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Report: Lottery 'wheel' concept revised, revisited

By Royce Young | NBA writer

The draf could be very different in the future.   (USATSI)
The NBA Draft could be very different in the future. (USATSI)
Remember the lottery wheel thing? The idea was simple: Eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a revolving wheel in which each team is given a draft slot for the next 30 years.

It was met with a heavy amount of criticism and dislike. One major counter to the idea was that players could "plan" for who they wanted to be drafted by since slots were predetermined. Another was that if you whiffed on your top pick, you were in big trouble.

So the league's working on revising it. According to Grantland, the wheel concept isn't going anywhere, and it's being tweaked and worked on.

The wheel isn't going away, despite some initial fears it would allow consensus no. 1 picks to game their NBA destination by entering the draft only when a “glamour” team was up next. Mike Zarren, the Celtics' assistant general manager and the architect of the wheel, has already presented Silver with revised alternatives that would address this issue and several others, per Silver and other sources.

The wheel may not end up looking much like a wheel at all; Zarren has reorganized it so that groups of randomly selected teams might hop through buckets of six picks — say, picks 1-6 in one season, and 25-30 the next season — over a five-year span, instead of the original 30-year system in which teams cycle through each specific pick one by one. Within each bucket, a mini lottery would determine which team gets which pick. The goal is to give bad teams hope of snagging a higher pick more quickly.

It's a better concept, but still not ironclad. The idea is to remove the importance of losing, and the wheel accomplishes a heavy amount of that. The league realizes and understands they're working with a broken draft system, one that incentivizes losing, which is bad.

“We need to view the system holistically,” Adam Silver told Grantland. “There are predictable consequences to change, and even more importantly, unpredictable consequences.”

The biggest counter around the league, per Grantland, is that executives and decison-makers fear the wheel could make it harder to get out of a hole. Strike out on your top pick, sign a bad free agent and suffer an injury, and you have no future hope of landing another high value pick. Instead, you're picking between 15-20 to try and rebuild. And part of the lure of tanking is that teams can package and sell hope, something fans are eager to buy.

“I like the wheel conceptually,” Mark Cuban told Grantland. “But I think it makes it harder to sell hope to fans. And hope is a huge connecting point between rebuilding teams and their fans.”

The wheel still still needs some work, and it'll definitely require a lot of selling. It may not be the answer to fixing what ails the NBA, but it seems pretty clear the league is very interesting in change.

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