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Enough NBA owners finally came to their senses about lottery reform

The league office tried to punish the 76ers for blatant tanking, but the potential unintended consequences of the proposed reform scared off enough owners to veto the changes.

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

It takes a lot of gall to bait the NBA into changing its draft lottery system less than a week before the season officially tips off, but the Philadelphia 76ers have been just that shameless in their rebuilding effort.

The Sixers followed a 19-63 season by shedding the only proven veterans on their roster and drafting two top-10 players that are unlikely to play this season. If you thought the Sixers were bad last year, just wait until you see them this season.

Of course, it's all part of the plan for Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie, who watched the Oklahoma City Thunder lose their way into Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden from 2007-09. The idea of rebuilding through high draft picks is nothing new, but rarely has the intent of losing games been this transparent. In the minds of many people who run the NBA, this was an offense worthy of swift and substantial reform to the lottery system that would have taken effect immediately. Even 24 hours ago, it seemed like a shake up to the lottery was unavoidable.

Then something funny happened: The same franchises that were supposedly outraged with Philadelphia violating the spirit of competition quickly realized how reactionary they were being as soon as it came time to cast a vote.

The NBA thought it would have little problem securing the 23 votes required to put the changes into effect, but it ended up falling six short. The more teams thought about what was actually happening, the more they realized how dramatic these changes would be, according to Adrian Wojnarowski :

Under the current system, only the top three picks are determined by the lottery, and the worst team in the league can pick no lower than fourth. The new proposal would have flipped that on its head, opening up the first six picks to the luck of the draw while promising the league's worst team nothing better than the seventh pick. In a sport like basketball where one player can change the entire direction of a franchise, the changes to the lottery could have amounted to the difference between a decade of contention or more years of failure.

Lottery reform supporters' end goal was never to get the 76ers back to respectability. If it were, the league would have been better off with Philadelphia picking at the top of the draft rather than at No. 7. The 76ers won't be bad forever, and adding another top prospect -- say, Emmanuel Mudiay or Stanley Johnson -- to team with Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams already in place is the best way to expedite the process.

No, their goal was simple: punishing Philadelphia for supposedly being an embarrassment to the league. They wanted to add extra suffering to a fanbase that's about to enter its second hopeless season. In that sense, lottery reform supporters had much more shallow intentions than they wanted you to believe.

Small market clubs generally struggle to attract top talent via free agency or in trades, so the draft is the easiest way to nab a future star. There's nothing that can reinvigorate a franchise like acquiring a great young player -- just look at how excited people are for the Minnesota Timberwolves even as they begin the season without Kevin Love. Andrew Wiggins changed everything. And had lottery reform passed, those small market teams would have seen this one ray of hope severely threatened.

That's all because those supporters mostly just wanted to drop the hammer on the 76ers for supposedly being a black eye. It might have seemed like a good idea at the time, but the longer teams thought about it, the more everyone realized this was mostly just short-sighted and mean.


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