Every year around the time of the NBA draft the topic of teams tanking the end of their season to increase their chances for the number one pick in the draft. This year the Miami Heat were blatantly tanking their season by shutting down Dwayne Wade and Pat Riley focusing more on scouting than on coaching. Coupled with the corruption issues with their refereeing, this is a terrible problem that the NBA needs to deal with. The problem is that as long as the worst teams get the best picks, this problem with continue. However moving to an even lottery for non-playoff teams is far from fair or healthy for the sport.
The best solution would be for the NBA to take a page from Euro soccer: Relegation. The NBA should expand to forty teams and divide between an A division and B division of 20 teams. They would practically be separate leagues and every year teams fluctuate, the 3 worst in division A drop to division B and the three best form division B move to Division A. Only teams in division A can make the playoffs. This system would guarantee teams would avoid tanking, at least in division A.
The NBA is the only league who could support such a system. Basketball talent is expanding exponentially every year, (whereas baseball talent is diminishing). There are enough good players to spread between forty teams to keep things competitive and interesting.
Smaller cities, like San Antonio and Salt Lake City, can support teams and there are plenty of big cities that do not have teams that could, such as Baltimore, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, Kansas City, San Diego, and, soon, Seattle.
The final reason why this is a good idea is that it is innovative in America. The NBA really offers nothing unique or special in its product, the playoffs are the same as the NHL’s and practically the NFL and MLB. Besides the NBA is waning in popularity, despite the good year they have had this year. They need something to make them unique and to draw the interest of Americans. Perhaps a relegation system would be just the thing, it would at least give sports talk radio more to pontificate on.