Danny Ainge: NBA Draft Lottery Reform Would Be ‘Better For The Game’

Danny AingeDanny Ainge says his support for NBA draft lottery reform was simple: He wants a league in which every team is trying to win.

Making his regular appearance on 98.5 The Sports Hub’s “Toucher and Rich” on Thursday, the Boston Celtics’ president of basketball operations acknowledged he was definitely in the pro-reform camp. A proposal that would have lowered the worst team’s chance of winning the No. 1 overall pick in the draft to about 12 percent from the current 25 percent failed Wednesday.

“I thought it just evened out the lottery,” Ainge said. “I thought it de-incentivized teams to just go to the bottom of the barrel to get the No. 1 pick. … We feel like it would be better for the league and better for everybody to just have the incentive to win. We thought it was just better for the game.”

Ainge didn’t seem too broken up about the vote, which was 17-13 in favor of reform but fell short of the 23-vote threshold needed to pass. In the end, small-market teams that didn’t want to lose their chance at drafting a once-in-a-lifetime player and larger-market teams with reservations over unintended consequences won the day.

“I understand their perspective,” Ainge said. “I just don’t see it as beneficial to the entire league. They’re holding out hope for that player who might be available to them.”

To be sure, Ainge isn’t purely a crusader for competitive spirit. Reform also would have benefited the Celtics on a practical level, since a majority of their trove of eight first-round draft picks (with an outside shot at a ninth) over the next four years are unlikely to come at the top of the draft under the current system. Balancing out the lottery odds presumably would increase the Celtics’ chances of getting a higher pick.

Anyone who thinks this wasn’t on Ainge’s mind in supporting the proposal is underestimating him.

Lottery reform will have to wait, but this is far from the end of the debate. Wednesday’s vote was just one step in a long, continuing path to a bigger NBA draft shakeup — particularly if Ainge continues to have a say in the matter.

Photo via Twitter/@CLNS_JaredWeiss

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