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Abolishing the Draft and Other Notes

Tuesday Cup.

NBA: NBA Draft 2015 Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

So the other day SB Nation’s Tom Ziller wrote an article in favor of abolishing the NBA draft, an argument long-time readers of Canis Hoopus know I’ve been making for years. You should go read it, as he lays out the reasons why, and proposes essentially what I’ve suggested, which is rookie free agency (with some added rookie exceptions.)

I still believe this would work, but I thought I’d share the main reason I think skepticism is warranted here.

One of the problems with these arguments is it's somewhat difficult to define what the NBA is. Is it a single entity or is it 30 competing businesses? It's sort of an odd hybrid, which we have to come to terms with. They negotiate together with labor, they have joint national TV contracts, and yet they compete against each other on the court and to make the best decisions to succeed.

Furthermore, the product IS the competition, which means the teams need each other in a way other businesses don't. Coke would sell more soda if Pepsi wasn't around; the Lakers need the Bulls, the Suns, and the Bucks in order to have a business.

These are key differences, and they affect Tom's argument. An argument I agree with--as I said, I've been arguing to abolish the draft for a long time.

But...Tom argues that one of the problems is that the draft rewards failure. He's right. It absolutely does, and that's generally not a good thing as any economist will tell you. However, it also does something else, which is sell hope. When the competition, (as opposed to soda) is the product, selling hope to your customers is vital to maintain franchises that are doing poorly.

Which raises the point: In a sports league, how much should customers (fans) be subject to the poor decisions of management? In other words: The argument in favor of draft abolishment is that if you build a bad team, and you are capped out, you deserve what you get, and there shouldn’t be a mechanism to bail you out.

I think that’s right, but it’s management and ownership that deserve to fail if they manage badly, not fans. Of course in a business like this, it’s impossible to separate that out, but if we think of the draft and lottery as a tool for fan engagement, it begins to make more sense. (Hat tip to Kyle Neubeck of the fantastic Liberty Ballers for elucidating this last point.)

At any rate, drafts in sports leagues have been around for decades and aren’t going anywhere soon. I’d be in favor of experimenting with the ideas that Ziller espouses, but mostly it’s just a fun thing to argue about.


Speaking of the NBA draft, assuming Markelle Fultz is the top pick, this will be the second year in a row that a college player whose team did not make the NCAA tournament is the number one pick (Ben Simmons from LSU last year.) Before this, it hadn’t happened since Michael Olowokandi from Pacific. I’m not sure what if anything that means, but it seems interesting to me.

The Wolves are back in action tonight, in Indiana against the Pacers. Remember it’s an early start—6:00 pm Central. I’d really like a win.

The USMNT is in Panama tonight at 9:00 pm following their 6-0 drubbing of Honduras on Friday. Following their two losses to open World Cup qualifying, they are still in need to points and will be hard pressed on the road in a tough environment. Christian Pulisic tho...(Not sure if it’s good or bad that the clear smartest, savviest player on the squad is 18 years old.)

Today in History

193: Roman Emperor Pertinax assassinated by Praetorian guards, who then auction off the throne. Good business sense there.
845: Paris sacked by Vikings.
1556: Philip II becomes King of Spain.
1774: Parliament passes Coercive Act against Massachusetts.
1794: Louvre opens to public.
1799: New York abolishes slavery.
1854: Britain and France declare war on Russia
1885: U.S. Salvation Army officially organized.
1917: Jews expelled from Tel Aviv and Jaffa by Turkish authorities (been a while, thought I’d throw it in. )
1939: Madrid falls to Franco, ending Spanish Civil War.
1994: Conservatives led by Silvio Berlusconi win Italian elections.

Today’s Musical Birthday

Cheryl “Salt” James of Salt-n-Pepa, born in 1966