a top pick like the Suns and Cavs. Whereas a team like the Knicks will be a draw for FA’s, the other two are not. That would not be unique to this year either, generally, with occasional exceptions, the bottom teams are there because they are not free agent draws.

    Maybe it’s 20% instead of 14% for the bottom three. I’m still in the camp that I don’t want to see a team completely tank to get the top pick, but there should be a little more likelihood that it happens.

  7. knickscavsfan

    Disclaimer: I’m a Knicks and Cavs fan.

    I never liked the term “tanking”. I think for most teams destined for the lottery they aren’t there because they want to be but because they have to. If teams in major markets like the Knicks, Nets, Lakers and Bulls are having trouble luring high impact free agents then how much worse off are small market teams in Cleveland, Sacramento, etc? What’ the point in trading for an Anthony Davis (star player on the last year of their deal) knowing that player doesn’t want to be there, may say so publicly and will walk as soon as possible for a more preferred destination?

    The idea of rebuilding is that paying 3rd tier FA to come to your city likely means paying a above market salary for a semi-star player. Would a Milsap, Middleton, etc do anything for the worst 5 teams in NBA besides make them a 30-40 win team?

    I get it, the NBA wants teams to act as if they are trying to field a competitive team but what good is it to spend, spend, spend and end up with a decade of 35-40 wins and never picking top 5 in any draft?

    A rebuild, by nature, means 3-5 years of sucking. Maybe a team like the Knicks will finally get lucky and lure 2 top FA to quicken a rebuild. What about everyone else? The draft was ran the way it was to give teams access to talent they would not be able to get in FA. The teams with the 6th worst records won’t even pick among the top 3 except for the Knicks. That sucks.

    • imindless

      This x100! Now smaller markets are screwed more than ever. Not only cant they not be guaranteed premium young talent but also still fall behind as far as max free agents go, in short the smaller markets will stay bad will bigger market will capitalize on premium talent. All in all the nba is supposed to be about balance yet you have teams like gsw with 5 future hofs on one squad winning everything year after year.

      This era of basketball is easily the worst and most boring to watch. The schemes are borderline street ball with screens way out behind 3 point line and teams jacking up 50+ 3s a night. The nba used to be about the full court, defense and conducting the most efficient offense. Not anymore just jack up 3’s till they go down, boring.

  8. Gary

    To do things absolutely correct it should be a pure lottery for all teams that missed the playoffs.

    No weighted ping pong ball numbers. Whether you finish barely out of the playoffs or with the worst record you should get one ping pong ball.

    That eliminates tanking.

    The reason I can say that is that you’ve got to do your homework in drafting and hire guys that know what they’re doing.

    How many number two and number four picks have flopped, and how many All-Stars are picked at 15 18 or 24?

    Bottom line there should be no reward for sucking. No participation ribbons.

    You strive to be good, strive to win every game and that is what makes the league healthy.

    Small-market team can’t afford free agents? That’s why you need a hard salary cap and no luxury tax BS.

    • Nebraska Tim

      I’m with you on this.

      I’m not against having things weighted, but I’d be okay with everyone having an equal chance.

      Lots of people talk about tanking/losing/rebuilding, but the truth is: building a winner takes more than just drafting high.

      Taking away the main incentive to lose (we’ll get a top player lottery pick and maybe get better!!!) will force teams to actually hire people who know what they’re doing.

      How many #1 picks are still playing? Who’s leading the teams in the Conference Finals, and when were they picked? Who’s the highest picked player on the Toronto Raptors?

      Good teams find a way to win, no matter their market and no matter where they’re picking. Trying to win now will make it easier to win later. That’s true team building.

      Rebuilding and tanking are a cop out by bad management.

    • Rewane

      Then there will be tanking at the lower seeds. For them is trying to win a game or 2 against the first seed vs a chance to grab a top pick. They would choose the pick. Only way to eliminate taking is either a totaly random draft or no draft at all.

  9. OCTraveler

    Before you cry “bs” … just remember these are off the wall suggestions.

    Why exclude teams who made the playoffs? If you include all teams, then tanking becomes moot…

    Why not base the lottery on the standings at the mid-point of the season – a time when most teams are still trying….

  10. imindless

    The bigger issue imo is the fact zion doesnt want to play for new orleans. He is gonna waste 5/6 years in a small market where he is expected to carry the team with no help. He has seen how ad has been on this bad franchise, out of all the teams knicks could have used zion the most and he generally wanted to go there.

    Even as a lakers fan this draft was Suspect for sure we move up to top 4….new orleans wins with as likely leaving too? All to coincidence? Nba = joke

    • Chucktoad1

      They tried to help A.D. They traded for Jrue Holiday who is in a dead tie for most underated pg in the N.B.A. They continually gave up 1st round picks to get more talent. They traded for an all-nba center that tore his Achilles just as things started to click. Anthony Davis is a great talent but the biggest mistake the Pelicans made was not trading down and taking Lillard in the ’12 draft.

  11. OCTraveler

    I am sure playing 3-5 years in the Big Easy would be more enjoyable than playing in that circus that plays in the Staples Center. Lakers= bigger joke

  12. emac22

    Tanking was a problem that needed to be addressed but the bigger issue is having all of the very best players going to the same small market teams year after year. The idea that you reshape the league not focusing on how to make the top teams better but on how to get the very worst teams from giving up completely is a fail on several levels.

    They have to add a rule that blocks any team from multiple number one picks in any given 15-30 year period. They need to block teams from moving up too far in the lottery just like they block teams from moving too far down. I’d favor no repeating at the top spot until every single team has gotten the top pick. Every team should have a shot at a dynasty level talent. It shouldn’t always just be the teams that can’t maintain a consistently successful team without welfare.

    San Antonio, Cleveland, Philly and New Orleans have how many number one picks? Great for parody but not for the league and not for the players salaries or owners profits. I’m not a fan of seeing most of the titles determined by the draft lottery and the way it favors crappy teams in small markets.

  13. Codeeg

    You know for all the hate tanking gets now, I think the odds are perfect. I’d honestly like to discourage tanking even more, like the three teams with the worst record are guaranteed picks 3-6 in descending order. While the top 2 picks go in a lottery for the remaining non playoff teams at a even distribution.
    Fair?No, but it still guarantees the bad teams get low picks without giving them name recognized talent like Zion for being the worst.

  14. Reflect

    There are so many variables that it is going to take many years before we can really evaluate this system. Maybe in a year where it is tougher to make the playoffs we still see more tanking. Maybe now that teams have observed each other, they will roll out different strategies for next year. We just don’t know.

    But it is definitely a success so far.

  15. SuperSinker

    Even if teams didn’t ‘tank’ explicitly, there are still organizations who would need talent badly that are at a disadvantage because of the lottery. I appreciate how MLB and NFL do it. There are always going to be last place teams who are devoid of talent, the best way to promote parity is to get them talent as quickly as possible. The lottery makes it more difficult

  16. x%sure

    I think the odds for 1-4 were a little low and 10-14 a little high. But in general the changes should help. More fine-tuning is in order though.

    Teams that rest players for 1 or 2 games (i.e., players that quickly return healthy) should lose balls/odds. Same for teams in the midrange shutting down players. These are details that would help.

    Draft picks are currency that can be subtracted for teams not acting in the best interests of the league.

  17. Yep it is

    The whole system was like an 8th grade class project. No tanking wanted? Really do you think any of those teams had enough players to win more than they did. Also tanking alone hurts a team in revenue $$. The NFL has it figured out. The whole thing of doing it “ secretly” instead of live is a JOKE. Reporters or team reps in there and then waiting an hour? Now we have a top market like LA moving up 7 spots? Why dont the NBA just say we want NY, LA, Boston every year or whatever team LeBron is on to win. Baseball does the same thing but at least they are honest about who they want in.

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