PHILADELPHIA – The NBA Competition Committee has yet to determine whether it will recommend altering the draft lottery as early as next season in an attempt to dissuade teams like the Philadelphia 76ers from deliberately fielding a non-competitive roster in order to acquire a high draft pick, a change reportedly being pursued by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, according to a league source.
But any ultimate decision will be made by the NBA Board of Governors, which could vote to redistribute the odds of landing the top draft pick at their next meeting in October.
The 76ers, entering the second year of a rebuilding program under general manager Sam Hinkie after being mired in mediocrity for most of the last decade, voiced strong opposition to such a change during league meetings in Las Vegas earlier this month, according to an ESPN report.
The 76ers did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but a team source said it's "a stretch" to say the club "strongly" opposes changing the lottery odds. "But no team ... that is unlikely to compete for the playoffs would want this. Right?"
The proposal "gives more incentive for mid-level teams ... to not stretch for the playoffs," the source said. That's a "tough message on parity."
Philadelphia blatantly sacrificed last season in an effort to acquire a top draft pick, stripping the roster of veteran talent and keeping rookie center Nerlens Noel, who tore an anterior cruciate ligament in February 2012, sidelined for the duration of the team's 19-63 slog, which included an NBA-record 26-game losing streak and resulted in the second-worst record in the league.
"I think the season has been a huge success for us," 76ers owner Josh Harris said in April. "All these pieces are in place to make this an elite team that will compete consistently for the NBA championship. There are no shortcuts to it. Unfortunately, it takes a long time. I'm really happy with the progress."
Hinkie appeared to double down on the tanking tactic for the upcoming season by using two lottery picks on players unable to immediately compete for the team. The 76ers selected center Joel Embiid, who is likely to miss the season with a stress fracture in his right foot, with the third overall pick and traded the 10th pick to Orlando to acquire a future first-round selection and Croatian forward Dario Saric, who is contractually obligated to play the next two seasons overseas. The 76ers also have nearly $30 million in unused salary cap space.
In March, Silver praised the 76ers' rebuilding strategy.
"It's an insult to the entire league to suggest that these guys are going out on the floor and aren't doing their very best to win games…" Silver said. "You look at any business, you look at short-term results and long-term results. And if you told a business, if somebody told you a business was going to operate on a quarter-by-quarter [basis], you'd say, 'That's not the way to operate a business.' You'd say, 'You need a strategy. You need to look at the long-term.' And I think what this organization is doing is absolutely the right thing. What they're doing is planning for the future and building an organization from the ground level up.
"And so, if you look at what's happened here over the last several years, it's badly needed," he said. "Somebody needs a plan. Somebody needs a vision to win here. And I think that's what's happening."
The lottery system was originally adopted in 1985 in response to tanking accusations and altered to encompass only the top three picks in 1987. A weighted system was instituted in 1990, and the odds have since been modified on a number of occasions.
In its current incarnation, each season the 14 non-playoff teams are given diminishing odds of acquiring one of the top three overall draft picks, with the team with the NBA's worst record receiving a 25 percent chance at landing the No. 1 overall selection.
A number of alterations have been discussed, with one proposed change reportedly providing the six worst teams equal odds of acquiring the top pick.
In May, the Cleveland Cavaliers received the top draft pick for the third time in four seasons, despite finishing with the ninth-worst record in the league and owning just a 1.7 percent chance of winning the lottery. The team with the worst record last won the lottery in 2004.
The competition committee will meet again in late September, followed by the board's meeting in October.
"As the NBA always does, it is taking a look at certain practices and attempting to see if they are still relevant. The Draft Lottery is one of those," a source said. "No decision has been made at this time to alter it or to leave it as is."
Jason Wolf writes for the Wilmington News Journal. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @JasonChadWolf