NBA Threatens Relegation On “Serious Issue” Of Tanking

With generational talent Victor Wembanyama on the horizon as the presumed No. 1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, tanking should be at an all-time high this season. But not if NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has anything to say about it. He's already issuing warnings:

We put teams on notice. We're going to be paying particular attention to the issue this year.

Silver called tanking "a serious issue", and said the league will be on high alert. "It's something we have to watch for," the commissioner said. "A draft is, in principle, a good system. But I get it, especially when there is a sense that a once-in-a-generation player is coming along, like we have this year.

"Teams are smarter, they are creative, and they respond -- we move, they move -- so we're always looking to see whether there's yet a better system." 

He even went so far as to suggest that "relegation" of the worst teams has been discussed—as they do in European soccer leagues. But then he admitted that would cause its own problems, such as "disrupting our business model."

The system currently in place, the draft lottery, doesn't seem to do a whole lot to discourage teams from racing to the bottom to have better odds to land the top pick. In 2019, the NBA adjusted the system so that the last-place team in the league no longer has the best odds at 25%. Now the teams with the three worst records each have an equal 14% chance to win the lottery.

We should still expect to see the likes of the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets, Orlando Magic and maybe others try to get into that bottom-three group to increase their odds of landing the 7'4" "once-in-a-generation player" as Silver referred to Wembanyama.

Photo: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports