Reforming The NBA Draft The Right Way: A Solution To Tanking And League Parity

On September 28th, the NBA’s Board of Directors will meet with Commissioner Adam Silver to discuss a proposed plan on reforming the NBA Draft Lottery system. The issue that the league is hoping to solve with any type of reformation of the Lottery, is the practice of tanking.

The league believes that the idea of losing games for the sole purpose of having better odds at receiving the #1 overall pick in the Draft is detrimental to the league. Make no mistake about it, having teams essentially conspiring to lose, certainly is not good.  No, that it is not the fiery hot take you may be looking for; but it is the truth.

The league reportedly is proposing that instead of giving the worst team a 25% chance of winning the lottery, the bottom three teams would each be given roughly a 14% chance of winning the grand prize. Should they lose, the worst team could drop all the way down to the fifth pick. While this new format could potentially solve the issue of tanking, it won’t fix all of the league’s problems.

Since LeBron famously, “took his talents to South Beach,” the league has been dominated by so-called “super teams.” Yet on the complete other end of the spectrum, the league has been run amok with teams essentially losing on purpose for draft stock. There is no parity, there are no underdogs and there are no Cinderella teams. When was the last time the NBA had a true postseason upset? The 2014 sixth seeded Brooklyn Nets vs the third seeded Toronto Raptors? That team included the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Jason Terry, Deron Williams, and Joe Johnson. This doesn’t quite make the cut. You would have to go all the way back to 2012 when the eighth seeded Philadelphia 76ers uprooted the one seed Chicago Bulls.

Although the excitement behind the “super teams” has generated lot of worldwide interest in the league and the game, is this level of interest sustainable? What incentive do casual fans have to watch multiple regular season games throughout the year if the Finals are already a forgone conclusion?

Let’s take a look at the NFL for good measure. The league stands alone on top of the sports pedestal in terms of popularity here in the US. They didn’t get there simply by displaying sheer brute and violence. League parity has been a prominent characteristic of the NFL so much that a movie was made based off of the idea that any team could beat any team on the right day. “Any Given Sunday,” as the saying goes. Nearly every week, including in the postseason, something unexpected happens. Game plans fail, coaches make mistakes and injuries run rampant. All of these situations can have a far reaching impact on the outcome of the games. It all makes for an incredibly exciting product.

The proposed Lottery reform would be detrimental to a league already devoid of any type of parity. Getting out of the cellar would a near impossible task for the worst teams if they are not given the ability to draft the best possible players available. Bottom tier teams have trouble signing high profile free agents as it is, why would they be interested in signing with a team that has no legitimate shot chance of improving? Fortunately for the league, rectifying these issues is not as difficult of a problem as they are making it seem. The solution to their problems has been right under them the entire time.

Get rid of the Lottery system. Toss it out and go back to a traditional draft format. The worst team gets the first pick, the second to worst gets the second pick. Simple enough. Sure, teams are still going to tank in this system; but is there ever any discussion about “tanking” in any other sport? No, its simply called rebuilding. The lottery system creates a stigma amongst NBA brass that they need to be as bad as possible right now because who knows where they’re pick could fall in years to come. Right now might be their best shot at landing a star player and if they miss out, they will be living in the NBA basement for years to come. Teams will no longer feel pressured to lose as many games as they can in order to secure one of the top picks.

A regular draft system is not the sexiest solution to these problems. It is the most logical one however. Implementing this system would bring more parity to a league that is rampant with “super teams” and would give more teams the chance to succeed right away. Sometimes the simple way out is the best way out; and for the NBA, this is the best solution to their problems.

MLBPA’s Licensing Agreement with Jump Ramp Games’ Lucktastic App Could Give Baseball the Exposure it Needs

On Tuesday, the Major League Baseball Players Association announced a deal with Jump Ramp Games’ Lucktastic App that will give fans the chance to win authentic memorabilia.

Lucktastic can be described as a virtual online scratch ticket that rewards users with promotions and rewards. The deal will give fans the ability to win personalized memorabilia from some of the game’s biggest stars such as Chris Sale and Paul Goldschmidt.

Although the deal is only expected to run through the rest of this current season, this type of deal will hopefully address what has been a recurring issue for the sport as a whole. Over the past decade plus, baseball has slowly declined in popularity; partially due to the inability for MLB and the MLBPA to properly market their players to a greater audience.

Part of the misconception surrounding the lack of popularity in the sport revolves around the pace of play. This is something that Commissioner Rob Manfred has been adamant about addressing since he first took office. To his credit, his efforts have led to new policies and guidelines designed to speed up gameplay. But is this really the issue? Or is MLB overlooking a more serious threat?

This deal will hopefully bring the sport the type of exposure and familiarity with some of the game’s biggest stars to their fan base. As of right now, Mike Trout; who is widely regarded as the best player in the game, can walk around in broad daylight and go relatively unnoticed. This would be an impossible feat for an NBA or even NFL star.

Once fans, no matter how diehard they may be, are able to recognize and connect with players on a wider scale, is when the popularity of the sport will begin to revive itself. Although this certainly is a small step, it nonetheless is a step in the right direction.

The Branding Implications Behind the NHL’s Decision to Pull Out of the 2018 Olympics

On Monday afternoon, the NHL finally made the announcement hockey fans everywhere were anxious for. It was not however the result they wanted. The league finally took a hard stance against allowing their players to participate in the 2018 Winter Olympics taking place in PyeongChang, South Korea.

The main issue the league has is that players participation in the winter games causes league play to come to a halt for two weeks; something team owners are reluctant to give up. The owners were asking the IOC and the NHLPA for some type of concessions to make up for the lack of revenue being generated during that time period however, negotiations had lost all forward momentum.

What was most interesting about this decision is the fact that just last week the league announced that they will be playing two preseason games in Beijing in September with hopes to try to expand the game globally. The fact that the 2022 Winter Olympics happen to be placed in Beijing now seems like a mere coincidence rather than strategic move.

The IOC went on the defensive after the announcement stating that the NHL’s invitation to participate in the 2022 games is completely contingent on their participation in the 2018 games.

If the expansion of global interest in the game of hockey is truly a major goal for the NHL, then why would they decide to back out of the biggest international stage the game is played on?

The Olympics would give the NHL the platform to turn a non-fan of the game to a casual fan and casual fans into diehards. It gives people the chance to root for players they normally wouldn’t get the chance to watch. Along with that, viewers are given the opportunity to learn about the players backgrounds and see them on a personal level that is not always showcased nationally. Fans would have the chance to make personal connections that could help spring their level of fandom to an altitude that watching a regular season NHL game simply will not do.

Although this decision seems solidified, what are some solutions to the problem? Perhaps the owners should look at the empty two week schedule as an opportunity to bring in other events and attractions. The arenas these teams play in are not restricted to just hockey games after all. They are multi-purpose facilities capable of hosting a number of events. Why cant owners look to fill up the void of hockey games with more concerts?

Would it be feasible for the IOC to offer the NHL deals on sponsorship packages during the games to help further promote the league? Both entities happen to already broadcast their events through NBC. The broadcasting company surely would prefer to have the NHL’s best playing to help generate more interest in the games. Conceivably, NBC could act as a liaison between the two sides to see if some type deal could be salvaged.

On top of not being able to represent their country, the players have been barred from the ability to positively impact their own personal brand. In the 2014 Winter games in Sochi, T.J Oshie went from relative unknown to the general sports fan to an American hero virtually overnight. No matter how great the NHL playoffs are, the ability to catapult a players brand to that type of status lies solely with the Olympics. This type of elevation, although it wouldn’t be in NHL games, does nothing but help the brand of the league itself. The NHL should be using the winter games as a vehicle to drive interest in their players and the game of hockey.

Despite this decision, the NHL does not have a solution yet regarding individual players who make the choice to play in the games regardless. Not only has Alexander Ovechkin already stated that he will play anyways, Capitals Owner Ted Leonis already stated back in December that he would support his star player in going to PyeongChang no matter the stance the NHL took. It will be interesting to see just how many players adopt this same philosophy as Ovechkin going forward.