NBA commissioner Adam Silver acknowledged Friday that the league’s lottery reform in place for next season may not be enough to deter teams from tanking games.
“We’ll see how much of an impact that has, but my sense is we’re still going to have some work to do,” Silver said after meeting with owners at the Board of Governors meeting in Manhattan.
Silver said that tanking — or the practice of teams intentionally losing games in an effort to improve their chances of landing a top draft pick — is an “incredibly difficult issue” that the league continues to analyze.
“We recognize that our goal was to put the best competition on the floor, and it’s balanced against legitimate rebuilding of some teams. But I know we’re not there yet, and I certainly wasn’t satisfied [this season],” Silver said.
Currently, the team that finishes with the league’s worst record has a 25 percent chance at landing the top pick in the NBA lottery. The team that finishes with the second-worst record has a 19.9 percent chance at securing the first pick. Starting with the 2019 draft, the three teams with the worst records will share a 14 percent chance of getting the No. 1 overall pick.
The league hopes that the new system deters teams from tanking, but Silver suggested Friday that more changes are needed.
“I recognize that the incentives are not aligned right now, that there’s a huge incentive to increase your chances in the draft lottery, especially under the old system,” Silver said.
Tanking has been a sensitive topic this season. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 by the NBA for saying his team should tank this season. The league discussed the issue of tanking with the Chicago Bulls and, according to USA Today, sent a memo to all 30 teams addressing the issue.
“There can only be so much cajoling out of the league office,” Silver said. “It’s one of those things that the last place I want to go as the commissioner of the league office is to start dictating minutes and which particular players should be playing at what points in the game.”
Silver touched on a number of other NBA topics Friday:
He said that there were no discussions during the meeting about reforming the playoffs to include the league’s top 16 teams regardless of conference. Silver said that the league continues to look at it, but he doesn’t see a viable solution at the moment, citing “travel issues versus conference issues versus how the schedule should be set.” Twenty of the league’s 30 teams would need to vote in favor of a proposal in order to enact it.
Silver said that there was discussion at the meeting about a potential play-in game to determine a playoff berth in the wake of the Minnesota Timberwolves–Denver Nuggets showdown on the final night of the season. The Timberwolves beat the Nuggets in overtime to earn the eighth seed in the Western Conference. If Denver won the game, it would have secured the eighth seed. Silver said: “It does open up those possibilities that we can be looking at something more formalized, a play-in-type format.”
Representatives for the NBA and executives associated with officiating have met with all 30 teams about the animosity between players and referees, which has been an issue throughout the season. Silver said teams informed the league that the meetings were productive.