Last week, we toyed with the idea of abolishing the NBA draft in an effort to address tanking and other inefficiencies in the way talent is distributed in the league.
We used Kentucky freshman center Anthony Davis as a case study because he's unanimously projected the be the No. 1 pick in this June's draft. Once chance determines the outcome of the lottery on May 30, we'll have a clear picture of who will employ Davis and for how much, although Davis will have virtually no say in the matter.
HoopIdea on tanking
As a thought experiment, we proposed that all rookies enter the free agent market as an alternative to the draft. Fans of many small-market and/or struggling franchises wrote in that such a system would widen the gulf between the haves and have-nots in the NBA, presumably because talented players like Davis would never willfully choose to go a small market or failing team, especially if presented the opportunity to play with the Heat or Lakers.
We presented a counterargument, that despite the allure of sunshine, banners and superstar teammates, it's possible incoming rookie would have other things on their minds. If given the privileges enjoyed by young, talented prospects in almost all other labor markets, these players might consider factors like geography, the potential to put up big numbers, compatibility with a coach, a good cultural fit with the organization and, of course, how much that organization could pay him.
On Thursday night, Anthony Davis appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live to talk about his NCAA championship, academics, eyebrow shaping and where he'd like to play in the NBA.
Here's the exchange...
Jimmy Kimmel: I know you're a big Michael Jordan fan. He was your childhood idol. He was everyone's childhood idol. So does that make you feel like you'd like to go play in Charlotte, where he's an owner?
Anthony Davis: Whoever pays me the most money.
The list of teams that could pay Davis the most of his services in a free market looks roughly like this: Phoenix, Cleveland, Portland, Boston, Indiana, New Orleans and New Jersey. Only the Celtics can fairly be deemed a glamour franchise and they appear on the list only because the contracts Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen come off the books this summer.
The appeal to give Davis the same rights as other talented job-seekers isn't rooted in any fear that Davis won't be able to provide for his family on a rookie-scale salary or might have to live in a city he doesn't like.
It's about creating a landscape where being a poorly-run team hurts your long-term prospects as a franchise, and where being smart gets you a leg up. You can present that intelligence to a free agent rookie in any number of ways -- by managing your cap so that you can offer him the most money, by winning big, or maybe by just showing a potential employee you care about his future.
We can try to diminish a franchise's lousiness by giving it the best odds at receiving the top talent, as we do with the lottery and draft. Or we can address the root cause and make lousiness a liability.