Mark Cuban thinks he has a system that will bring an end to tanking.
The owner of the Dallas Mavericks explained his theory to Colin Cowherd earlier this week, and while it’s not perfect – no solution will be – it is a pretty interesting idea.
Here’s the transcript, courtesy of SportsNaut.com:
You make all the rookies free agents and you give each team—depending on where they are slotted—different amounts of money. So the teams with the three worst records get “X” amount of dollars. The next three records get “X” minus dollars and so on down the line,” Cuban said. “What that does is it makes sure that even if you’ve tanked, you have a quality organization you have to have the ability to convince whoever you think one of the top-three picks should be, to come to your organization.
If I have the No. 25 pick but I can convince that No. 1-ranked guy in college basketball to come play for the Mavs for this money, then I get one shot to do that, and I get that free agent, and he comes to me. This way, teams can’t just turn into bad organizations and be rewarded. You have some balance.
Tanking – aka losing games on purpose – is rumored to have been happening in the NBA for years now, though it’s become a hot topic once again this season seeing as two of the league’s most storied franchises, the Lakers and New York Knicks, are set to be in the top-half of the lottery this year.
And even if tanking isn’t happening within a certain team, it still sucks when fans are rooting for losses.
So, would Cuban’s idea actually work?
Well, it depends.
While Cuban feels that he could convince the number one overall prospect to join his Mavs, despite only owning the number 25th pick, it probably wouldn’t work out in real life.
If the tiered salary system that Cuban suggests stayed true to the current rookie scale, the top prospect in the draft would have to turn down just under $5 million in his first year, the amount the first overall pick will make next season, for just over $1 million, which is the amount the 25th pick will earn.
Will a 19-year-old college kid really turn down $4 million just to play for a “better” franchise? Probably not.
As a fan sitting at home, coming out of college and competing for championships while earning $1 million might sound pretty nice, but $4 million is still a lot of money to turn down.
Sure, you could argue that the prospect would be good enough to garner a maximum salary deal a few years down the line, but what’s to say he’ll ever really reach his potential? Or, even worse, what if he got hurt like Greg Oden did?
All that money would be lost. So, when it comes to turning down guaranteed dollars, Cuban’s plan is flawed.
However, here’s how Cuban’s solution could work.
Let’s imagine that Cuban’s system was put into play today and the Philadelphia 76ers – a team that has been tanking for years now and seems to celebrate their losing culture – ended up landing the first overall pick in June.
Then, let’s say that the Minnesota Timberwolves, Lakers, Knicks and Orlando Magic ended up rounding out the top-five of the draft.
In this scenario, Cuban’s system could be appealing to the likes of Jahlil Okafor and Karl Towns.
Instead of having no choice in where they get picked – and which team they likely get locked into for the next decade or so due to the current Collective Bargaining Agreement – Okafor and Towns would get to choose who they play for.
And the salary differences aren’t as big in the top-five, either.
Here’s a breakdown, via RealGM:
There’s about a $500,000 difference between the first and second pick, and nearly a $1 million difference between first and third.
Now, that’s still a lot of money – especially for a 19-year-old – though it’s a lot less than the kind of $4 million difference Cuban was talking about.
Instead of going to a prolific tanking team like Philadelphia – and let’s be clear, players do get frustrated while playing for the modern-day Sixers – they could choose to take a little less money and go to a team like the Lakers or Knicks.
In a big market like Los Angeles or New York, they’d have the opportunity to make more money thanks to endorsement deals, and they’d also have a better chance of being on a playoff team seeing as both cities are more attractive to free agents than the likes of Philadelphia.
Still, we’re talking cold hard cash here, and it would be surprising to see college kids leave large amounts of money on the table.
So, it seems that Cuban doesn’t have the answer just yet. But that’s okay – it’s a start, at least.
After all, it doesn’t matter how crazy the ideas are just as long as the discussion is on-going and changes are made by the NBA sooner rather than later.