Basketball Self-destruct

Basketball Self-destruct

Below is a brief selection from a very good piece of writing from Slate magazine. It explains how a “reverse order draft” encourages teams to lose undercutting the competitive nature of the sport and simple elementary fairness.

The NBA’s anti-competitive incentive problem is reaching a critical level. One of the things a person comes to know from a lifetime of competing in tabletop baseball games is that a reverse-order draft can rip a league apart. Competitiveness is essential to competition: A league cannot survive with teams actively trying to lose. A reverse-order draft gives the biggest prizes—that is, the best players coming into the league—to the teams with the worst records. This creates an incentive to lose. In an eight-team league in which the futures of players are known, a reverse-order draft will destroy the league. In any season, only two or three teams will have a real chance to win. The other teams are best served by losing as many games as possible. What will happen in an APBA league or a Strat-O-Matic league is that you will have two teams trying to win wind up with records like 53–7 and 48–12, and then you will have four teams wind up with records like 11–49 and 16–44. You have a lot of games that don’t mean anything and a large number of meaningless games absolutely will destroy a league, whether it is a baseball simulation league or a league with real athletes and real fans and really big money.

Elementary business ethics would suggest that when two teams in a for profit league compete both should be trying to win. But under current rules, losing can be an advantage to a team because the lower their ranking the better draft picks they get.

This system encourages cheating. That’s wrong. Let’s have real competition and real games.

James Pilant