Adam Silver stands by NBA’s anti-tanking improvements

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in an ESPN interview Monday that he believes the league has done as much as it can to dissuade teams from tanking for the No. 1 pick in the draft.

Starting in 2019, the NBA draft lottery has given the three teams with the worst record in the league an equal 14 percent chance to win the top pick. Previously the worst team in the league would have a 25 percent to win the No. 1 pick in the following draft.

“You’re dealing with a 14 percent chance of getting the first pick,” Silver said on “NBA Today” Monday. “I recognize at the end of the day analytics are what they are and it’s not about superstition. A 14 percent chance is better than a 1 percent chance or a no percent chance. But even in terms of straightforward odds, it doesn’t benefit a team to be the absolute worst team in the league, and even if you’re one of the poor-performing teams, you’re still dealing with a 14 percent chance (of winning the lottery).”

The league has also expanded the playoffs by way of the play-in tournament giving more teams a realistic chance to make the postseason, which in theory would mean fewer teams have a reason to tank.

The system will be put to the test this year. French prospect Victor Wembanyama is considered the overwhelming favorite to be selected No. 1 in 2023, and he is on track to be the most hyped NBA prospect since Zion Williamson.

“It’s one of these things where there’s no perfect solution, but we still think a draft is the right way to rebuild your league over time,” Silver said. “We still think it makes sense among partner teams, where a decision was made where the worst-performing teams are able to restock with the prospects of the best players coming in. So we haven’t come up with a better system.”

That includes some brief consideration for a relegation system. ESPN reported last week that when Silver addressed employees of the Phoenix Suns in the wake of the Robert Sarver scandal, the commissioner mentioned that the league had discussed relegating teams to the G League to disincentivize tanking.

But Silver told “NBA Today” it was not going to work.

“I can’t say I was deadly serious about relegation, because we don’t have the same system as European soccer and it would make no sense to send an NBA team to the G League or a G League team to the NBA,” Silver said.

“But obviously that is how other leagues deal with situations like this where they force teams to stay competitive because the consequences of finishing at the bottom of the league are dramatically detrimental to the health of the team. But it’s something as I was saying to the folks in Phoenix that we keep our eye on. We understand we are selling competition to our fans.”

–Field Level Media

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