Tanking in the NBA Needs to Stop
Hello, I'm Jeff Keys...a super-excited new writer on TJRsports. I plan to focus primarily on the NBA, although I do have opinions in other sports. I'm 26, married, with one toddler running around who I'm trying to convert into the cutest Knicks girl you've ever seen. By now you now, I AM a fan of the New York Knickerbockers. So my life has been filled with disappointment over the last decade. I am (The next two statements are very ironic, when you consider the Knicks rivalries) from Indiana and still live in the southwest part. I grew up a fan of Michael Jordan and the Bulls. I lost my interest upon his retirement and especially when the league locked out in 1998. My interest was regained in the Cinderella story of the Knicks in 1999 during the playoffs, and I've been hooked ever since.
As mentioned I'm a Knicks fan. So I know a lot about losing. Even during the good years. Recently, I've been hearing a lot about "tanking." This I never knew of the Knicks doing. To insert a joke on my team, they didn't have to "try" to lose--it just came naturally. I first heard of "tanking" during the 2002-2003 season. I saw the Sports Illustrated magazine floating around my classrooms during the previous year. There was a guy barely older than me, making national headlines playing high school basketball somewhere in Akron, Ohio. They said his name was LeBron James. Apparently, he was a stud or something, since I kept hearing rumors--and even conspiracy theories--about the Cleveland Cavaliers losing so they would have a better chance of drafting LeBron James. Since this time, it has been mentioned that certain teams were tanking. The draft in 2003 was so strong. The upcoming draft has also been mentioned as strong--perhaps the deepest since that draft in 2003. Some have mentioned Andrew Wiggins as possibly being drafted by Philadelphia, the Lakers, Celtics, or even possibly the Jazz. All of these teams have been linked as having possibly already given up on the upcoming season, looking towards the 2014 draft. All have also denied it. But we cannot deny that all four of these teams, among others, are definitely rebuilding.
So, I think everyone knows this. The team that finished with the worst record gets roughly 25% of the ping pong balls in the lottery. So they have a very good chance at getting the first overall pick. The following is from Wikipedia, which I trust in this situation, but not always. The lottery is conducted with witnesses verifying that all 14 balls are represented once as they are placed in the lottery machine. The balls are placed in the machine for 20 seconds to randomize prior to having the first ball drawn. The remaining three balls are drawn at 10-second intervals. NBA officials determine which team holds the winning combination and that franchise is awarded the #1 overall draft pick. The four balls are returned to the machine and the process is repeated to determine the second and third picks. In the event that a combination belongs to a team that has already won its pick (or if the one unassigned combination comes up), the round is repeated until a unique winner is determined. When the first three teams have been determined, the remaining picks are given out based on regular season record with the worst teams getting the highest picks. This assures each team that it can drop no more than three spots from its projected draft position.
This means, putting it simply, that the lottery just determines who gets the top three spots. After this, the 4th through 14th spots are determined by record, in order from worst to best. The last sentence says "each team...can drop no more than three spots..." This means that the team with the worst record is guaranteed at LEAST a top 4 pick. The team with the second worst record is guaranteed at LEAST a top 5 pick and so on.
My thought is this. Why are we rewarding tanking? Many speculate if a team that is borderline playoff shouldn't just tank the season and try for a top 4 pick. This is not fair to the fans. I know Boston, Philadephia, and the LA Lakers have denied plans of tanking...but Philadelphia just traded away a proven All-Star point guard for a center who didn't even make it through one year of college ball before tearing his ACL. And if we have learned anything, many successful teams have a dynamic point guard. Furthermore, they have not made any attempt to sign any free agents this year. They have millions and millions in cap room. This also insinuates to me they will not be focusing on this season, but the next offseason. The Suns are also another team looking to tank. They traded away a proven forward in Luis Scola for an athletic benchwarmer, a project big man, and a first round pick. We could go on and on with teams that are speculating to be tanking, but let's move on.
I mentioned right above about rewarding tanking. Why should we? I somewhat enjoy the Indiana Pacers team. I did see three games this past season. I saw a few games over the past few years. They were not very good a few years ago. As a result, they couldn't fill up their arena, unless a marquee team came to town. This is what will happen in Philadelphia this year. Basketball won't be as fun to watch. To quote a wrestler (bonus points if you know who, but I think you already do, if you visit this site often), "Enough is enough and it's time for a change."
Change? What kind of change can we make? Surely we can come up with some ideas. Why not reverse this current situation? Let's give the most ping pong balls to the team that comes the closest to the playoffs. In other words, the Utah Jazz would have received a potential top 4 pick (if we kept the rules the same, except reversed the order of the odds). And then go down from there. This would push teams NOT to tank. Teams would be motivated to sign free agents and actually TRY to become a playoff team. Now...could a team potentially tank once it became close to playoff time? Absolutely, but this would be more difficult to get that perfect record that keeps you out of the playoffs but lets you be the best team NOT in the playoffs.
Another idea I've been wondering about is having the non playoff teams play a single elimination tournament to determine the NBA Lottery odds. This could potentially make the season longer, which some would not want. You may say this is ignorant, and I agree that any idea needs some thought and hard work. Also, some would say that a team tanks the regular season until this tournament arrives.
I also wonder about keeping the system the same except give out penalties. By penalties, I mean potentially reduce the cap level of the teams who don't make the playoffs by a few millions. I'm not saying what the amounts should be, but if a team does get the number one overall pick, maybe if we reduced their cap level from 56 million to 51 for the length of the number one overall's contract, perhaps more teams would be less inclined to completely tank. Again, I realize this could be considered ignorant.
I know these are nowhere near ideal and perhaps not even realistic. But I feel--and I think many do--like teams will essentially be rewarded for giving up on a season. The NBA is a huge organization and has many bright minds. I've spent just an afternoon thinking of solutions. A group of collective minds could work on this before the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is completed and come up with an idea that works for all.
The most important group involved in the NBA is obviously the fans. In the same fashion that I don't want to go to a Heat game and see that they're playing the Spurs without Duncan, Parker, or Ginobili, I also don't want to see my team put a horrible team out on the floor just to have a CHANCE at a franchise player. I believe most fans are probably that way.
Any thoughts, comments, or ideas on how to eliminate tanking, please let me know! You can find me on Twitter @KeysNotes.