On ESPN the other day, there was an article advocating that the NBA abolish the conference system and just put the best 16 teams league-wide in the playoffs. I agree. But in the middle I ran into this tidbit:
As Curtis Harris astutely pointed out, the NBA lottery system perpetually weakens the East. Good West teams miss the playoff cut, wind up in the lottery and receive high draft picks. Bad East teams make the diluted playoffs and receive low-quality selections. So long as the conference system and lottery system exist as they do, there’s no guarantee that the East rises.
I'm confused. I thought the middle, where the Mavs will land, was the "treadmill of mediocrity", and that the "best way to rebuild" was to stink and get a top draft pick?
The media pushing the tanking
narrative meme seems to want it both ways. If finishing at the bottom and getting a pick in the 1-4 range is the best way to "rebuild" and leapfrog into contention, then shouldn't this benefit the East? With their high draft picks, the absolute worst teams should eventually become powerhouses, displacing those 0.400 teams that currently make the playoffs, thus shifting the balance of power once again.
Of course, we've pointed out time and time again that this leapfrogging from getting a top 5 pick virtually never happens (unless maybe you have a hall-of-fame center who sat out the previous season). But that has never stopped anybody from claiming that high picks in the draft are the best way to get superstar talent.
So...which is it? Is tanking to be terrible the best way to build a future contender? If so, the East will look great in 5 years, right?
Or is floating around the edge of the playoffs, occasionally hitting a one-and-done year, while waiting for a superstar, and grabbing lottery picks from spots 10-20 really a better strategy?
I think Curtis Harris knows which one is best (and I agree with him). It just doesn't quite seem to fit the narrative that everyone else is telling about tanking, does it?