Nearly the entire history of the NBA suggests that a team wishing to win the title must have one of the 10 or 15 best players alive — and preferably one of the half-dozen best. There have been exceptions, including the famous 2004 Pistons. But they are rare.

The most common means of obtaining said franchise player is via the draft when he is first eligible to enter the NBA. You can certainly land those guys after the top few picks; the Mavs did so with Dirk Nowitzki (no. 9), the Celtics with Paul Pierce (no. 10), the Lakers with Kobe Bryant (no. 13, in a draft-day trade Kobe's team strong-armed in concert with Jerry West), and now the Pacers with Paul George (no. 10). And the Rockets have recently reminded us that shrewd cap management and a pile of gain-an-inch trades can provide the flexibility required to either sign a star-level free agent or trade for one seeking a new environment. That's how the Celtics got Kevin Garnett, and Boston (along with Phoenix and a handful of other teams) may be in the early stages of a similar process now.

But the best odds of snagging such a player lay in being very bad, getting some lottery luck, and drafting in one of the first two or three slots. That path is NOT a fail-safe, of course. The Bobcats tanked the 2011-12 lockout season and ended up with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist instead of Anthony Davis. The Bucks, Raptors, and Blazers won the lotteries in years when most of the league found itself infatuated with big-man prospects who turned out to be the wrong choices at the very top.

Failed bottoming-out schemes do not stand as evidence that tanking doesn't work, or isn't worth trying. It's one of several paths to a superstar, and it may well be the best one; smart GMs with deep backgrounds in analytics are still trying it today, despite all those horror stories. We can debate whether tanking is a huge problem, or the degree to which it works, but we cannot debate its existence. Harrison Barnes plays for the Warriors, and not the Jazz or some other team, after all. The 1996-97 Celtics are in the historical record.

We can also search for solutions, and there are lots of folks in the league office and among the 30 teams who find tanking abhorrent — who bristle at the idea that the league has incentivized teams to be anything but their best every single season. One detailed proposal, submitted by a team official, has gained initial traction among some high-level NBA officials — to the point that the NBA may float the proposal to owners sometime in 2014, according to league sources. Other top officials in the league office have expressed early opposition to the proposal, sources say.

The Proposal

Grantland obtained a copy of the proposal, which would eliminate the draft lottery entirely and replace it with a system in which each of the 30 teams would pick in a specific first-round draft slot once — and exactly once — every 30 years. 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. The practice of protecting picks would disappear; there would never be a Harrison Barnes–Golden State situation again, and it wouldn’t require a law degree to track ownership of every traded pick leaguewide.

The system is simpler to understand in pictorial form. 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:

Put another way: 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.

The system is designed to eliminate the link between being very bad and getting a high draft pick. There is no benefit at all to being bad under a wheel system like this. If you believe tanking is morally wrong, or that it hurts business by alienating fans and cutting into attendance, this is a system you could get behind.