How to Eliminate Tanking in Sports

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently came out and spoke upon the issue of tanking. Most sports fans are aware of what tanking is, but just in case a few of you out there aren’t aware, tanking is when a team intentionally loses in order to secure a higher draft pick. Silver did an interview with Mike & Mike In The Morning on Friday, and had this to say:

“We are gonna have to react and change incentives a bit. I do think it’s frustrating. I was talking to my European soccer men a few minutes ago, I’m not saying we are gonna do it in the NBA, but they have the best incentives of all because teams actually get relegated from the league. Think of the consequences there, they lose their television money, they lose their big ticket revenue by not playing the top teams. So teams have every incentive not to fall to the bottom.”

I agree with Silver on the analogy and the point he is trying to make, however, there is a much easier way to eliminate tanking that actually attacks the point of it.

As I stated earlier, the point of tanking is for teams to receive higher draft picks. The four major sports leagues in North America are the NBA, NHL, MLB, and NFL, all hold entry drafts are at some point during the year, typically in the offseason (with exception to the MLB). Two of those leagues, the NHL and NBA, hold a lottery for the franchises that miss the playoffs. The team with the worst record has the highest chance of acquiring the first overall pick.

My solution to tanking is rather simple: expand the draft lottery to include playoff teams. If your sport doesn’t have a draft lottery, institute one in order to determine the entire order for round one, and have the draft go in snake order after that.

This creates absolutely no incentive to losing, as teams will now realize that their awful performance will not correlate into a high draft pick, forcing them to put their best foot forward.

Now, there is a possibility that teams won’t care and will tank anyway. This is where the league can then start revoking draft picks, particularly starting with mid-round picks, such as a fourth, then work your way up to even revoking a first-round pick. Under certain circumstances, you could then auction that pick off to a middle of the pack team.

This scenario gives winning teams, like the New England Patriots in the NFL for example, the same odds at the first overall pick as the worst team, such as the Cleveland Browns. Since every team has the same odds as those two, those odds are roughly 0.031%.

What this accomplishes is simply not handing out high picks to teams that tank, and rewarding the teams with the worst record. Obviously, a draft pick is far from a guarantee, however, you’re still giving these underwhelming teams the potential future stars. That is why teams like the Browns, 76ers, Maple Leafs, and Reds have tanked in years past, or are still tanking. They know they don’t have to win now in order to win multiple championships down the line.

Now, we get to see other teams get their chance at those top prospects. Teams that are classified as mediocre now have their chances at these kids. Contending teams can acquire their replacements for aging stars much easier. So, in reality, not only does it eliminate tanking, it is also beneficial in a few ways for other teams.

Photo Credit to AP Photos

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