The art of tanking has been discussed time and time again. Whether it happens consciously or subconsciously, tanking happens, but rarely do we see teams admit to it.
That’s changed, as Jeff Goodman of ESPN reports. One anonymous general manager in the NBA has come out and and stated that his team needs to lose a lot of games, and went on:
Our team isn’t good enough to win and we know it. So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players, let them learn from their mistakes — and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games. This draft is loaded. There are potential All-Stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers. Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing.
I know that sounds crazy, but if you’re an NBA general manager like me, the last place you want to be is in the middle. There are only two outcomes there: Either make the playoffs and be first-round fodder for one of the premier teams or miss the playoffs and pick somewhere around 11th to 14th in the draft. Either way, the odds are that you stay in that middle range. It’s a recipe for disaster.
You need superstars to compete in this league, and the playing field for those guys is tilted toward a few big-market teams. They are demanding trades and getting together and deciding where they want to go in free agency. It’s tough for us to compete with that. So a high lottery pick is all we have.
That about sums up the art of tanking, and much to basketball fans’ dismay, it can sometimes be proven as a fantastic strategy. Not only does losing a lot of games get a team in good lottery position, but it also allows players to learn from losing, which can be huge.
Consequently, this bold statement by one anonymous GM has us here in the office wondering who said it, but anyone with a strong pulse of the NBA should quickly realize that it doesn’t matter who said it, because this one person is only a representative of a few teams who will be engaging in this approach for the upcoming 2013-2014 season.
For starters, the Philadelphia 76ers are the most obvious team in this situation, as almost everyone has them pegged to be the worst team this season. However, that doesn’t mean that the team doesn’t have some good young talent with the likes of Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Michael Carter-Williams, and Nerlens Noel (if he doesn’t turn into the next Greg Oden). The addition of a top 5 draft pick who is a potential “franchise changer” could quickly turn the Sixers into one of the best young teams in the NBA.
On the other hand there’s the Orlando Magic, who might be a slightly better team because of overall experience, but have same amount of youth as Philadelphia. If Victor Oladipo can learn point guard, and they pull off some type of trade involving Glen Davis and Jameer Nelson for a first round pick, the Magic could have two first rounders (one lottery), and a solid foundation for the future.
That leaves us in the danger zone. The middle of the road where teams don’t want to be. What do you do? Go for it all, grab a seven or eight seed and leave after the first round of the playoffs? Or do you TANK, and go for it all next year. The following teams have that decision to make, and while a majority of these squads will never believe they can’t win it all, hypothetically, tanking might be the way to go:
New Orleans Pelicans – This team is right there, and while tanking would most likely be a horrible idea for the development of players and the morale of the fan base, the Pelicans are one or two pieces away from being a top seed team.
Boston Celtics – With only two players over the age of 30, and Rajon Rondo nearing his prime, the Celtics have some good young pieces to build around their star point guard in Marshon Brooks and Jeff Green. If they can nab a big man with one of the first few picks of the draft, the franchise could be right back in contention.
Milwaukee Bucks – Loaded with countless above average players (O.J. Mayo, Larry Sanders, Brandon Knight, Ersan Ilyasova), the Bucks have a solid young core to build up on. The team is a superstar leader type away from being a dangerous squad.
And that’s about it. Regardless of the previous analysis, this is GM talk, not player talk, and expect every single one of these teams to still bust their butts out on the court.
P.S. Notice none of the teams mentioned are in the Western Conference? Jeez they’re stacked once again.