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It’s time to look into relegating tanking

Tanking is a stain on sports.

If the Philadelphia 76ers believe the fastest way to win is to lose, the system must be changed. In the NBA and NHL, losers are rewarded. Any league with a draft lottery designed to ward off losing as a strategy is fundamentally flawed. If a team actually charges money for fans to buy seats, there is an obligation to make an attempt to win. The NBA and NHL have an integrity problem. Let’s fix it.

Here are my three proposals. Each one increases in my hatred for the lottery but also decreases in probability of actually impressing you with my level of logic.


All 14 non-playoff teams are in the lottery. Each team has one ping-pong ball with their team logo. The line, however, is set at the fifth pick. The lottery machine rolls out on stage. First ball drawn picks 5th, next ball picks 4th, and so on. Therefore, there’s drama building up to the number one pick and still 10 teams with a ball in the hopper for a chance at the first pick. There is zero advantage to tanking. The penalty for finishing last is worse because that team is only guaranteed to pick 6th.

The worst place to be in the NBA is a 9 or 10 seed. Those teams have no chance to win the lottery since they are given few ping pong ball combinations, making a rebuild difficult. Moreover, 82 games have proven those teams have too many flaws to be a championship contender, let alone a playoff team. If Oklahoma City as the best non-playoff team is equal to Minnesota as the worst, all incentive to lose is destroyed.


Shane Doan was on with Burns and Gambo last March discussing the NHL draft lottery. He suggested a system where teams earn points towards the lottery for every win they accumulate after being eliminated from playoff contention. Let’s work from that framework.

In the current form of the draft lottery, there are 1,001 combinations that can come from pulling four numbers from a hopper filled with 14 numbers. Since Minnesota was the worst team, they receive 25 percent, or 250 combinations. If any of the 250 come up, T-Wolves get the first pick.

Instead of losing the most games to earn the 25 percent, let’s go with the best post-playoff-elimination winning percentage. Similar to Doan’s point, as soon as a team is eliminated from the post-season, their regular season ends and their lottery season starts. Their winning percentage is tabulated in the standings exactly as it is for playoff teams. They would disappear from the regular standing page on every NBA website but would be on the tab that reads “Lottery Standings.”

Using an NHL game for an example, instead of Buffalo Sabres’ fans celebrating Coyote goals in order to improve by losing, it changes that game from a “must-lose” to a must-win to hurt your opponent’s chances at more lottery combinations while increasing your own. All 14 non-playoff teams would, eventually, make the Lottery Standings and their final winning percentage from that point would be placed in ranking order. The lottery would then take place exactly as it does now but only winning after elimination would be rewarded.


OK, I admit, this is crazy and I’m going for the jugular. Most soccer leagues, other than MLS, have a concept that completely eliminates tanking. Last place teams in the “major” league of a country are relegated to a minor league and the best team in the minor league is promoted.

If there is any team that finishes in last place two years in a row in the NBA, that franchise must spend one season in the D-League. If a franchise continually puts a minor league product on the court, they can play in the minor leagues.

I realize a foreign soccer system can’t work in the U.S. because the Austin Toros should never be promoted to the NBA. The problem is arenas and team construction. There would be a slight injustice if the Los Angeles Lakers are relegated to the D-League while the team made up of Lakers minor league players, the Los Angeles D-Fenders, is promoted.

In soccer, the minor league (lower division) team is independent from the higher division, so players move up through the leagues differently than a baseball minor league since they are not owned by a parent club. I’m eliminating the “promotion” part of relegation/promotion since I’m not trying to bring up another team. My goal is to eliminate tanking. Imagine the desperation of a team of NBA players knowing they must win three of their remaining games to avoid traveling by bus all of next year.


Tweet me which one of these ideas you like the best or add one of your own. Wednesday, I’ll give you my opinion on your tweets and suggestions.