By: Brian Chapman
@bchapsports

Hey, Detroit Pistons fan. It’s NBA Draft Lottery day! That’s right. It’s the day each year where Pistons fans huddle around a television before a playoff game (that their team is not a part of) in anticipation of a lottery that will give them a 2.8% to 4.3% chance of winning the top overall pick and a 10.4% to 15% chance of winning a top three pick, depending on whether the Pistons finished with the 7th or 8th worst record in the league. This year the Pistons had a good season (for them) and finished with the 8th worst record meaning there’s an 89.6% chance of disappointment. That would mean no Karl-Anthony Towns, no Jahlil Okafor, no Emmanuel Mudiay and of course no Pistons playoff game immediately following the Lottery to boost your spirits.

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Speaking of the NBA Playoffs and the Draft Lottery, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver has made it one of his top priorities to change the current lottery system and possibly the playoff structure. The main problem with the lottery system is that it leads teams (like the Philadelphia 76ers) to tank even though the system is meant to discourage such behavior. Silver is even open to a single elimination tournament to decide the No. 8 seeds in each conference like the EAH Tournament that Bill Simmons frequently begs for.

 

Well if Adam Silver is looking ideas and Bill Simmons is offering his, then I might as well offer mine (especially because it’s better.) It’s a plan that uses aspects of the Bill Simmons EAH Tournament while at the same time reduces tanking and gives teams a chance to earn lottery bonuses. It’s either sheer brilliance or the dumbest plan on the planet and here’s how it would work…

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  1. Fourteen of the 15 teams in each conference make the playoffs. (Yes, that means only one team misses the playoffs in each conference.)
  2. The top six teams in each conference get a bye for the play-in tournament. After the play-in tournament, the first round begins with the No. 3 seed facing the No. 6 seed, the No. 4 seed facing the No. 5 seed and the top two seeds awaiting the winners of the play-in tournaments for their opponent.
  3. In the play-in tournaments, seeds 7 through 14 play in one of two single elimination tournaments for the right to face the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in the NBA Playoffs. In one tournament the No. 7 seed would host the No. 14 seed and then play the winner of the No. 10 seed hosting the No. 11 seed. The winner of that tournament would face the No. 2 seed… In the other tournament, the No. 7 seed would host the No. 13 seed and then play the winner of the No. 8 seed and the No. 13 seed. The winner of that tournament would face the No. 1 seed.
  4. A lottery would continue to be used to decide the top three teams in the draft, followed by the remaining eleven teams that did not earn a top eight seed in reverse order of record. (No change to the current system here.)
  5. Instead of the worst team in the league getting a 25% chance to win the lottery, the worst team in each conference would each get just a 14% chance to win the lottery. This would be followed by a 10% chance for each No. 14 seed, a 7% chance for each No. 13 seed, a 4.5% chance for each No. 12 seed, a 2.5% chance for each No. 11 seed, a 1.5% chance for each No. 10 seed and a 0.5% chance for each No. 9 seed.
  6. If you added all of those percentages up from step five and multiplied by two (because there are two conference) you only get to 80%. That’s because each of the four teams that wins its play-in tournament would not only earn a trip to the playoffs, but also be awarded a 5% lottery bonus. (Example: If the No. 7 seed wins a playoff spot, it gets a 5% chance to win the top pick in the draft. If the No. 12 seed, like this year’s Pistons team, wins two games on the road, they jump to a 9.5% chance to win the lottery and of course get a first round playoff berth. If the No. 14 seed pulls off a pair of monster upsets, it gets a 15% chance to win the top pick which are better odds than the No. 15 seed that missed the playoffs.)

 

So that was how it works. Now here is why this would work.

 

  1. I love the idea of a single elimination tournament. Why not give NBA fans a little April Madness with four play-in tournaments for four playoff spots in less than one week?
  2. The top two seeds in each conference would continue to play hard all season for the best records in the league to get home court advantage, but now there’s an extra incentive. If you finish in the top two, you face a team that has not had as much rest and could have finished the season 30 or 40 games below .500. Playing a cupcake that just pulled off a couple of upsets ensures an easy path to the second round.
  3. The No. 3 and No. 4 seeds would continue to play hard to get home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
  4. The No. 5 and No. 6 seeds would continue to play hard to avoid being forced to participate in the play-in tournament. No team sitting in the driver’s seat for a No. 5 or No. 6 seed would tank to fall into the play-in tournament because they would risk and losing any shot at a championship.
  5. The No. 7 and No. 8 seeds would continue to play hard for several reasons. First of all, their primary goal would be to jump into the top six to earn a bye to the first round. Second of all, they’d want to ensure home court advantage in both play-in tournament games. Third of all, they’d get a 1 in 20 chance at landing the next LeBron James or Kevin Durant by winning the tournament.
  6. The No. 9 and 10 seeds would continue to play hard for three reasons as well. First of all, they’d want to jump into the No. 7 or No. 8 seeds to get home court advantage throughout the play-in tournament. Second of all, they’d at least like to get one home game in the event that they can’t get a No. 7 or No. 8 seed because it would put them just one road win away from the first round of the playoffs. Third of all, that lottery bonus!
  7. The No. 11 through No. 14 seeds would also continue to play hard all season because even though they may finish with 60 losses or more, they’d want to go into the play-in tournament with momentum knowing they are just two road wins away from the first round of the playoffs AND a lottery bonus.
  8. Even the No. 15 seed in each conference would play hard until the end because no coach, player or general manager would want to endure the embarrassment of being a member of the only team in your conference to not make the playoffs. When 93.3% of teams make the playoffs, the bar is low and you’d better get in. Plus, is a 14% chance of getting the top pick really a reason to tank like a No Limit Soldier?

 

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If you’ve got a better idea to fix the lottery and improve the playoffs, I’d like to hear it. Otherwise, I expect you all to endorse this plan and ensure this finds its way to Adam Silver’s desk.