The NBA Draft Tournament

I’m not a huge fan of the NBA, but I have to give commissioner Adam Silver his due. He has been doing a good job shaking things up and looking for ways to make his on court product more interesting, more exciting and more relevant.

The shake-up of this year’s All-Star Game was a good start. Having the outcome benefit local charities gave the players more incentive and drew the crowd into the game. I also liked playing to a set score rather than time. It made the end of game a lot more fun to watch. It was certainly better than the free throw and timeout fest the end of every other closely contested game turns into. To show how captivating it was, even Lisa was hooked with Brad and me.

Another idea Silver is also looking at is mid-season tournaments similar to international soccer. I like the idea, although there’s a lot of details that need to be worked out. Brad and I were kicking around ideas the other night when an interesting thought occurred to me – scrapping the NBA draft lottery in favor of a draft tournament.

So if you’re listening Mr. Silver, hear me out.

The NBA draft lottery was innovative when it was first held in 1985. Instead of the worst team in the league being guaranteed the top pick, each team that missed the playoffs had an equal shot at it. The goal was to keep teams from ‘tanking’ to get that coveted first pick. While the format of the lottery has changed over the years, the goal has remained the same – prevent teams from intentionally losing games to get the top picks in the draft.

The NBA still makes a big deal out of the lottery event, but it’s really a non-starter for me. I can’t remember the last time I watched it. So I have a better idea that would bring back interest to the draft and support Silver’s goal of in-season tournaments. Kill the draft lottery and place the 14 teams that don’t make the playoffs in a single elimination, winner-take-all tournament.

Here’s how it would work. At the conclusion of the regular season, the 14 teams that miss the playoffs would be seeded into a tournament. The two teams with the worst records would receive a first round bye so they have a better chance of securing the top pick. The remaining 12 teams would play each other. The top 6 teams would get an additional home game, with the final 8 teams advancing to a neutral location, possibly Las Vegas (or some other location without an NBA team) for the final 3 days of games. The final four teams would get the top four picks in the following year’s draft, with the 3rd and 4th picks determined by a consolation game played prior to the final.

The first 6 games could be played Tuesday and Wednesday after the season, with finals taking place Friday – Sunday. The regular season playoffs could start on the following Monday.

Like the All-Star game, the tournament could experiment with different in-game rules. The best idea would be playing to a set score where after the 3rd quarter, you play until you reach the leading team’s score + 20. There’s also modified free throw rules, reset timeouts during the last two minutes of a quarter, and shortened overtime periods (if the set score is not used).

In any case, it would make for good theater and lots of drama. It gives the teams that missed the playoffs a meaningful event to play in at the end of the season. And it may even get me to watch a few more NBA games than I normally would.

So Mr. Silver, what do you think?