Purdue professor has idea for improving the NBA draft

October 24, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With the NBA season kicking off Tuesday (Oct. 29), a Purdue University professor has suggested a new format for the league draft designed to make it less likely that a mediocre-performing team would tank toward the end of the season to ensure a higher pick.

Timothy Bond, an assistant professor of economics, worked with Arup Sen, an economist at a Princeton, N.J.-based consulting group, to develop a system that would have teams use credits to buy slots in the annual draft of new players.

Currently, teams are awarded draft slots according to their season record, a plan that aims to promote league parity. A team that is doing poorly has less incentive to improve its record as the season wanes.

Bond and Sen focused on the 2011-12 Golden State Warriors who went 5-22 at the end of the season, giving them a 23-43 record. That was just bad enough for the team to avoid having to give away a protected trade of a draft slot to the Utah Jazz.

Under the Bond and Sen plan, the rights to draft slots would be sold by auction. Credits would be allocated at the end of the season based on records, with the worst teams receiving more to preserve the attempt at parity.

But the allocation would be based on a complex formula taking into account the relative performance of all teams in a given season.

"The system could penalize teams by reducing their credit allocation if they show a drop in performance after the break for the all-star game," Bond said.

Teams would trade credits rather than draft slots, which would avoid the Golden State situation. Teams also could split up their credits to get more picks rather than a single higher pick.

 "A significant benefit is that we wouldn't have to change the wage structures or the draft, which could avoid a collective bargaining headache," Bond said. "We'd just have to add in a pre-draft market to distribute the picks."

And another benefit, he said: "Following a month-long bidding process for picks can keep fans of losing teams engaged in a way a one-night draft lottery cannot." 

Writer: Judith Barra Austin, 765-494-2432, jbaustin@purdue.edu  

Source: Timothy Bond, 765-496-3664, bond10@purdue.edu

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