Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Match System Instead of the Draft

ESPN – "Let Zion Williamson choose where he wants to play next"

"There are any number of environmental or chemical factors present in "unhappiness" -- social media is certainly one, mental health conditions that go undiagnosed and untreated are likely another. One less obvious feature present in the lives of young NBA players is that the vast majority of them are playing in cities, for bosses, with co-workers and on behalf of brands they had zero influence in choosing.

In the NBA, a first-round pick who shows promise is effectively under the control of the team that drafted him for the first seven seasons of his career. This means that in the most formative years of their professional development, the most talented young men in basketball are given no agency to decide what most of us take for granted: where we will live, work and put down roots in our adult lives."


"Proponents of the draft generally maintain that it's the only way to ensure fairness in a 30-team league in which some of those teams are far more appealing homes than others. When a prodigy like Zion Williamson declares himself eligible to play in the NBA, the fairness of allowing him a say in where he'd like to play must defer to the fairness of giving the league's failing teams an infusion of talent.

Williamson, though, might entertain ideas about what kind of coach he'd like to play for, or the kind of city he'd like to live in, or the types of teammates he'd like to share the court with. Given that Williamson is a player with uncommon force whose output will need to be managed carefully, he might not want to entrust his body to just any medical and performance staff.

In a league where the product is the talent, why do employers get to interview the potential employees, but not the other way around? As Williamson embarks on building a global brand for himself over a career whose prime will come and go in about a dozen years, he might even have certain standards about what kind of person or businessman an NBA owner should be. Why is disqualification a one-way street, whereby no team has to employ a player whose character it finds questionable, but no incoming rookie has the right to dismiss an owner he and his family might think is sketchy?"


"Imagine a system in which incoming rookies enjoyed the power to choose -- say unrestricted free agency. Critics contend that such a setup would concentrate the best young rookies on established and/or sexier franchises. But in a restrictive salary-cap system, a capped-out team doesn't have the resources to offer Williamson what he'd command in free agency. The Warriors would be every bit as hamstrung in pursuit of Williamson, Ja Morant or any other top-five pick as they are in chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kyrie Irving.

Would the Lakers be assured a top-three talent every year by virtue of being the Lakers? Who knows, but under the current system, the most recognizable brand in North American professional sports drafted the No. 2 pick three years running from 2015 through 2017, and are slated to pick fourth this season. If rookies were free agents, the Lakers would not only have to win prospects with the power of persuasion, they'd also have to pay them something close to market value."


"For those who believe that unrestricted free agency would be too punitive toward the NBA's doormat teams or less alluring markets, the league could develop a "matching system," like the National Resident Matching Program (or NRMP or "The Match"), which labor economists continue to regard as a remarkably effective model for assigning incoming talent to employers who need it.

How does it work? Every year, graduates of medical school -- the nation's future doctors -- rank the places where they'd like to be resident physicians in order of preference, while the medical institutions rank the graduates they most want to hire. An algorithm then processes the choices and issues the matches. The most talented young doctors are frequently paired with the most prestigious institutions, because there's often mutual interest.

But as Alvin Roth, who directed the redesign of the NRMP in 1995, writes in "Who Gets What -- And Why," The Match is a system in which "no applicant and residency program not matched with each other preferred each other to their assigned matches.""

No comments: