Tanking Isn’t All Bad
: A lot has been made recently about the decision some NBA teams make to lose games rather than win them, and last night’s elimination of the Houston Rockets is a great case study in the virtues of being average in the NBA.
Before we go tossing Houston General Manager Daryl Morey under the bus, keep in mind that Les Alexander, the Rockets’ owner, refuses to lose games. He refuses to allow his team to drop low enough in the standings to secure those coveted top draft picks, so his team is doomed to be one game away from the lottery virtually every year.
Not every team is a contender, and what the pundits that are bashing the idea of deliberate or planned losing are missing is that every team’s priorities are different.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are building for tomorrow. Trading away Ramon Sessions was about opening opportunities to try on young guys at the expense of a player that was walking away in July as a free agent. Just look at what Manny Harris and Alonzo Gee have brought to the Cavs. Neither would have gotten much of a shot had the Cavs been chasing the eighth seed every year. Today they might be part of a new Cavs unit that wins playoff games in a year or two.
Sometimes dipping low into the draft lottery is where the next great player comes from, and, as they say, ‘the cheapest talent a team ever gets is its first round draft choices’.
Is that fair for the fans? Not likely. But riddle me this… as a fan would you rather have one crappy season and see it result in two or three players that fast track your team into serious playoff contention, or watch a mediocre team year after year?
The issue of teams shifting to development mode and playing young guys is not a bad thing. What has become bad is when it’s the same teams over and over every year.
Including this year, the Charlotte Bobcats have drafted in the lottery eight times in their nine-year history – their first season was 2004; they did not draft in the lottery in 2010.
This draft will also mark the 6th straight lottery selection for the Sacramento Kings, the longest streak in the projected lottery field.
Tanking games is not bad if it’s done for a season or two to amass the right kinds of talent to improve. When it’s the same teams year after year, it’s a sign of bigger issues.
Not everyone is competing for a championship, so to condemn teams that are building for tomorrow is a little naive.
The biggest knock the NBA gets from outsiders is that too many teams get into the playoffs… so if the top 16 teams is too many, why is it bad that the bottom 6 or 7 are working on improving?
Does it stink for paying fans? Absolutely. Does it stink for the broadcast partners that pay money for the rights to games? Sure.
But if you are a real fan of your team, wouldn’t you rather have a shot at Anthony Davis today than being in the perennial 14th slot like the Houston Rockets, who are just bad enough to miss the postseason and get another late teens level draft pick?
Losing games isn’t always a bad thing, what tends to be the bad thing is when you lose just enough games to miss the playoffs but not enough games to get good draft picks… that’s what stinks, because Houston will miss the Playoffs and unless they trade up they will likely miss out on the eight to ten franchise-changing players that the 2012 NBA Draft could contribute. That’s been the Rockets’ biggest problem over the last handful of years.