Posts Tagged ‘Tanking’

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The NBA is trying to solve the problem of tanking by taking away the main incentive behind the controversial team-building strategy.

The league is aggressively pursuing lottery reform and could vote changes into legislation before the start of the 2017-18 season, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Competition Committee is expected to vote on points of reform, before sending a formal recommendation to the Board of Governors for the final decision.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is strongly advocating for draft lottery reform measures to disincentivize tanking by lowering the worst teams’ chances of having the highest odds at the best picks. Proposed changes would also see higher odds for lottery teams making a jump up or down in the draft order.

Smaller markets have opposed lottery reform in the past since a restrictive draft system is their only avenue to recruit elite talent. Free agency typically siphons stars from smaller to bigger destinations, which puts an added premium on drafting.

The current system gives the team with the worst record a 25 percent chance at winning the first overall pick and a 100 percent chance at picking in the top four. Odds for higher picks decrease as records improve, as in there’s an incentive to lose, which is why some teams try as hard as possible to field a noncompetitive team in hopes of maximizing their lottery chances.

Some organizations like the Philadelphia 76ers, Sacramento Kings, Orlando Magic, Phoenix Suns, and New York Knicks have been given high lottery picks many years in a row while making little tangible progress to improve their records.

It’s unclear as to when the changes would be put into place. Given that the league’s 30 teams are all operating on their own timelines, it could potentially be difficult to find an amicable time to implement changes at an agreed time.

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Everyone in the league has their own solution to address tanking, but Miami Heat president Pat Riley’s suggestion might be the most entertaining.

Riley wants non-playoff teams to play a tournament for the right to select first overall, instead of having a random lottery with weighted odds determine their fate.

“What I’d like to have is a two-out-of-three lottery playoff … The lottery teams play a tournament for that (No. 1) pick,” Riley told Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel on Monday.

Riley added, “No more tanking at the end … so play for it. Let’s have a little playoff for the top pick in the draft.”

The current rules reward those at the bottom and penalize teams that come closest to making the playoffs. A franchise like the Los Angeles Lakers that had no aspirations of winning landed the second pick for a third straight year, while a team like the Heat that refused to tank after a 11-30 start got the No. 14 selection following a brilliant finish.

Under Riley’s structure, there would always be an incentive to build the strongest roster possible. The Heat didn’t make the playoffs, but their roster would have ranked as a favorite to win the lottery sweepstakes and take the top pick. At the very least, it would create an entertaining product.

But there are flaws, too, with Riley’s plan. Low playoff seeds might choose to tank into the lottery if they prefer a strong chance at a pick over a small chance in the postseason. This structure might also leave poor franchises without any chance of upward mobility through the draft.

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For Shane Doan, the NHL’s draft lottery system hits close to home.

It was literally a topic of conversation around the family dinner table last season after his son, a die-hard Arizona Coyotes fan, began cheering for the team to lose in order to increase its chances of landing the first overall pick.

“My son (Josh) is literally the biggest Coyotes fan that you’ll ever meet,” Doan told Sarah McLellan of azcentral sports. “He lives, breathes – he, until very recently, would be physically upset when we lost, and it’d break your heart. And I remember him cheering after games, being mad, but being happy we lost – like cheering against us.

“And it was awful, and I hated it and I thought it was the stupidest thing in the world because here’s a guy who’s the most passionate Coyotes fan cheering against us.”

Doan’s solution? Reward teams who keep winning even after being eliminated from the playoffs.

“The day you’re mathematically eliminated, you start accumulating points,” Doan explained. “When you get to the end of the year, whoever’s accumulated the most points gets the first overall pick.”

This would keep fans of non-playoff teams engaged to the very end of the regular season, cheering for the accumulation of points instead of hoping for losses. The finer details would need to be ironed out, but Doan believes it’s an ideal starting point.

“You should always be cheering for your team or have something to look forward to in your team, and so I’ve been a big proponent of this system and trying to give your team something to play for because … every fan could be behind you,” he said.

“These next (four) games would be huge for us, huge for us, because you’d have the ability to dictate where you’re going to be. Your coaches would be coaching to win. Your management would be managing to win, and there’d be immense pressure to keep winning and it’d help you.”

As it stands, the Coyotes have a 6 percent chance of landing local boy Auston Matthews with the first overall pick this June.

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Call it what you will, but Gary Bettman says NHL clubs aren’t intentionally losing.

“Our teams don’t tank,” the commissioner told the National Post’s Michael Traikosat the general managers meetings Wednesday.

“If you’re a team that knows it’s not going to make the playoffs and you want to start focusing on the rebuild, you’re going to do certain things unrelated to the draft that are going to give you assets that are going to help you develop for the future.”

The NHL’s old system gave the highest odds of winning the draft lottery and the right to draft first overall to the league’s worst team, but the new format involves a separate lottery for each of the top three picks.

“The beauty of a weighted lottery is there’s no incentive to doing anything other than win,” Bettman said. “We have a system that we think works.”

One general manager agrees.

“There’s no incentive to lose now,” said Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray. “The odds are no longer in your favor. The Toronto Maple Leafs, if they happen to be that team (that finishes last), have a 20 percent chance of winning (the lottery). Any guy that questions it now is wrong.”

Bettman has no issues with the way the Leafs are rebuilding.

“I think they’ve decided that they need to regroup and … they’re developing the young kids and they’re building for the future,” he said. “I’m not an expert in putting teams together, but it’s clear that they have a plan and they’re sticking to it. And that’s the most important thing.”

The Buffalo Sabres finished dead last in both of the past two seasons, but were awarded the second overall pick (Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, respectively) in 2014 and 2015.

The new three-tiered lottery doesn’t fully discourage what general managers do, but Sabres GM Tim Murray says it might help how their work is perceived.

“Does that change how we do business? Probably not,” Murray said. “Does it change the perception of what we’re doing? Maybe it does.”

Arizona Coyotes GM Don Maloney admitted in February that his attitude last season was, “If we were going to be bad … let’s be real bad,” and that he “did not do much” to help the team in the last two months, when the opportunity to draftConnor McDavid was within reach.

The Coyotes were ultimately awarded the third overall selection, drafting Dylan Strome, while the Edmonton Oilers won the lottery and chose McDavid, giving them a fourth first overall pick in six years.

It comes as no surprise that the Philadelphia 76ers‘ strategy of repeatedly tanking in an attempt to collect as many high lottery picks as possible is not a plan being praised by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.

“Am I fan of that strategy? Put it this way: No. But does that mean that it’s not acceptable under the league rules? It doesn’t,” Silver said on FiveThirtyEight’s “Hot Takedown.”

Philadelphia has been a bottom-three team in the league over the past two seasons and currently sits last with a horrific 1-28 record.

With rumors circulating that Silver attempted to thwart “The Process” by pressuring Sixers owner Josh Harris to hire Jerry Colangelo, the commissioner made sure to label those reports as pure hearsay.

“Those reports are not correct. Josh Harris, who’s the principal owner of the 76ers, decided on his own that he needed to change course,” Silver said. “He and I had many conversations along the way about the utility of the strategy that he was following. And he came to the conclusion once this season began, and he saw how his team was performing on the floor, that he needed to change his strategy.”

Shane Doan is a 38-year-old veteran on the tail end of his NHL career and he’s not happy about the recent play of a franchise that is in complete rebuild mode with hopes that they can land Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

“Obviously, it’s kind of embarrassing,” the veteran told John Hoven of MayorsManor.

“As a player, it’s always tough. You never want to be stuck in this situation, but we are and we have to deal with it.”

Conspiracy theorists can point to tanking, but Doan thinks it has more to do with inexperienced personnel.

“The new guys coming in, they’ve played well. We’ve been in games; we just haven’t found ways to win, and that’s the name of it,” said Doan.

“It’s just disappointing. You just feel bad, we’ve been bad. There’s no way to get around it. We’ve been bad and we have to be better.”

The veteran decided to continue and possibly finish his career in Arizona, with hopes that things would turn around amid a new ownership group.

“Things happen the way they’re supposed to happen. No one really worries about going back or thinking or wishing that you did something else. I’m pretty grateful and thankful for the opportunity to play in the league. It’s one of those things that if you get doing that too much, you’re going to miss enjoying what you’re doing right now,” said the veteran.

“I still love to play the game; I love to be out there playing and competing. If I get worrying about too many other things, it will take that joy away. I love that.”

Doan, who will become an unrestricted free agent in 2016-17 could have asked for a trade at the deadline and may have netted the Coyotes a decent haul from a playoff contender, but general manager Don Maloney didn’t send him anywhere.

“It was kind of one of those that we didn’t really talk about it,” Doan said. “We were hoping that things kind of went the other way, that some pieces were going to be kept, and when they got moved, obviously that was disappointing … (Keith Yandle) was a tough one for everybody in the room because he was such a big part of our team. It wasn’t just a one-year guy that was at the end of his contract, but a guy that was a deal that they chose to make. That was a tough one.”

Doan has 13 goals and 18 assists in 68 games for a Coyotes team that is tied for second to last in the standings with 50 points, behind only the Buffalo Sabres.

In case she hasn’t already made her thoughts on the subject clear enough, Los Angeles Lakers president Jeanie Buss is here to remind you that, no thanks, the tanking life isn’t for her.

She’s cited a few reasons in the past for her aversion to intentional losing, calling it “unforgivable” and “irresponsible,” and claiming that the strategy is bound to wreak organizational chaos.

On Tuesday, Buss went on SiriusXM NBA Radio and refuted the notion that the Lakers should tank for a top-five draft slot, which is the only way they’ll get to keep their pick this year.

(A quick refresher: the Lakers owe the Phoenix Suns a first-round pick from the Steve Nash sign-and-trade in 2012. It’s top-five protected this year, top-three protected in 2016 and 2017, and unprotected in 2018.)

“The draft pick to Phoenix, if we don’t give it to them this year, we have to give it to them next year, so I don’t really see what the logic would be,” Buss said, according to Eric Pincus of the L.A. Times.

“Try to tank to keep it this year, because we’d just have to give it away next year – that doesn’t resonate with me. I think it’s impossible to tell your coach and tell your players, ‘Try not to win.’ That goes against everything an organization is about.”

Tanking or not, the Lakers were well on their way to retaining their pick early in the season, when they started out 1-9. Since that horrific start, they’re a far more respectable 10-15 (a stretch that coincided with the return of Nick Young), with quality wins over the Atlanta HawksHouston RocketsToronto RaptorsSan Antonio Spurs and Golden State Warriors. If the season ended today, the Lakers would hold the fifth spot in the lottery order, but keep this up and they’ll play themselves out of a draft pick.

“We’re struggling but we’ve been in so many games and you see the learning curve with a new coach and players learning how to play together, learning how to play the way he wants them to,” said Buss. “There have been many games where a basket would have made the difference and we’d be telling a different story now.”