Way back when, like twenty years ago, about the only way for the NFL and NBA to achieve parity was to award the top draft pick to the team with the worst record. That was largely because the primary ways to acquire players were either by trading for or drafting them. Now, free agency is clearly a major factor in building a team, and in some cases, particularly in the NBA, quickly at that. Boston got Garnett and Allen to complement Paul Pierce and poof!...A championship. Miami surrounded Dwayne Wade with Lebron James and Chris Bosh and boom!...four Finals and two championships in four years. Lebron goes back to Cleveland to play with Kyrie Irving, they throw in Kevin Love and bang!...who knows? Peyton Manning goes to Denver, they make the Super Bowl. Carson Palmer finds his way to Arizona and the Cardinals contend. Randy Moss gives Tom Brady an outside threat and the Patriots were undefeated as they prepared to play the Super Bowl.
The NBA recognized the issue many years ago, adopting a lottery style draft order, complete with ping pong balls. The NFL has not seen the need to change, but I think the time has probably come to reward winning and penalize losing. Does anyone think the San Antonio Spurs didn't tank in 1997 in order to get Tim Duncan? Or how about the Colts deciding to forego the season that Peyton Manning sat out so they would be in position to draft Peyton the 2nd, Andrew Luck? Mike Greenberg on ESPN Radio's Mike and Mike in the Morning floated the idea that the first team not to make the playoffs should get the top draft pick in the NBA. I think it's a great idea whose time has come, and not just in the NBA. There are a number of organizations that are absolute train wrecks and they are getting a crack at top talent, yet they don't have a clue about how to utilize it. I don't care how many lottery picks the Philadelphia 76er's get. There is no way they can put a contender on the floor as long as there is the prospect of getting that one high draft pick to put them over the top. Can you imagine the excitement this year if Philadelphia, the top non-playoff team, had the number one pick? Do you think there is any way that current Eagles' and former Oregon Duck head coach wouldn't be selecting Marcus Mariotta with the top choice in the draft?
The fans, who by the way are paying increasingly higher ticket prices, and the networks, who are paying increasingly higher rights fees, deserve to see a product that produces watchable action on a nightly or weekly basis. Forget concussions and domestic abuse for just a moment, because the biggest threat to the brands of the NFL and NBA is a lack of competitive balance. Who cares if Lebron James is great if a third of his team's wins come against glorified AAU squads? Really? Is that what Adam Silver wants? Why do you think most sports fans don't pay attention to the NBA until the playoffs start? Because that's when we know we'll see two teams that have talent and are playing to win. The NFL has largely built its popularity on the "any given Sunday" theory that no team can take any games for granted. That is in jeopardy of going away if teams are incented to lose instead of win. I can't remember ever seeing the number of double digit point spreads that I saw this past season in the NFL. It was ridiculous. Was the draft order totally to blame? Of course not. But it's certainly something that's worthy of discussion.
Don't forget to check out my new book, "Roughing the Passer - A PK
Frazier Novel" and my first, "Illegal Procedure - A PK Frazier Novel",
available in print and e-formats at Amazon.com, iBooks and Smashwords.