ESPN is reporting today that our beloved, tank-happy Sixers are fighting the NBA on the implementation of changes to the draft lottery. Specifically, the NBA and Adam Silver are interested in leveling the odds of landing the first pick between at least the worst 5 or 6 teams, if not perhaps going farther than that. The Sixers, in the middle of being really freaking bad on purpose, clearly would like these rule changes to happen after they are done being really bad on purpose.
Unfortunately for the Sixers, they may have been their own worst enemy this past year, as their beautifully constructed tank job really caught the attention of the league, fans, and national media, causing quite the uproar. And while I think most people took the completely appropriate "don't hate the player, hate the game" viewpoint, everyone feels that that game needs to be rectified, and fast.
Now clearly I am bias, as I want the Sixers to have the best possible draft picks they can get. But I also strongly believe that the Lottery needs to be changed because fundamentally, rewarding poor play makes absolutely no sense. The "Wheel" idea that has been floating around out there is a great idea in my opinion, and some system resembling that would be an appropriate remedy for a problem that has basically plagued the NBA since the early 80s, when the lottery system was first installed.
Typically though, in any walk of life, when large scale changes are implemented that affects people's financial planning, usually you are given a bit of warning. It does not seem unreasonable at all for any team to request that any rule change affecting long term franchise planning (which clearly these types of changes would be) should be implemented a year after the rule is enacted. Given the savvy of most GMs these days, I would think one season would be enough time for any team to plan accordingly. And the challenges with implementing lottery reform are not new, and not unique to the Sixers. Grantland's Zach Lowe covered this back during Vegas Summer League:
Teams that have constructed short-term building plans under the current rules will likely oppose any attempt to change those rules midstream. The Wheel proposal, submitted to the league by Mike Zarren, the Celtics’ assistant general manager, called for instituting the Wheel only after all draft picks that have already been traded actually move between the trading partners. Due to the protections on some future first-round picks that have been traded, implementation would have waited at least a half-dozen years.
I fear that this story is going to be framed as "well there go those huckster Sixers complaining about not being able to game the system anymore," when really there is no logical argument for implementing such changes in a matter of months. I promise you teams like the Celtics, Cavs, Rockets, Lakers, and Timberwolves, all of whom have acquired 2015 first round picks in recent years, wouldn't mind seeing these rules wait a year. At the same time I'm also sure they don't mind the Sixers being the face of tanking, and the lone voice opposing such changes.
Lane violation rules stating that a free-throw shooter must remain behind the free-throw line until his shot hits the rim were instituted because a young Wilt Chamberlain, an incredibly poor free throw shooter, used to just dunk his freebies rather than risk missing them. Makes sense to me. Ultimately he was penalized for using his talents to game the system, but I think we can all agree the lane violation rules make sense. Now Hinkie and Josh Harris are being penalized for using their smarts and gumption to gain an advantage, and while I think we again can all agree the proposed changes make sense, immediate implementation of these changes is too harsh a punishment for teams that were, simply put, flat out better than others at working the system.