Here on SLC dunk there has been a lot of talk about the potential for the Jazz if they finish in the lottery and could get another lottery pick next year to go along with Golden State’s lottery pick would be better than competing for the playoffs next year. The scary thing to me is that the way the NBA is currently set up it makes some sense. That is where I have a huge problem. I never want to see my team lose. I don’t want a reason to feel good if we get our butt kicked by the T’Wolves. I think there should be some incentive to winning, even for teams that don’t have a shot at making the playoffs. The Sports Guy’s idea for a two week tournament for the last 4 playoff spots is a great idea, but I think the change would be too drastic for the NBA. So I tried to come up with an approach that would reward winning throughout the season, while not changing the current season 82 game format.
In 2010 the Indiana Pacers were sitting at 22-46 with 14 games left. That is a .325 winning percentage. Most teams in that spot fold up like an accordion with the hopes of landing the next Rose, Durant, or Wall. The Pacers kept working their butts off. They finished the last 14 games going 10-4 over that stretch. Of those four loses, one was in OT and one was by a single point. One of those wins they had was a big hit to the Jazz season. If the Jazz win that game they get home court in the first round of the Playoffs, instead the Pacers made it so we could open the playoffs with “Utah Sucks” chants in Denver.
But the real issue for the Pacers is that they finished the year with 32 wins. Had the Pacers continued to play at the level they were playing they would have won either 26 or 27 games. The team that won the lottery last year, the Washington Wizards, won 26 games. The team that ended up picking second, the Philadelphia 76ers, won 27 games. The Pacers would have been somewhere in the mix with those ping pong balls, had they not decided to try to win games down the stretch of the season. The Pacers who need a PG and a PF could have been in the running for a top 2 pick in a draft that had John Wall and Derek Favors taken in the top 3 picks. Poor Indy got penalized for winning and slipped to the 10th pick in the draft. I think I can fix that problem.
What if there was a way to incentivize teams to do what the Pacers did to finish off the year? Wouldn’t that be better for everyone? Wouldn’t you rather be rewarded than penalized for winning? So my idea is to give the team a chance to increase their lottery chances with wins after they are officially eliminated from the playoffs. The lottery system would still be used, but the way to increase you percentage chance of winning the lottery would be determined by the number of wins the team gets after they are eliminated from the playoffs. Teams that are closer to the playoffs won’t get that many chances at wins, because they might not be eliminated from the playoffs until the last few days of the season. Teams that get eliminated earlier in the year will still have a reason to try to win games and have more of an opportunity to get more wins than a team that only has 5 games left on the schedule after they are eliminated.
For example, let’s say the Clippers are eliminated from the making the playoffs with 20 games left then they get 3 more wins to finish off the year and the Rockets are eliminated with 6 games left and they get 4 wins. The Rockets would then move ahead of the Clippers in the percentage chances for the lotttery ping pong balls. Is that fair? Maybe not, but the Clippers would have a reason to work to get more than 3 wins down the stretch.
Tiebreakers with wins after elimination will go to the team with the worse record. So if the T’Wolves win 6 games after they are eliminated and finish 20-62 and the Wizards win 6 games after they are eliminated then but finish 26-56, then the T’Wolves would be a spot ahead of them in the lottery odds. But wouldn’t it make it more of an important game if the two played each other to end the year and the winner would get the best odds entering the lottery?
So maybe there would be some tanking earlier in the year for an awful team to get closer to being eliminated, but is that worse than year long tanking? I feel like it would make the end of the year more meaningful for the lottery teams and better for the fans who don’t want to watch tank-a-palooza.
Look at the Jazz this year. The season hasn’t even started yet (if it ever does) and some fans are suggesting that it will be better for us to lose and get a lottery pick then it will be for us to win but come short of the playoffs. Well if we aren’t making the playoffs I think it would be more fun to pull for us to win games down the stretch rather than be happy with a lose because that gets us closer to the lottery. Wouldn’t last years win against the Lakers have been even more sweet if it would have helped us move up a spot in the lottery?
If the Jazz can’t make the playoffs and get eliminated with 14 games left next year, it would be a great consolation prize to be like the Pacers of 2010 and rack up 10 after elimination wins to give us better odds to win the lottery. I would rather watch that than fans hoping that we sit out players the last week of the year to try to secure a loss. Winning should be rewarded, even for the worst teams in the NBA.