Houston Rockets: Daryl Morey And The Draft Wheel


What if we knew every NBA teams picks for the next 30 years?? Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is currently at the annual Sloan Conference on sports analytics at MIT. He spoke with reporters on Friday and Space City Scoop Editor Michael Ma posted an article about Morey’s disapproval of the NBA’s current lottery draft system.

Here is an excerpt:

Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said the NBA’s method for assigning draft picks needs an overhaul.

“We have to get rid of the marginal incentive to lose,” Morey said.

The NBA places non-playoff teams into a weighted lottery — worse teams getting better odds of a higher pick — so accusations of teams tanking to get a higher selection have long been a part the league’s culture. As the highly anticipated 2014 draft approaches, those murmurs have increased.

Morey finds the speculation justified.

“It’s bad right now,” said Morey, who noted he counted two-thirds of NBA teams weren’t trying to win at the end of last season.”

What would be the alternative to the lottery system that has been in place since 1985, due to the Houston Rockets getting the #1 pick in 1983 and 1984?? (Ralph Sampson, Hakeem Olajuwon). In December of 2013, Grantland obtained information on the “Draft Wheel” which was created by Boston Celtics assistant general manager Michael Zarren.

Each team would simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year. Teams would know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle.

Below is the wheel that outlines the order in which each team would cycle through the draft slots; the graphic highlights the top six slots in red to show that every team would be guaranteed one top-six pick every five seasons, and at least one top-12 pick in every four-year span:

The team that gets the no. 1 pick in the very first year of this proposed system would draft in the following slots over the system’s first six seasons: 1st, 30th, 19th, 18th, 7th, 6th. Just follow the wheel around clockwise to see the entire 30-year pick cycle of each team, depending on their starting spoke in Year 1.

This upcoming NBA Draft will mark the 30th Anniversary of the Rockets drafting Hakeem Olajuwon. Based on the wheel, the Rockets would have the #1 pick in this years draft. How awesome is that??

Here is how the Rockets draft picks would have looked if the “Draft Wheel” was instituted in 2002 the year the Rockets drafted Yao Ming with the first pick. Each player is not based on actual team need but by the actual number they were drafted.

So here goes:

  • 2002 #1: Yao Ming
  • 2003 #30: Maciej Lampe
  • 2004 #19: Dorell Wright
  • 2005 #18: Gerald Green
  • 2006 #7: Randy Foye
  • 2007 #6: Yi Jianlian
  • 2008 #25: Nicolas Batum (Ironically, the actual player the Rockets drafted at #25 in 2008)
  • 2009 #23: Omri Casspi
  • 2010 #14: Patrick Patterson (Once again, the actual player the Rockets drafted in 2010 at #14)
  • 2011  #11: Klay Thompson
  • 2012 #2: Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (The Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets drafted MKG, and regret it)
  • 2013 #29: Archie Goodwin
  • 2014 #20: ??????

Do not let the list above fool you into believing the Rockets would have made these choices, but the rotation of picks on the wheel, locks each team into the number they will draft each year. Of course the institution of this format would have a negative side effect on teams that are doing awful currently. Giving the Milwaukee Bucks the #1 pick this year, and then watching as they play next season out knowing they have the #30 pick , makes for interesting basketball. Newly appointed NBA commissioner Adam Silver discussed the much-reported “wheel” concept, saying

“I thought, ‘Wow, that solves our problems.”

Only time will tell what becomes of the Wheel!