Something is wrong in a competition where teams would rather lose than win. The end of the NBA regular season usually offers that unfortunate spectacle of teams that choose to lose and fall in the rankings to gain priority in the game. sketch. Normally, they do this with some concealment, but the Dallas Mavericks telegraphed it in advance and made it clear in their penultimate game of the season, against the Chicago Bulls, where a loss left them mathematically out of the playoffs for the title. They were noticed so much that the NBA opened an investigation.
Luka Dončić played just over a quarter on the night the Dallas club honored his homeland, Slovenia. Almost the entire game he shared the bench with Kyrie Irving, the other big star of the team, while the Mavericks lost the season. Tim Hardaway, Maxi Kleber, Josh Green and Christian Wood were also out. Despite this, Dallas managed an 11-point advantage in the last quarter of the game against the Bulls, who ended up losing by 112 to 115, in a defeat that increased suspicions.
Their last options to make the playoffs and challenge for the title were slipping away. In exchange, however, they improved their ballots in the lottery that establishes the order of the draw. sketch, the method by which NBA teams choose players from the fresh batch of young prospects.
The NBA today began an investigation into the facts and circumstances surrounding the Dallas Mavericks roster decisions and their conduct in last night’s Chicago Bulls-Mavericks game, including the motivations behind those actions, an NBA spokesman said Saturday. calls Mike Bass , in a statement collected by the AP agency.
Every year, at the end of the season, NBA teams choose new players for the league with a system that prioritizes the lowest ranked players. Dropping down the table to have more options to choose a future star is a classic of the NBA, which has tried unsuccessfully to reform the system to avoid that painful spectacle of teams that secretly celebrate their defeats. In the next draft, the big favorite is the powerful French center Victor Wembanyama, 2.20 meters tall and 19 years old, who many see as capable of marking a generation.
Wembanyama’s statement seems to have increased the teams’ interest in improving their chances. In the case of the Mavericks, it is also added that due to an old agreement with the Knicks, they transferred their player from the first round of sketch this year, unless your team is a top 10 pick. By losing to Chicago, the chances of his selection being protected for that very reason skyrocket. In addition, in the position in which he fell, he has a 4.5% chance of being the first to choose and, therefore, opting for Wembanyama.
The risk of that happening could already be seen coming. “I know a lot of our NBA teams are salivating at the idea that potentially through our lottery they could get Wembanyama,” admitted NBA Commissioner Adam Silver last October after warning that everyone should compete sportingly.
The Dallas Mavericks case is not unique. Several teams at the bottom of the table are losing their best players and have entered a somewhat suspicious losing dynamic. However, the case of the Mavericks is special for several reasons.
First, because they threw in the towel when they still had a chance to enter the qualifiers, although they didn’t depend on themselves. They needed to beat the Chicago Bulls this Friday, beat the San Antonio Spurs this Sunday and expect an Oklahoma City Thunder loss against the Memphis Grizzlies. This only gave them the tenth position and therefore access to the play-in, a playoff where they would have to win two games of life and death to get into the playoffs, where the leader of the West, the Denver Nuggets, would await them. And with the Dončić-Irving partnership failing, it only seemed to prolong the agony at best.
But beyond the fact that they were shut down when mathematically they had a chance, team coach Jason Kidd made it clear before the game that he was going to seat his best players and that the decision was not his, but “the organization’s”, despite the fact that unbelievable injuries were alleged. To this is added that the execution of the defeat was a little sloppy, with the Mavericks in front until their final collapse.
When in doubt, Kidd was transparent in the post-match press conference: “This is perhaps a step backwards, but I hope it takes us forward… These are decisions that are made by my bosses and we have to follow them. and we trust that [el propietario Mark] cuban and nico [Harrison, el director general,] they will put the pieces together to put us in a position to win a championship. And today the process just begins.”
It’s not clear what penalty the NBA might impose on the Mavericks if it concludes that they apparently let themselves be beaten. But whatever it is, it won’t solve the design problem that causes teams to practice calls tankage sink bet on the classification, especially in the last games.
It is the unintended consequence of a system established to balance competition over the long term. The weakest teams have priority when picking in the draft. And how do you measure which are the weakest teams? Before, the teams chose in the reverse order of their position in the table: only the first last place of each conference was drawn. In 1984 the system was reformed to reinforce the chance component, so that losing a position did not guarantee moving up in the pick order, especially in the first draft picks. It has been adjusted numerous times.
In 2017, the current lottery system was established, applied since 2019, which emphasizes randomness. The 14 teams that missed out on the playoffs join the hype. The new system evens the odds so that the bottom three teams in the regular season standings have a 14% chance of winning the first pick in the lottery. The fourth from bottom to top has 12.5% options; the fifth, 10.5%; the sixth, 9%; seventh, 7.5%… In the pre-2019 structure, the top seed had a 25% chance of winning the lottery; the second, 19.9% and the third, 15.6%. The ballots of the others are distributed according to their positions in the ranking.
And once the first option is available, it’s time to know how to choose. The Houston Rockets went bankrupt on purpose in 1984, but ended up choosing Hakeem Olajuwon. The Portland Trail Blazers, second to sign, opted for Sam Bowie. And it was the Chicago Bulls, despite being the third pick, who kept Michael Jordan.
You can follow EL PAÍS Sports on Facebook It is twitteror register here to receive our weekly newsletter.