No one likes tanking.
In recent years, the NBA has attempted to downplay the once-popular strategy of intentionally losing games in order to obtain high draft selections. But now that more teams are doing it than ever, the league is once again turning a blind eye. Even though Commissioner Adam Silver has repeatedly said that he doesn’t like tanking and would prefer to see all teams compete as hard as they can every night, his actions suggest otherwise.
There are three key reasons why the tank is back in style:
1. The lottery system has been tweaked multiple times to encourage teams to lose more games.
2. The Draft Lottery has become a nationally televised event with its own YouTube series and Twitter account.
3. The NBA is coming off of its most exciting season ever, which featured a record number of upsets and underdog victories in the playoffs.
Tanking is an increasingly popular strategy in the NBA, with teams like the Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets trying to stockpile high draft picks in an attempt to build a championship contender. The 76ers famously lost 26 games in a row during the 2013-14 season, while the Nets are now starting most of their games with only eight players on their roster. In this blog, I’ll argue that tanking is now more prevalent than ever before.
First, with more teams becoming competitive, there is less room for error for many franchises. Winning a championship requires so much talent that teams have no choice but to take risks and try to improve as quickly as possible. In this environment, players are often traded for future draft picks and tanking has become an acceptable strategy for many teams.
Second, with more young stars entering the NBA through the draft, it has become easier for teams to rebuild through tanking rather than trading their best players for other veterans. Teams can simply lose games and get high draft picks without having to make any trades at all.
Third, tanking offers fans hope that their team will win eventually. They see lottery picks like LeBron James and Kevin Durant develop into superstars and they want their team to do the same thing. It may hurt in the
The last several seasons of the NBA have been wrought with tanking. In a way, it’s understandable. As the league is currently structured, there is little incentive for teams not named the Warriors to compete for anything other than a draft pick. With that in mind, I wanted to take a look at three main reasons why tanking has become so popular among many teams in the NBA.
1) It’s easier. For years, we’ve heard about how hard it is to win in the NBA. This season alone, fourteen teams are on pace to lose over 50 games. And with only eight playoff teams per conference, it doesn’t make sense for these teams to spend money on free agents trying to put together a roster that will compete for one of these spots. The cost of tanking isn’t as high as spending money on an average team that might not even make the playoffs. Because of this, tanking has become more popular among these teams because it’s a much more feasible option than trying to win games they don’t have a chance at competing in anyway.
2) The new lottery system helps bad teams get better picks. The odds might not be as good as they once were, but they are still good enough for bad teams to take advantage of them
The NBA playoffs have finally arrived and the first round is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory. The Golden State Warriors are looking to cement their legacy as one of the greatest teams ever and LeBron James is looking to extend his reign as King of the NBA to a ninth straight Finals. But sadly, for many fans, the only thing left to watch is the upcoming draft lottery in two weeks.
The 2017 draft class is projected to be one of the best in years and a team’s position in this year’s lottery could mean the difference between championship contention and another few years of mediocrity. So, who’s tanking? Here are three reasons why tanking has made its way back into vogue in the NBA:
This wasn’t supposed to happen. After the Philadelphia 76ers and Boston Celtics worked out a trade in the summer of 2017, NBA commissioner Adam Silver railed against tanking. “It’s just not something that any league wants to see,” Silver said in June. “And it’s not something that any sports fan wants to see.”
At the time, the Sixers were undergoing a full-fledged rebuild under former general manager Sam Hinkie. The franchise traded away its first-round picks for veterans and established players, including Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor, and Joel Embiid (who missed two seasons with foot injuries) during those years.
The Sixers’ approach, dubbed The Process by fans and front office alike, was the extreme version of a strategy many teams in the league have employed over the years — trading away or purposefully losing games in order to get a better draft pick or players who could help them win more games down the road.
In an effort to dissuade teams from tanking, the league set up new lottery odds in 2017 that were designed to encourage parity and make it less likely for teams at the bottom of the standings to get top draft picks year after year. One of those measures was giving better odds to teams
We have the NBA draft lottery tonight, where the winners will be rewarded with the first overall selection. Or maybe not. Usually, the team with the worst record in the league goes on to receive the top pick. But this year, we’re in for a treat: there might be a draft of epic proportions.
The three teams with the most ping-pong balls will be rewarded with picks one through three, while those who finish 11th to 14th will get slotted into playoff spots (unless they trade up or down). This is how the system should work: if you want to compete for a championship, then trade away your stars and hope for the best.
It’s hard to come up with reasons why tanking isn’t a good idea. The only teams that don’t tank are usually those who don’t want to risk losing their best players in free agency or trades. So they keep their rosters intact and hope they can perform well enough during the regular season without making any major roster changes.
Other than that, there isn’t much reason why teams shouldn’t tank. It gives them leverage over other franchises who might try to shop around for cheaper talent instead of paying big money for veterans who won’t produce much more than what they’re already earning.
Last Thursday, the NBA held its annual draft of college and international players. For the first time in league history, the draft was preceded by a lottery drawing to determine the order of selection for teams with losing records. There was a good reason for this: after years of teams losing on purpose to get a better chance at the top pick in the draft, the league decided to attempt a change. It’s not working very well.
In 1983, the NBA instituted what has become known as the “lottery” system. Since then, worst-to-first turnaround stories have been a staple of sports news each year (see: Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers). LeBron James went 1st overall in 2003 to the Cavs, who had won only 17 games out of 82 played in 2002-03. The following season they improved by 18 wins and made the playoffs for the first time since 1998. But Cleveland didn’t really turn it around until James returned from Miami, dragging them from a 33-49 record to 53-29, third best in the Eastern Conference.
If you’re an NBA team, why wouldn’t you lose on purpose? It worked for Cleveland!