Improving the NBA draft

I’m of the opinion that the current implementation of the National Basketball Association draft isn’t perfect.  My proposed solution isn’t perfect either, but I think it is an improvement.

My suggestion (in a nutshell)
a. Assign ‘Draft Dollars’ to each team based on their record and have teams bid on players.
b. Unused ‘Draft Dollars’ roll over to the next year (well.. not 100% of them) and can be traded amongst teams in conjunction with other players.

There are a few more details to the proposal, but before I get into it let me first try to explain the problems with the current system.  I don’t like it that team management will devise strategies to improve their odds in the draft lottery by winning FEWER games once they know that they won’t make the playoffs.  This is a disappointment to the players on those teams, the league and the fans.  “Tanking” is currently a valid strategy and it shouldn’t be.
Secondly, I don’t like the fact that a well run and managed team should need to rely on luck to win a great draft pick and other teams which reach the ‘middle of the pack’ don’t really have the opportunity to build through the draft and are stuck in the middle, just missing the playoffs (or having a first round exit) year after year.

The reason why I think the draft dollars will address ‘tanking’ is because the extra few dollars the team will get from dropping a place or two in the overall league rankings won’t come close to what the other teams have managed to save from prior years and acquired through deals.
Furthermore, teams in the middle now have a tradeable asset they can use to pick up players that fill specific needs on their rosters or they can save them up for a few years and perhaps pick up a top-5 prospect without needing to ‘bottom-out’ first.

The other potential benefit for draft dollars is that if your superstar player wants to leave town, now your team may be able to work out a three team trade where you will get a load of draft dollars instead of (or in addition to) a bunch or role-players.

I don’t have the resources to run the simulations to figure out how many ‘draft dollars’ each team should get; but my suggestion would be that the two teams with the worst records would be paired up and whichever of those two teams won the season series, would get slightly more dollars allocated.  Same goes for teams 3-4, 5-6 etc…  This has the potential to make the battles at the bottom of the standings almost as interesting as those at the top.

Furthermore, I think it should be encouraged to spend your draft dollars in the year they are allocated instead of just saving up for the next LeBron James.  Therefore, my recommendation would be that unused draft dollars would drop to 65% of their value at the conclusion of the draft.

For the bidding process itself, I think a live auction would be a bad idea and instead advocate a sealed bid auction.  Commissioner Adam Silver would read a name, each team would have five minutes to submit their bid electronically and the winning bid would get the player, with the money deducted from their draft dollar account.  [When my brothers and I do our fantasy auctions, we have a sealed bid vickrey auction; where the winning bidder only pays the amount of the second highest bid, which protects us from really stupid bids.]

No longer will your team lose out on a player because they were picked one spot ahead of your pick.  Now your team simply didn’t have enough money, or didn’t bid enough…

Perhaps I will also post at some point about my ideas for draft eligibility.

I would love to hear your ideas on why you think this is a good or bad solution.  Please leave them in the comments below.