I originally posted this in another thread but I wanted to spin it off and see if I could generate some more discussion on it. I think that there are a lot of debates that are just going around in circles with people arguing over what exactly a tank is and isn't. So, in the hopes of moving beyond those arguments, I think it would be a useful discussion to actually lay out as many different management strategies as we can and give them labels. I tried to come up with an extensive but by no means comprehensive list:
general competitive strategies:
- building around your best player: or the colangelo model. Colangelo often made moves that were based on bringing in complementary pieces (both players and coaches) to the perceived best player on the team, first Bosh and then Bargnani. Arguably, if he had kept his job he would have started the process all over again around Gay. Its success seems largely dependent on the quality of the star you're building around, and in Toronto there was never the superstar needed to make it work.
- moneyball-style short-term asset acquisition: constantly looking to upgrade the value of the roster by making sure that every dollar is best spent. In baseball, moneyball was originally a win-now strategy, nothing was safe from star players to draft picks to prospects. A big part of the system was to take advantage of teams that overvalue potential.
- long-term asset acquisition: probably more common in the NBA than the short-term approach to moneyball that's more common in MLB. Ujiri in Denver was doing this, as are many other small-market teams; so far, nobody's taken ridden this strategy to a championship.
- building around a team philosophy: identifying a style of basketball that you think will win, and then bring in the players and coaches that can best implement that. (Arguably, Colangelo tried this a little bit with bringing in Casey, but it still seemed more 'build around your best player' than anything else). Possibly you could call this the Dumars Detroit model. It's rare that anyone builds from the ground up like this: usually it's looking at what you currently have and then building a team philosophy to maximize that. In some ways this is a reactive strategy, often trying to take advantage of the weaknesses of other contending teams.
- build around a coach: As suggested by Blackjitsu. Probably has some overlap with building around a philosophy, but is anchored around an individual. Karl and Thibodeau as examples.
- flexibility first: maintain short contracts and easily-tradeable players and draft picks, so that you're in an opportunity to pounce when opportunity presents itself. The flexibility model values draft picks above everything else because they are the most flexible asset there is. Houston would be an example of this strategy.
- maximum wins: always making the moves that you believe will win you the most games in the short term, and to hell with the longterm. Call it the Dolan model. Probably the simplest and least effective model out of any of them.
- maximum payroll: the idea that there's value to maintaining a large payroll over the tax threshold, because it allows you to constantly take overpaid players and essentially live by a different set of rules than most of the league. This was a big part of LA's strategy, but the new CBA makes it a more difficult (potentially impossible) strategy. Brooklyn may be the best current test of this strategy.
- boom and bust: this is totally theoretical, because it's reactive to the new CBA, particularly the provisions that are just kicking in now. It's also something I made up. Nobody's practicing it yet, but I think that we'll see some of the big spenders use it in the next decade. It basically means rapidly expanding your talent and payroll, giving yourself a couple years to win, then blowing it up to get back under the tax threshold for a couple years, before trying to boom again.
- free agency homerun: planning to see a large amount of salary commitments expire at the same time so that you can add multiple pieces (ideally including a superstar) from a single free agency class. A great strategy if you have that opportunity, because it removes a lot of other variables and give you a contender window that starts almost immediately. But totally out of the realm of what some markets can aspire to.
- hardcore tank: working to create a roster that will lose the maximum number of games and maximize the draft pick above all else. This is rarely actually except as a mid-season approach, but is frequently advocated.
- softcore tank: focusing on youth development, deprioritizing wins but not actively attempting to build a losing roster.
- tank for flexibility: based on the post by CalgaryRapsFan. Tanking with the primary goal of undoing a bad roster situation and making it possible to move forward without dead weight and salaries on the roster.
- tank for stars: contrasting with tanking for flexibility, this is the philosophy that the only way to acquire elite talent is through the draft and so you need to tank until you acquire such a star. Both tanking for flexibility and tanking for stars are in theory compatible with hardcore or softcore tanking.
Mostly, I think GMs (and fans for that matter) think about a combination of these strategies. Softcore tank, for example, combines very well with asset acquisition and flexibility, and possibly with team philosophy. It also could work with free agency homerun, although I think that's trickier. It's also possible to develop a plan that uses one strategy at one phase in a team's development, then transitioning to another later in a team's development. Team philosophy or building around your best can be thought of as second generation strategies, implemented after another strategy has taken you to that near-contender status.
Anyway, feel free to suggest additional strategies, give them a name and an example (if you have one), and I'll add them to this list. There are lots of threads discussing what strategies the Raptors should actually use, so maybe keep that discussion in those other threads and use this one for discussing what the various strategies are.