It stands to reason that at the heart of every sport there should be competition.  Two teams should be doing whatever they can to win any given game on any given night.

It’s what is best for the game, the players and the fans.  That is why there is understandable unrest as we approach the beginning of the NBA season on October 29.

People familiar with the league are aware that the upcoming NBA draft class of 2014 is projected to be one of the all-time greats.

Can’t-miss prospects such as Andrew Wiggins (Fr. Kansas), Jabari Parker (Fr. Duke), Marcus Smart (So. Oklahoma State) and Julius Randle (Fr. Kentucky), among others, stand to offer franchise-changing rewards to the teams that probably deserve them the least. The new collective bargaining agreement that the NBA put in place after the lockout-shortened 2011-1012 season attempted to give smaller-market teams an advantage by lowering rookie contracts.

AP Photo Above, NBA commissioner David Stern is sure to face tough questions on tanking this season as teams prepare for the draft.

An ugly by-product of that change has been that drafting high is now the easiest way to get talent at low prices.

This gives teams incentive to intentionally lose, or “tank,” in order to get the highest possible pick in the draft.

The NBA’s only real attempt at combating such an obvious problem is the use of ping-pong balls to randomize drafting order a bit (although the teams with the most losses still have the best chance of landing the top picks).   As it stands today, there appears to be six teams that have a shot at “winning” the first pick in the draft this year (Charlotte, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Sacramento and Boston).

Sadly, most of these teams have made a concerted effort not to get better this off-season in hopes of a big payoff come draft time.

As flawed as that reasoning seems to be, the way the league works it is actually a smart strategy.

An NBA championship cannot be won without a franchise guy (a top 10 player in the league), and the easiest way to acquire a player like that (especially if you’re not a big free agent destination) is through the draft.

Teams cannot be faulted for trying to play the system the way they think is most advantageous.

Instead it is the system that should be blamed.  In no other major sport is tanking such a common practice among teams.

There are a few legitimate ideas that the league should explore that could fix the tanking problem.   One of the more practical ideas is a more random draft selection process.  If the team with the worst record held just a 15 percent chance of securing the top pick (instead of the 25 percent chance it currently has), teams would lose incentive to capture the worst record in the league, which often leads to unnecessarily resting players at the end of the season. Another idea made popular by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons is pitting the worst teams against each other in a tournament to decide draft order.

This would make teams think twice about gathering the worst possible roster for an entire season, not to mention the entertainment value of watching the league’s most inept teams battle after the regular season.

Another option is simply reversing the new rookie contract scale and paying players more in their first contracts.

This would make rookies less desirable no matter how talented the draft class is.

The final alternative comes straight from fantasy football. Rather than teams’ positions being based on losses, those losses would give you credits that teams could use to bid on draft picks.

The bidding system is interesting because it allows teams to prioritize different picks, however there is simply no precedent for it.

All these options of course assume people want the system changed.  A recent ESPN poll asked fans if they would want their team tanking for a franchise player and 59 percent of respondents said yes.

Some people may be okay with their teams tanking, but there is no denying it hurts the league. David Stern will be stepping down as commissioner of the NBA after the season, and his predecessor, Adam Silver, could show fans he is serious about stopping tanking by adopting one of these alternative systems.

Until then, I’ll be dealing with the conflicting emotions that come when a fan roots against his favorite team every game.


Zach Winn can be contacted at

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