Fix the NBA Draft by Killing It

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 23 2013 10:53 AM

How to Fix the NBA Draft

457100777
Who wants to hire this guy?

Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

With Indiana leading the Eastern Conference and Portland leading the Western Conference, I think it's bizarre that sports media continues to be obsessed with the idea that tanking is the only road to success. But obsessed they are, the NBA brass rightly doesn't like the idea of tankapaloozas dominating the season. Zach Lowe has a scoop about a proposal to replace the draft lottery with a fixed draft rotation.

That'd be nice. But here's an even better idea, drawn from the world of regular jobs. The way we in the media industry decide which talented new college graduates go work for Slate is that if there's a talented new college graduate who wants to work for Slate for an amount of money that we want to pay her, then she comes and works at Slate. But if she feels that she got a better job offer from the New Republic or the Atlantic or what have you, then she goes and works there.

The advantages of this system are considerable. For example, it allows workers to consider multidimensional trade-offs when considering job options. One place might offer higher salary, but another place might offer an opportunity to play a larger role and prove yourself. It also creates incentives for managers to build organizational capacity around making smart hiring decisions. Perhaps most importantly, it allows for complicated matching to take place. There's not necessarily such a thing as one "best" young journalist. Different people have different skills and dispositions, and different firms have different needs and different internal cultures. You might really need a great young interactives persons, or you might not because you already have one.

Advertisement

In fact this system of "hire whoever you can persuade to come work for you" is such an effective system of drawing young people into the labor force that it's used in fields outside journalism. Whether it's investment banking or fast-food service, both workers and employers in a wide range of occupations have found that this is a great solution to the "tanking" problem and carries a wide range of side benefits. There's no obvious reason it couldn't be employed by the National Basketball Association. Everyone wants Andrew Wiggins. But who has the means and the desire to pay him the most money? And where does he most want to play? Market exchange doesn't work for every problem, but like with parking spaces this is actually exactly the kind of problem markets are great at solving. The players and teams who want each other most should match up. Managers who consistently fail to persuade talented players to work for them should be fired. Owners who can't find managers who can persuade talented players to work for them should sell to more skilled capitalists in whose hands the franchise will be more valuable due to the more competent management.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
Quora
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.