Purdue professor has plan for fixing NBA draft - Purdue Exponent: Sports

Purdue professor has plan for fixing NBA draft

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Posted: Wednesday, November 6, 2013 10:00 am

Suck for Luck. Riggin’ for Wiggins. Tank for Teddy.

All of these terms reference the goals of underperforming teams in professional sports and a Purdue professor has a plan to correct the problem in the NBA.

Tim Bond, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics, and former colleague Arup Sen have developed an idea to discourage tanking.

Currently in the NBA, draft picks are awarded based on a lottery and the worse a team finishes, the bigger chance the team will win the No. 1 pick.

In order to prevent purposefully losing to improve lottery percentages, Bond and Sen’s system proposes eliminating the lottery and implementing an auction based off of credits.

“You’re never going to be able to remove the incentive to lose,” Bond said. “But what you want to do is try to make the incentive to intentionally lose as low as possible.”

In Bond and Sen’s system, credits would be awarded to teams based off of their record at the end of the season, with the worst teams receiving the most credits. The credits would be storable and could be used in any draft in the future, with credits being spent not only on the top pick, but every lottery pick.

While the worst team would still receive the most amount of credits, Bond said the “flexibility in the form of rewarding credits (would) try and discourage teams from tanking.”

In addition to the credits awarded based on record, Bond and Sen’s system would add or subtract credits from teams based on an objective formula. The formula would factor in various statistics that could show whether or not a team was actively tanking during a season.

“Our goal with this formula is to use more advanced statistics than just rank order, to smooth out this formula,” Bond said. “Inside the formula would be things like (awarding) less credits if your performance in the second half of the season is worse than your first half. Basically smoothing out the payoff structure of these credits so that you didn’t have much of a benefit from losing one additional game.”

One of the worst instances of tanking in recent years that Bond and Sen cite in their article on NBA.com was the 2011 Golden State Warriors.

“One example of what we are trying to fix is the Golden State Warriors when they magically lost just enough to keep their draft pick,” Bond said. “It didn’t look very good at the time, it sort of looked like they were intentionally trying to get out of obligations.”

The Warriors’ draft pick was top-7 protected, meaning they needed to finish as one of the worst seven teams in the league or they would lose their pick to the Utah Jazz. They proceeded to trade their leading scorer Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut and sat starters Stephen Curry and David Lee with vague injuries in the late portion of the year.

The Warriors finished the season 5-22, received their top 7 pick, drafted Harrison Barnes and made the Western Conference Semifinals the next season.

In Bond and Sen’s system, the Golden State issue would have been resolved with the new system of trading credits.

“Trading credits instead of draft picks, that is something that would have addressed the Golden State problem,” Bond said. “You can’t escape that credit obligation. So that eliminates all that tanking to avoid your obligation of a protected draft pick, so that’s one thing we are able to eliminate without tweaking the formula.”

Going forward, the duo plans to continue to work on their formula and hopefully present their system to NBA representatives in the upcoming months.

“We are working to come up with a more formal proposal. I think we will know in about a month whether they are interested in getting a larger proposal from us,” Sen said. “It’s a fairly competitive process. If they are (interested), we will work on a proposal, if not we will continue to try and work on it.”

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