On Thursday, the NBA Board of Governors approved two rule changes regarding teams intentionally losing games (or at least not trying as hard as they could to win) and the resting of healthy players, particularly in nationally-televised matchups. The changes, which were overwhelmingly approved, were made in an effort to curb both practices due to a perception, real or otherwise, that the number of teams engaging in those activities had steadily increased over the last five years.
In regards to tanking, the new rule states that the three teams with the worst record at the end of the season will have a 14 percent chance of winning the draft lottery. Previously, the team with the worst record had a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery and the No. 1 overall pick that comes along with it, with the second-worst team having a 19.9 percent chance and the third-worst a 15.6 percent chance. The other teams in the draft lottery have the following odds in the new system…
Team 4: 12.5 percent
Team 5: 10.5 percent
Team 6: 9.0 percent
Team 7: 7.5 percent
Team 8: 6.0 percent
Team 9: 4.5 percent
Team 10: 3.0 percent
Team 11: 2.0 percent
Team 12: 1.5 percent
Team 12: 1.0 percent
Team 14: 0.5 percent
The new rule also states that the team with the worst record can fall no further than fifth in the draft lottery. Under the old rules, the team with worst pick the team with the worst record could receive was fourth.
The idea is that if there is less incentive to finish the season with the worst record, teams will be less inclined to lose games on purpose in order to secure the best odds for the top pick.
“NBA Draft Lottery reform is a meaningful step in our continuous effort to enhance the quality of our games,” said NBA President, League Operations Byron Spruell via press release. “These changes were necessary to improve the competitive incentives for our teams.”
Just how much the changes, which won’t go into effect until 2019, will halt the kind of blatant, seasons-long tank jobs that have drawn derision from both fans and league officials is yet to be seen, with some arguing that the changes only serve to increase the likelihood of playing for draft picks rather than wins.
Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts, whose teams have avoided the draft lottery in four of his five season in Portland, was somewhat skeptical of the rule change, though he noted that the NBA rarely makes such decisions without cause.
“As far as the lottery goes, I don’t know, you could argue both ways,” said Stotts. “I do think that the teams that finish with the worst record do need an advantage in the lottery, they should have an opportunity to get the top pick or the top three picks. Now you’re just looking at what percentages they should have. The one thing I’ve always said about the NBA is that they don’t make decisions willy-nilly. They put a lot of time in investigating and analyzing and deciding what is in the best interest of the game.”
As for the other rule change, the Board of Governors voted to give NBA Commissioner Adam Silver more discretion to punish teams for resting healthy players, a practice that has become common place for some teams, particularly those with multiple All-Star players. Team are now “prohibited from resting healthy players for any high-profile, nationally televised game” and can be fined at least $100,000 for doing so.
The new “player resting policy” also prohibits teams from resting “multiple healthy players” in the same game and also any healthy players during road games, with the idea being that fans who pay to seeing star players on opposing teams should not be robbed of those rare opportunities. How the NBA will go about determining whether players are healthy is not known, though one assumed that decision will ultimately be made by Commissioner Silver.
Which is part of the reason Stotts isn’t opposed to the new rule. Though one could argue it should be coaches, not league officials, making decisions regarding resting players, Stotts didn’t have a problem with the decision primarily because he trusts the commissioner’s judgement and due to only a small number of teams employing the practice for nationally-televised games anyway.
“I think the league really looked hard at what would be the right solution,” said Stotts. “I think Adam Silver, his judgement is impeccable and his discretion and I think there is an obligation for healthy players to play. I understand the whole rest concept. I also think the rule is made for a handful of teams. Even though obviously it’s for the entire league, I think there were a handful of teams that did that that effected national TV games, in particular. I think it’s probably good for the game.”
The rule regarding rest goes into effective this season.