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The NBA could replace the draft lottery with 'The Wheel' — a system that sets the draft order for the next 30 years

It’s designed to stamp out teams ‘tanking’ to get a high pick.
Dec 23rd 2013, 5:02 PM 3,844 4

GRANTLAND’S ZACH LOWE got his hands on a proposed alternative to the NBA Draft Lottery, and it’s pretty fascinating.

The proposal — which comes from an NBA official and will be floated to owners as a lottery replacement in 2014, Lowe reports — is being called The Wheel.

It’s designed to eliminate tanking and create an equal opportunity for all franchises to land top talent. Here’s how it works:

The draft order is predetermined for the next three decades. Every team drafts in every slot (#1 through #30) once every 30 years.

There is a cycle for which pick each team gets every year. When arranged on a wheel, it looks like this:

image

So you get the #1 pick in Year 1, the #30 Pick in Year 2, the #19 pick in Year Three, and so on.

The wheel is designed so that every team gets a top-12 pick at least once every four years, and a top-5 pick once every six years. Each five-year cluster is equal in value. Here’s how the order would be for a team with the No. 1 overall pick in Year 1 (which we’ll call 2020):

  • 2020-24 picks: 1, 30, 19, 18, 7
  • 2025-39: 6, 25, 23, 14, 11
  • 2030-34: 2, 29, 20, 17, 8
  • 2035-39: 5, 26, 22, 15, 10
  • 2040-44: 3, 28, 21, 16, 9
  • 2045-49: 4, 27, 24, 23, 12

It’s radical, and there are all sorts of questions:

  • What if a college player in 2014 sees that the Lakers are picking No. 1 overall in 2016 and decides to stay in school, thus screwing over the team with the No. 1 pick in 2015?
  • Wouldn’t it make bad teams worse?
  • Would it create some sort of inequality if the same teams were picking around each other every team?

These are legitimate questions. But the current lottery system creates an incentive for most teams to be bad and hope to land the next LeBron James with the top pick in the NBA Draft. That’s crippling for a professional sports league.

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