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NBA Commissioner Adam Silver believes league rules from past reduced benefits of teams from tanking

NBA draft lottery
Photo: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver believes that the league’s adjustments and rule changes from the previous years have greatly reduced the odds of the teams to benefit from tanking.

“You’re dealing with a 14% chance of getting the first pick,” Silver told Malika Andrews upon his appearance on NBA Today (h/t ESPN’s Tim Bontempts). “I recognize at the end of the day analytics are what they are and it’s not about superstition. 

“A 14% chance is better than a 1% 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% chance [of winning the lottery].”

In 2019, the league flattened the highest chance of teams to land the top pick at 14 percent. And in 2020, the Play-In tournament was introduced to give teams outside of the top eight in both Conferences an opportunity to seal a postseason slot.

Silver admits that the NBA is still looking for a better system that can adapt very well to the ongoing tanking culture league-wide.

“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. 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.”

Tanking has been the significant scheme being utilized by teams in this modern era in hopes to prepare for their future. These rebuilding clubs would intentionally lose to lower their record and gain the best odds to land a lottery selection.

The public emergence and potential 2023 Draft entrance of French wunderkind Victor Wembanyama, who possesses a generational talent while standing at over seven-foot tall, created raucous noises around the league this season with regards to tanking.

As revealed by ESPN’s Baxter Holmes last week, Silver noted to the Phoenix Suns employees that the NBA discussed a relegation system as a probable solution to tanking. 

But the commissioner dismissed this idea, as it is impossible to place.

“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.”

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