Teams tanking to do better in the draft lottery drives NBA commissioner ‘crazy’

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday in Oakland.
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver speaks at a news conference before Game 1 of the NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday in Oakland. The Associated Press

How does NBA Commissioner Adam Silver feel about losing teams sitting out healthy players for that reason late in the season to improve their odds in the NBA draft lottery?

“It drives me crazy,” Silver said at his press conference prior to Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

For fans who aren’t obsessed with lottery odds and want to see teams put their best lineups on the court, it drives them crazy, too. The Kings were among the teams that kept players out after the All-Star break to rest, which led to more losses and improved chances in the lottery.

The lottery, however, was instituted to discourage teams from that practice.

Silver acknowledged there is benefit to sitting out players to get a better look at younger players. But the lottery system was not put in place to make losing a season-ending goal.

“There’s no doubt about it, there’s a certain amount of gamesmanship that’s going on with our teams in terms of resting healthy players at the end of the season,” Silver said. “And we have made proposals to our team on additional changes to the draft lottery.

“I think we’ve changed it five times so far over the 30-plus years it’s been in effect. But it’s not working exactly the way we would like it to, and I think it’s something we have to turn back to.”

When a team like the Kings moves up in the lottery as they did last month, it’s hard to argue against teams going all in to lose once it’s clear they aren’t making the playoffs. As for the Philadelphia 76ers in previous seasons, the front office’s emphasis was on increasing lottery odds. From this, the phrase “trust the process” was born.

But there is nothing the league can do right now to stop the practice.

“We’re not at the point where we’re going to have relegation to the Gatorade League and way they do in Europe,” Silver said. “That would stop it, but we’re not prepared to do that. But I think there’s more we can do to disincentivize teams from that behavior.”

Age issues – Silver said over the course of the next season, the league and union will discuss the age limit, which is currently 19. The league would like it to be raised to 20, the players association wants it back at 18.

Silver said it is projected that 20 players who spent just a season in college will be drafted this month, up from the two one-and-done players drafted in 2006, when the age limit was put in.

Silver said he’s heard complaints from college athletic directors and coaches who do not like the system, as well as players and teams who complain rookies enter the league not prepared to contribute. It’s a contrast from international players, who can turn pro much earlier and might enter the league with three years as a pro at 19.

“My sense is it’s not working for anyone,” Silver said.

Competitive balance questions – The Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers entered the Finals with a combined 24-1 record as many decried their dominance made the playoffs boring predictable.

The Warriors swept through the first three rounds while the Cavs won their first 10 postseason contests.

“The fan in me would love to see more competition at times,” Silver said. “But, on the other hand, I’ve said it before, I think we should also celebrate excellence.”

Jason Jones: @mr_jasonjones, read more about the team at