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If The NBA Regular Season Is Over, The League Needs To Flatten Draft Lottery Odds

If the NBA can't figure out a way to finish the season, it doesn't make sense to punish the teams that were still trying to make the playoffs.

The NBA, like most of the world, is on hiatus due to COVID-19. Nobody knows if the 2019-20 NBA season will resume, but as time passes it looks less and less likely. If the season doesn't resume, the NBA will need to determine how to establish the lottery order. While they could simply use the current standings and the current lottery odds, I believe the league needs to flatten those odds instead. Yes, I am a Kings fan, and this proposal directly impacts my well-being, but most importantly I’m a big believer in fairness. This would be the fair thing to do. Allow me explain.

I was listening to The Ringer NBA show with Kevin O’Connor, Chris Vernon, and Bill Simmons Wednesday morning, and according to Simmons’ league sources the most recent proposal that NBA owners are kicking around would include an 8 or 12 team playoff tournament at a bubble site like Las Vegas or Disney World. Simmons added that NBA owners are discussing a plethora of different ideas, but he would be shocked if the regular season returns in any significant way. It’s playoff tournament or bust.

This is just one of many different reports we’re hearing from NBA insiders on an almost daily basis. I’m not taking Simmons’ source as gospel, but a common theme among all the different information out there right now is this: The full remaining regular season schedule is not going to happen, and more specifically for Kings fans, the basketball team in Sacramento isn’t going to get an opportunity to finish their playoff push.

The Kings were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies and the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoff race with 18 games to play when the NBA suspended the season. While not impossible, the likelihood of the Kings making the playoffs was fairly low. I understand that. They weren’t just competing with the Grizzlies. They also had to leapfrog the Pelicans and the Trail Blazers. It wasn’t going to be easy.

But if the regular season is over and the NBA eventually resumes with some sort of tournament among current playoff teams, they shouldn’t punish organizations like the Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs that were still fighting for playoff position, and actively trying to make an often boring end to the regular season interesting. 

If the NBA can bend the rules to allow for a shortened season and immediate playoff tournament, they can bend the rules to reward teams that were actually trying to compete. I’m not necessarily advocating for a complete lottery odd flattening because a majority of the season has already been played, but there should be some lottery odd compensation.

As the standings sit now, the Kings have a 6.2% chance of landing a top-4 pick, and a 1.3% chance of landing the #1 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. I’m not going to pretend like I know the optimal solution to this problem, but I know that if the NBA does resume with current playoff teams competing in some kind of championship tournament, and non-playoff but competitive teams are left with this kind of unsatisfying conclusion to their season – that’s not right.

I understand that I’m getting pre-mad at something that hasn’t even happened yet, but can you blame me for feeling like the Kings are going to get screwed here? We’ve been expertly trained to expect the worst.

The way I see it, the NBA has three options:

1)   Play the entire regular season out to fairly determine playoff seeding and lottery odds. I would consider this highly unlikely.

2)   Give competing non-playoff teams an opportunity to take the 8th seed away from the Grizzlies in some kind of play-in tournament. According to various reports, this might actually happen.

3)   End the regular season with the standings as-is and play a tournament among current playoff teams to determine a champion, but reward competing non-playoff teams with better lottery odds than they have right now.

Anything less would punish what I consider the most admirable NBA organizations during the final stretch of the regular season – the teams that were still fighting for something. 

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BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 9:55 am

I don’t see why they should make any changes at all. All the adjustments just feel like excuses to help the Kings. The Grizzlies have earned a 3.5 game lead on the 9th place teams. Why should they have to enter a tiny small sample size tourney to defend the position they’ve earned? The Wolves and Warriors have sucked, but they haven’t been actively tanking. Why should they have their chances at a top pick reduced? It isn’t like the season was 12 games. They’ve played 64 games. Imagine how you’d feel if the Kings were the ones with a 3.5 game lead. Or the one’s that have suffered through a 15-win season with their best players sidelined virtually the entire season.

BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 10:38 am
Reply to  TonyXypteras

But the teams at the top are at the top because they earned those positions over the course of 64-ish games. The teams at the bottom also “earned” those positions. How is a play-in tournament “fair” to the Grizzlies? How are flattened odds “fair” to the teams at the bottom? Why should the teams in the middle get consideration greater consideration? Of course the end of the season rewards the teams at the top and bottom. The end of every season does that. The playoffs are SUPPOSED to reward the teams at the top. The draft is SUPPOSED to “reward” the teams at the bottom. The Kings, over the course of 64 games, didn’t earn a spot among the top 8 in the conference. They aren’t missing the playoffs because of COVID. They’re missing the playoffs because they did play well enough. At the same time, over the course of 64 games, they didn’t prove to be so bad that they need a top pick to compete. Which is the point of the draft structure. The entire point of the draft lottery isn’t to reward mediocre teams that missed the lottery, it’s to disincentivize tanking. Ending the season early actually advances that goal by removing the time of year that more teams start actively tanking.

Personally, I’ve always been in favor of flattening lottery odds. Even potentially to the point of them being nearly entirely flat. Or perhaps tiering it and drawing for the entirely lottery, not just the top 3 or 4 or 5. Or extending it to all 30 teams (obviously with extremely thin odds for the top teams.) But I don’t think the season being cut 18 games short is a rational reason to do it.

BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 11:35 am
Reply to  TonyXypteras

Looks like this season may be 64 games. And the schedule isn’t balanced, so there are strength of schedule issues no matter when the season ends.

I disagree about their strong argument. I don’t think they have a stronger argument about the potential placement changes from the last 18 games than other teams do about the actual placement from the 64 games played.

1951
April 23, 2020 12:11 pm
Reply to  TonyXypteras

I believe we have seen this movie before. The Kings made the playoffs in a 50-game season.

As far as I can recall, the chips fell where they fell in a shortened season, including the impact on the following draft.

ArsLegendi
April 23, 2020 10:22 am

All postseasons are “tiny small sample size tourneys.” Otherwise, best regular season record gets the trophy.

BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 10:43 am
Reply to  ArsLegendi

Of course they are. But there’s no reason to exacerbate that problem and simultaneously essentially render the regular season moot.

Tangentially, I’ve said before that the playoffs are pretty much just there for drama and money. If the goal were to discern the best team then, yes, best regular season record would get the trophy.

As such, if the NBA’s goal is to make as much money as possible with these playoffs, they should absolutely do a big play-in tourney.

RikSmits
April 23, 2020 10:25 am

Agreed. I don’t see why the Kings should be gifted with a play-off or tournament spot after they shit the bed early in the season.
Nor do I see why they should be compensated by getting better lottery odds for finally getting their shit together around the AS break.
Live is tough, as we are experiencing. It is what it is.

BenSimmions3ptshot
April 24, 2020 12:48 am

It’s this kind of thought process that makes me enjoy and highly respect this subsection of the kings fanbase. You want your team to make the playoffs as passionately as the next person but you want them to make it in a way that is both sustainable and earnt. Kudos

RW18
April 23, 2020 10:16 am

Really mix it up and have the non-playoff teams compete in a tourney for the #1 pick. Why?, because screw the Warriors.

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 10:39 am
Reply to  RW18

It’s always counter-intuitive to me that you’re rewarding the best team that didn’t make the playoffs with the #1 pick in these lottery playoffs. The point of the draft is to give the bad teams the best players coming in to help them rebuild.

BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 10:50 am

Agreed, I think we’re losing sight of the point of the draft. The reason there is a lottery is to disincentivize tanking. Not to reward the better, non-playoff teams.

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 10:50 am

Also, there is zero incentive for these players to take this seriously. Maybe the main core guys because they want a better teammate, but players 6-12 are going to play heads up seven up and half court. Why would they be working their ass off to draft a player that’s likely going to send them packing to the free agent market.

RW18
April 23, 2020 11:50 am

Obviously your point is correct, but a lot of the bad teams keep being bad. Clearly playing for #1 will never happen, it was just a fantasy comment.

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 1:37 pm
Reply to  RW18

You are no where near the only person with this thought, so I was more just replying to that thought in general.

ArsLegendi
April 23, 2020 10:23 am

Giving the Kings FO better draft lottery odds doesn’t make me feel better, for some reason.

Klam
Nostradumbass 18
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Nostradumbass 18
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April 23, 2020 11:16 am
Reply to  ArsLegendi

A’int that the truth.

LukashoulbeaKing77
April 23, 2020 3:30 pm
Reply to  ArsLegendi

Why? The kings could jump up to, say, number 2 and get a generational superstar! Wait a second…

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 10:35 am

In my opinion, they should shorten this season to 10 games or so left. Gives some slight excitement for those final playoff spots, but it also allows teams to get back in to more game shape. If you shorten it too much the first few rounds of the playoff are going to be brutal. Also, due to contract situations with bonuses and stuff, it gives players some room to make that extra money that are in their contract. Just voiding out the rest of the contract doesn’t seem right.

As far as the draft goes, just push it out and cancel summer league for the draft picks. They can do a much smaller thing for the cusp players that rely on summer league to make it in. Maybe some G League event?

Then to make this truly work. They should shorten next year as well as a catch up year. I personally think they should just permanently shorten the season, but that’s a different argument for a different day. This catch up year should be around that 64 game mark. Means you play every team twice and then your division an additional 2 times each.

Worst case scenario, you also shorten the 2021 – 2022 season to the same 64 games, that way we don’t have next years catch up year being that cluster f’ck that was the lock out year where there was sometimes 4 freaking home games in the same week. I would rather this be a long term fix where we slowly get things back to a normal season instead of doing something drastic this year and next to “catch up”. There is nothing forcing the NBA to play during certain times of the year. I realize that they like to stay where they are at because they want to avoid the NFL, but this is a pretty damn big thing and some sacrifices need to be made somewhere to get the ship back sailing in the right direction.

BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 10:45 am

I think these ideas make much more sense.

Carl
April 23, 2020 11:24 am

In principle I think your plans may be workable, but there’s too much money involved to dramatically shorten the season.

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 11:27 am
Reply to  Carl

The thought is, the shorten season increases the meaning of each game and can cause more chaos. This would draw in more fans thus counter the losses from playing less games with the more viewers. I’m not smart enough to know if that truly could ever subsidize the costs of less games or not.

Carl
April 23, 2020 4:39 pm

If you’re not smart enough, I’m definitely not smart enough.

Hozr
April 23, 2020 5:56 pm

I thought the reason for shortening the season was to decrease the wear and tear on the players’ bodies and reduce injuries (especially those that would shorten or end careers).

Otis
April 23, 2020 4:57 pm
Reply to  Carl

I think a shorter season means higher individual game ticket prices, which is fine I suppose (I mean, not great, but tenable). Question is, how much is all of this going to impact future television deals, and how will that affect the owners’ appetite to reduce the schedule?

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 10:05 pm
Reply to  Otis

Didn’t they JUST start that new TV deal and it was 10 years I believe, by the end of it things SHOULD have stabilized hopefully. The big contracts it doesn’t really affect much since they don’t necessarily need to reduce the amount of TNT/ESPN games a year. It’s the local games that the sponsors would be getting less of

Otis
April 23, 2020 4:55 pm

This is a good idea, IMO – but 10 games feels like a large amount of time in our current world environment, when you’re adding in a playoff tournament. I really feel they are going to need to cram whatever it is they decide to do in a very short window. So maybe 5 games to get in shape and then rock and roll.

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 10:06 pm
Reply to  Otis

My low end I had 6 games, run the shortened regular season for 2 weeks, throw in 3 games a week. Nothing too crazy and I don’t feel like 2 weeks will really make or break the NBA coming back or not.

RikSmits
April 23, 2020 11:06 am

This is just a Kings-centered, biased and emotionally fueled argument Tony is making.

You won’t see that kind of stuff over at StR!

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 11:08 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Instead it’ll be, “since we can’t figure out an easy way, I just think the Lakers should get the #1 pick. The NBA is better when the Lakers are best and honestly the Kings just shouldn’t have a draft pick”

RikSmits
April 23, 2020 11:12 am

“They’d mess it up anyway”

Carl
April 23, 2020 11:27 am

It makes me feel so good that not just the regulars, but the *entire* StR community stayed together and effectively told Vox to get bent and moved here instead. I don’t know how many communities that happened with, but as far as I know, it did not happen with McCovey Chronicles. I didn’t add it up, but it seems like there are more comments in a few hours on this article than that old place has had in a week.

HeuristicLineup
April 23, 2020 11:32 am
Reply to  Carl

It honestly was impressive. I knew STR had a great community, but I honestly thought people would kind of stay. No one did and this place is thriving like nothing ever changed. A+++ for all parties involved.

RikSmits
April 23, 2020 11:59 am

I’m not awfully surprised. I mean, Kings fans are suckers for punishment, but what’s going on there is even for us too much.
Those who may have considered to hang around were herded by the StR articles into the loving, welcome embrace of TKH.

TheFifthMookie
April 23, 2020 12:04 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I mean there were 3 screennames trying to make a go of it post Laker-writer entrance, and one of them was a trolly troll, so…. yeah, no reason to stick around there – and interestingly, not a single comment there since KH opened yesterday.

Klam
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April 23, 2020 1:36 pm
Reply to  TheFifthMookie

But what about all those users on STR that kept saying how happy they’d be when we were all gone come March? 😉

TheFifthMookie
April 24, 2020 11:38 am
Reply to  Klam

they went to reddit? beats me.

KinGEdW
April 23, 2020 1:08 pm
Reply to  Carl

That’s why Sacramento has definitely the best fan base. I did check other SBnations blogs when kings used to play against them. I remember comment sections from the Wizards, Magic, Suns, etc. being completely empty. 15 comments as a max.

Aykis16
Admin
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Nostradumbass 13
April 23, 2020 1:12 pm
Reply to  Carl

Literally bringing some tears to my eyes Carl.
comment image

Carl
April 23, 2020 4:43 pm
Reply to  Aykis16

comment image

Kingsguru21
April 23, 2020 1:39 pm
Reply to  Carl

I realize not everyone here is an A’s fan but Athletics Nation is still up and going. It’s just not as fun because, yanno, no baseball.

Otis
April 23, 2020 5:00 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Did they lose some staff, Nate?

Kingsguru21
April 23, 2020 6:11 pm
Reply to  Otis

Yeah. It’s an absolute pyrrhic victory and both Alex and Nico are not happy about any of it (they aren’t saying that tho). They kept AN intact….. and that’s about it for now.

Vox made a huge error here. Just as the CA gig law was an understandable law in its intentions, real world consequences matter, too.

Klam
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April 23, 2020 1:41 pm
Reply to  Carl

Yeah, I saw so many people commenting in the “Welcome to The Kings Herald” article that were longtime lurkers at STR. Literally the WHOLE community migrated.

ForeverKANGZ
April 23, 2020 2:10 pm
Reply to  Carl

I wonder if anybody could compare number of registered community members from KH and STR.

Otis
April 23, 2020 4:59 pm
Reply to  Carl

The alt site for McC was really a response to SBNation telling McC to pull the champagne threads (political talk) in the Fanposts – so it’s not really primarily a Giants site, although I figured they’d get pretty busy during baseball season.

Unless there’s a different alternate site for Giants stuff, maybe I missed it?

Kingsguru21
April 23, 2020 6:14 pm
Reply to  Otis

Gallo complained about the Champagne Room going away (and his subsequent banning) last September at AN day. His points (and mine) were similar: Vox doesn’t really value their communities as they should. And that don’t really recognize certain quirks work in certain communities even if they don’t work across the board.

ArsLegendi
April 24, 2020 8:26 am
Reply to  Otis

I think that was the only one, and I think it has since died down. I still check McC from time to time, only because Brady’s still doing good stuff. I didn’t go to the Champagne Room because a. I lost my taste for those sorts of online conversations a while ago, and b. a person I very much didn’t enjoy was active there.

Kingsguru21
April 24, 2020 9:31 am
Reply to  ArsLegendi

I’ve seen political comments on other sites. It works fine depending on who is making these comments and what the tolerance threshold is. As per usual, IMO.

But my point wasn’t just how Vox effected two sites like StR or McC. It effected others long before that, too. I think the Champagne Room was a good idea, still do. But in my case I prefer Twitter for political talk all things being equal. For a variety of reasons.

AN isnt as good as it was before, and it kept both Alex and Nico who had been running things together for many years. It’s just the silliness of this AB5 rule that passed. I’m not enamored of Vox, far from it. But they used AB5 to gut some of these communities and I think they’ll regret it in the long run.

TheFifthMookie
April 24, 2020 11:41 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

AB 5 was the result of Jurisprudence from the Dynamex case. It’s the CA Supreme court that established the ABC test for whether someone is a contractor or an employee. AB 5 simply codified it, and made exemptions – it was coming regardless of AB 5.

My understanding is that the exemptions to AB 5 are being expanded, but no idea when that might happen.

Vox used AB5 as an excuse, and their decisions did not reflect AB 5 very well (Firing writers from other states who write for CA themed blogs for example).

Kingsguru21
April 24, 2020 1:54 pm
Reply to  TheFifthMookie

You are right about AB 5. I’m not a fan of that kind of law regardless of the intent, rarely is it that simple. And good point about the CA SC. I hadn’t realized that until you pointed it out.

Talcyon
April 23, 2020 11:09 am

Just so happy you guys are writing articles again!

Adamsite
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April 23, 2020 11:21 am

I think I’d just go with end the season and hold the lottery like you normally would with the same odds. That’s the quick, clean and easy way to do it. If it is what is normally done, let’s try and keep it as normal as possible.

On an aside to that, I’ve always thought the league should open up free agency BEFORE the draft. For a late lottery team, like the Kings, filling holes in free agency with a known player would definitely effect who you might draft with the 12-14th pick. By then BPA might not be as much a factor as team fit. I think it would also make draft night all the more entertaining. If a team filled their hole with a free agent star, they might be more likely to trade a top 10 pick. I mean the league is built on entertainment, so entertain us as much as possible in the offseason as well

BestHyperboleEver
April 23, 2020 11:52 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Agreed. I mean, obviously current contracts need an end date, and they generally use the day before FA opens, but I don’t see any reason that shouldn’t essentially be the day after the season ends.

Carl
April 23, 2020 11:29 am

With the talk coming out of their mayor, the NBA categorically *should not* use Las Vegas as the place they play their games.

TheFifthMookie
April 23, 2020 11:29 am

I love The Ringer podcasts, but can’t stand when Verno gets all shouty at KOC, gets me to turn of the mismatch every other show or so.

I don’t see any adjustments needed, as teams like the kings were going to go hard to almost the end of the season anyway, so it’s not like they were robbed of their chance to tank.

RobHessing
April 23, 2020 11:31 am

Is the current front office ultimately making the pick? Then…comment image

TheFifthMookie
April 23, 2020 12:05 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

And who would make a better pick than the Kings FO?
comment image

TheFifthMookie
April 23, 2020 12:06 pm
Reply to  TheFifthMookie

and now I know to avoid imgur images!

AmateurNerd
April 23, 2020 12:39 pm

I actually think Bradley Geiser’s proposal from the other day (http://kingsherald.com/articles/nba-playoff-30-teams/) is the ideal solution–not just for this season, but long-term as well. To wit:

1. NCAA basketball has been going down the tubes for years, and may never recover from the COVID-19 fallout. The NBA is bringing back prep-to-pros in a couple of years, and is already moving to sign preps right out of high school to lucrative D-League deals. The D-League is turning into more and more of a legit minor league, and will continue to poach more and more top talent from the NCAA (and deservedly so). Bottom line: The NCAA Tournament will remain popular, but is losing its sheen. There is a vacuum being created here. The NBA can fill it.
2. How do you keep all 30 teams playing hard and actually trying into April? Don’t mathematically eliminate them! A full 30-team playoff gives every team a shot at the title. Have the regular season determine seeding alone; maybe give the top 2-4 seeds their choice of first-round opponent to incentivize winning even more.
3. Will this cheapen the regular season? For the top teams, perhaps a little. Even more emphasis will be placed on player rest, I imagine, at least in the top echelons of the league, since they’ll be pretty much guaranteed a crappy first-round opponent regardless of whether they finish 1st or 2nd or 3rd (etc. etc.) in the conference. The trade-off is, it will make the 2nd half of the regular season relevant for the bottom 40% of the league, which hasn’t been the case for… ever? Translation: higher ratings, better attendance, more fan engagement overall.
4. Shortening the playoff series from 7 games to 5, or 3, would keep the regular season more relevant for the top teams. If your whole season can be torpedoed by two off-nights in a first-round, best-of-3 series, you want to make sure you are going up against the absolute worst possible opponent. (I would forgo the single-elimination round in favor of a best-of-3, but that’s just me.)
5. Most important of all: It would be damn fun. It would be a spectacle. It would get lots of attention and lots of radio/tv/social media chatter. Translation: Lots and lots of money. What’s not to like?

Aykis16
Admin
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April 23, 2020 1:14 pm
Reply to  AmateurNerd

I like Point 5 a lot. It would be incredibly fun, especially after the drought of sports and entertainment we have going on now. Of course, safety and health comes first but if possible, I’d love some kind of tournament that involves every team.

Marty
April 23, 2020 3:21 pm

I’d like to see eight teams from both conferences make it, with no more regular season.

The first two rounds are three game series, so you’d be at the conference finals in two weeks. The conference finals would be five games, the finals seven.

The fourteen teams who don’t make the playoffs each get one ping pong ball, and are encouraged to quit yer bitching, times are tough.

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