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NBA owners vote down lottery reform

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NEW YORK >> NBA owners have voted down proposed changes to the league’s draft lottery system, staving off efforts to curb tanking for the time being.

The proposal needed 23 votes for approval but only received 17, with 13 lining up to vote against it at the league’s board of governors meetings on Wednesday.

It was a somewhat surprising turn of events after appearing earlier in the week that there was support for reforms that would make it more difficult for teams with the worst records to secure the top pick in the draft.

The vote means the existing system will remain in place for now. The team with the worst record will still have a 25 percent chance at getting the top pick and cannot drop lower than fourth. The board agreed to send the issue back to the competition committee for additional study.

“I think, in essence, the owners were concerned about unintended consequences,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “I think we all recognize we need to find the right balance between creating the appropriate incentives on one hand for teams to, of course, win, and on the other hand allowing for appropriate rebuilding and the draft to work as it should in which the worst performing teams get the highest picks in the draft.”

The Philadelphia 76ers’ strategy of aggressively tearing down their roster in an effort to lose games and increase their chances of landing top-flight talent through the draft is the impetus for conversations about lottery reform.

Philly GM Sam Hinkie, with the blessing of ownership, has assembled a roster designed to lose in the present in hopes of building a foundation that can win in the future.

Hinkie has been unapologetic about his strategy, believing that it provides the Sixers the best chance to not just be competitive in a few years, but to contend in the Eastern Conference.

They have already landing promising point guard Michael Carter-Williams, forward Nerlens Noel, center Joel Embiid and European standout Dario Saric by stockpiling those high draft picks, but they’ve also lost a lot of games while doing it.

The brazenness of Philadelphia’s strategy didn’t sit well with some in and around the league who think it compromises the integrity of the games in the present.

“I don’t necessarily disagree with the way it works now,” Silver said. “I’d say from a personal standpoint what I’m most concerned about is perception out there right now and frankly the pressure on a lot of our teams, even from their very fans, to somehow underperform because it’s in some peoples’ view the most efficient and quickest way to get better.

“I think that’s a corrosive perception out there.”

Reform proposals were aimed at two elements: increasing the odds of the best teams in the lottery jumping up into the top three spots and also lowering the floor for the worst teams to drop.

One scenario called for the worst team in the league to be able to fall to the seventh pick in the draft, a huge drop that could have discouraged teams such as the 76ers or others from willfully losing games to boost their lottery chances.

But those scenarios brought their own sets of problems as well. A team such as the Milwaukee Bucks, who actually lost four more games last year than the 76ers despite making several moves before the season aimed at getting them into the Eastern Conference playoff field, would have been exposed to the same risks of plummeting down the draft board and missing out on some of the top available talent.

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