A couple weeks back, it was reported that the NBA was attempting to push through changes to its draft lottery system: a re-weighting of the odds that would discourage tanking. The Philadelphia 76ers would reportedly like the NBA to hold on a sec, because they're not finished being terrible.
The rough draft of this plan was met with opposition by 76ers management, which is in the midst of a multiseason rebuilding project that is dependent on a high pick next year. The 76ers, sources said, are hoping to get the NBA to delay the plan's implementation for at least a year because it would act as a de facto punishment while just playing by the rules that have been in place.
They're not wrong! At least morally, any blame belongs to the system that incentivizes tanking, not the teams playing within the system. But that doesn't mean fixing the system shouldn't come first, or that anyone should or will have sympathy for the Sixers.
We don't know the precise details of what's in the NBA's proposal, which was first reported by Grantland. Here's the latest description of how the lottery odds could be weighted, from ESPN's Brian Windhorst:
Currently, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick and the team with the fifth-worst record has an 8.8 percent chance of winning it. In a new format, the bottom five or six teams could have an equal chance.
The NBA will toss around word "balance," and will never admit the proposal is very clearly designed to stop teams from intentionally losing to land the best draft picks, because that would require the league to admit that tanking is real and a real problem.
But it's also a legitimate strategy, and the Sixers realize that the best tanking isn't just a one-year thing. They've spent a couple years stocking up with premium talent like Michael Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric, in many cases guys who aren't expected to contribute or even play immediately. They feel they've got at least one more crappy season left in them, and don't want it to go to waste.