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The Larry O’Brien Trophy is the ultimate prize in the NBA, but some teams without a realistic chance to compete for a championship may be eyeing a different prize: the chance to draft Victor Wembanyama with the No. 1 pick of the 2023 draft.
Tanking—and how to curb it—is often a topic of discussion in NBA circles and that figures to be even more relevant this season considering Wembanyama could be a franchise-altering superstar for whichever team is fortunate enough to land the No. 1 pick during the draft lottery.
With that as the backdrop, Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports reported NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was among those in favor of an idea that was discussed that would prevent teams from landing in the top three of the lottery in consecutive years.
According to Goodwill, the idea “gained traction in preliminary meetings but was met with resistance by a small handful of general managers.”
ESPN’s Baxter Holmes reported Silver discussed tanking during a meeting with Phoenix Suns employees and said he has held “hundreds” of meetings on the “serious issue” and even revealed the league has considered a relegation system that would send the worst one or two teams to the G League and promote teams to take their place.
However, he told ESPN’s Malika Andrews (h/t Marc Stein) “I can’t say I was deadly serious” about relegation.
Still, Silver pointed out to Suns employees that “we put teams on notice. We’re going to be paying particular attention to the issue this year.”
The NBA took efforts to curb tanking in 2019 when it changed the lottery odds. Previously, the team that finished with the worst record in the league had a 25 percent chance of acquiring the first pick, while the second-worst team (19.9 percent) and third-worst team (15.6 percent) had lower odds.
The 2019 changes implemented a system where the teams with the three worst records all have a 14 percent chance of that top pick.
In theory, the creation of the play-in tournament could also cut down on tanking since there are more postseason spots available and a greater reason for teams on the bubble to compete down the stretch of the regular season.
Yet tanking remains a serious concern in league circles, and that figures to remain the case while some teams dream of a future with Wembanyama in the frontcourt.