Daily Press (Sunday)

Tournament­s for draft spots could eliminate teams tanking

- Sonny Dearth

Does any sports fan really like to see their favorite team “tank” in order to improve its odds of a high draft pick?

We have a solution, and I’ve never seen it mentioned on a national platform.

The NBA’s latest gimmick is the “in-season tournament,” which began Friday in numerous cities, played on unusually colored courts and will continue on Friday nights in November.

In November 2024, why not do this? Every victory in the in-season tournament improves teams’ draft positions, and every defeat hurts them. The tournament champion will get the No. 1 overall pick. Those games might get more interest than some playoff contests.

I know NBA commission­er Adam Silver wants to drum up more interest for what often seems like a too-long 82-game regular season, and this will do it. Guaranteed.

Imagine this scenario: It’s January, when only hard-core fans often care about the NBA. Brooklyn trails the Houston Rockets by two points in the in-season tournament championsh­ip game in the final seconds. Chesapeake native Cam Thomas drills a 3-pointer at the buzzer, giving the Nets the No. 1 pick in June.

The tournament runner-up would get the No. 2 pick. The semifinali­sts would get Nos. 3 and 4. The other teams would all go in a true lottery, where the draw would be totally random.

If you want teams to try their hardest to win, competing for draft position will do it. Bye-bye, incentive to tank.

Like college and high school teams, pro squads could bust their butts to win every game for the rest of the season with no second thoughts.

We all know the devil’s in the details, and they can be negotiated. But the purpose needs to be to eliminate all incentive to lose. Something similar also could work in leagues like the NHL, MLB, WNBA and Major League Soccer — in-season tournament­s with part of the draft order at stake.

Just imagine the drama, especially in years when a generation­al talent such as LeBron James or Victor Wembanyama is available. The guys whose stellar play earned Cleveland or San Antonio the No. 1 pick would be heroes forever in those cities.

For the NFL, I propose a lottery. But it would be a random lottery, where all 32 teams have the same odds. Imagine the interest on the day of the drawing. I predict it would draw ratings like a league championsh­ip game.

Let’s go, Adam Silver. Come on, Roger Goodell. We beg of you: Make tanking worthless.

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