The NBA draft system is broken.
Every season, 14 teams fail to make the playoffs. Roughly half of those teams start the next season with the intention of making the playoffs but then abandon ship once that goal seems unlikely.
Meanwhile, the other half of those 14 teams often will enter the season with full knowledge they have no chance to compete for a playoff berth, nor do they have a desire to. What could cause professional sports franchises, comprised of some of the most competitive people in the world, to stop competing midseason (or worse, never even start competing)? An incentive system that rewards ineptitude.
The draft gives teams an opportunity to acquire high-upside talent in a virtually unilateral fashion: You draft a guy and he pretty much has to play for you, minus a few exceptions sprinkled throughout history. As a result, teams that don’t have a realistic shot at making the playoffs are given incentive to be as bad as possible in order to get to the front of the line for the talent handouts.
Instead of the draft being a means for down-on-their-luck teams to pull themselves out of their misfortune, it’s turned into something that convinces teams to throw away entire seasons in exchange for priority boarding on “Air Superstar.” And it’s hardly a new phenomenon.
Thus, I’ve come up with a proposal on a plan I call the “Rookie Exception System.”
But first, a little history and context about the draft lottery.
A brief history of the lottery
The draft lottery came into existence in 1985 because of the events leading up to the 1984 draft. With a stacked incoming class, featuring Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Jordan?and Charles Barkley, there was an extra incentive for franchises to make sure they had a chance to acquire this talent. In the old system, the two worst teams from either division would flip a coin to decide who would receive the No. 1 and No. 2 picks, and the rest of the draft order was determined by record, with the worst teams picking…