During a recent speaking engagement with employees of the Phoenix Suns, NBA commissioner Adam Silver said the league has “put teams on notice” and will pay “particular attention” to tanking this season, according to Baxter Holmes. Furthermore, he noted the league has even discussed the possibility of implementing a promotion/relegation system.
Silver acknowledged straight away that the latter is not feasible and therefore will not be happening. “It would so disrupt our business model,” Silver said. “And even if you took two teams up from the G League, they wouldn’t be equipped to compete in the NBA.”
While promotion/relegation isn’t the answer, it’s notable that Silver called tanking a “serious issue” and admitted the league is exploring whether the current draft format is the best set-up.
“It’s something we have to watch for,” Silver said. “A draft is, in principle, a good system. But I get [tanking], especially when there is a sense that a once-in-a-generation player is coming along, like we have this year… Teams are smarter, they are creative, and they respond — we move, they move — so we’re always looking to see whether there’s yet a better system.”
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This is not the first time that tanking has been a major topic, and it will not be the last. But with 18-year-old Frenchman Victor Wembanyama leaving scouts and fans in awe on multiple continents, it will take center stage this season. The projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft is widely seen as one of the best prospects of not only recent memory, but perhaps all time. His combination of size and skill make him a potential franchise player, and a number of teams have made moves to position themselves for a high draft pick.
In recent years, the league has made some adjustments to the draft lottery and playoff system to try and disincentivize tanking. Lottery odds were flattened, and the three worst records in the league now all have an equal 14 percent chance of getting the top pick. In addition, the implementation of the play-in tournament gives 10 teams in each conference a chance at making the playoffs.
Now, however, Silver and the league are dropping hints about fundamentally altering the current systems. Whether they actually do so in the near future remains to be seen, but it’s something to keep an eye on, especially with expansion on the horizon as well.