Generate Excitment: Change the NBA Draft Lottery System

| by Sports Nickel

I’m not the biggest fan of the NBA draft lottery system (ESPN airing it on Tuesday night). In a recent interview with the authors of Stumbling on Wins, I even asked if they would change it.

Since the new weighted system in 1990, only seven teams that have had the bottom TWO records have won the top overall pick. And, of course, Orlando won the lottery in 1993 with a .500 record (1.5 percent chance of winning)! So, maybe they wanted to not give teams so much incentive to tank your season, and maybe they wanted it to be a little exciting. OK, fine. I don’t agree, but fine. But it’s not really that exciting. In fact, the actual television part is rather dull. They don’t even show the ping pong balls. They just bring out the envelopes, and cut to all of the teams’ representatives and their lucky charms.

So, instead of just asking and trying to explain how it isn’t fair, I devised the best possible solution. This is a win-win for the fans and the networks: An NBA draft gameshow. And not just any gameshow. The most suspenseful gameshow – Deal or No Deal! Come on, you’re already a little excited, aren’t you?

So, we’ve all seen Deal or No Deal, right? (If you haven’t, check out the basic format.) The guy from Bobby’s World hosts it. Come on, if it’s good enough for Oprah, the NBA isn’t above it!

So, since the New Jersey Nets have the worst record, new owner Mikhail Prokhorov gets to pick whichever briefcase he wants to be his. Inside, the suitcases each have a number from 1 though 4. (With the current lottery rules, every team is guaranteed to get no more than 3 picks away from their projected pick, so the worse the Nets can get is 4). Again, with the current rules, the Nets have a 25% chance of getting the top overall pick. They also have a 21.5, 17.8 and 35.7 percent chance of getting the second, third and fourth pick (That’s right, they have better odds at getting the fourth pick than the first.) So, let’s load up the suitcases with 7 #1’s, 6 #2’s, 5 #3’s, and 8 #4’s. OK, Mr. Prokhorov, take your pick.

Forbes recently estimated his net worth at $13.4 billion, Prokhorov picked lucky suitcase #13. Ominous choice, but we’ll see how this plays out..

Mr. Prokhorov now needs to eliminate 5 suitcases. The ideal choice would be to somehow pick 5 of the #4’s lurking out there, giving him a much better chance of still holding a suitcase with #1 inside.

He does decent, knocking out 2 #4’s, 1 #3, and 2 #2’s. The banker then calls the host and gives Prokhorov the offer to buy the case back from him right now..

Based on what’s still out there, Prokhorov is offered the #2 overall pick in the draft… DEAL OR NO DEAL?

Prokhorov is too smart for this offer. He quickly says, “NO DEAL!” And the game moves forward, with him eliminating another 5 cases. More of the same… But a #1 is knocked off, as well as 3 more #2’s and 1 #3. The banker offer is now a #3 overall pick. “NO DEAL!”

And so it goes until Prokhorov is left with just his case and one more case one of the models is still holding. All that’s left is a #1 and a #4 overall. His final offer from the banker is a #3 overall. “NO DEAL!” He, instead, opts for the 50-50 chance of the #1 overall pick.

And they’re about to open up the case he picked, the drumroll starts up… they’re cutting back and forth between all of the other draft representatives…. OK, Open up the case…. right after this commercial break.. AHHH, the suspense. But they’re back, and now the case is opening, slowly, slowly, and the new guy did it!

He actually did it. He got the first pick. Congratulations New Jersey Nets. You have won what was yours to begin with..

But, hey, tonight, we’re all winners because at least this would be a little harder for David Stern to rig.


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