With less than a week left in the NBA’s regular season, I can’t recall tanking of this magnitude. Near the end of the season, tanking makes plenty of sense for a few teams hoping to get more lottery balls and as high a draft pick as possible.
But this season, you’ve basically got 10 teams that have been tanking for over two MONTHS. I have no problem with this, as the draft is stacked. It could be better than last year’s draft, which was loaded.
The New York Knicks have lost 23 of 27 games. But they’ve barely been able to move up in the race for the #1 pick, currently 8th in the race for the #1 pick. Who can blame them for trying to lose? Surely not the fans, who, despite losing Kristaps Porzingis, have enjoyed getting a look at former Utah lottery pick Trey Burke. Since the All-Star break, Burke – only 25 years old – has been tremendous, looking like the star many thought he’d be out of Michigan: 16.3 ppg, 5.5 apg and 51 percent shooting, which is great for a point guard. He’s even hitting 37 percent of 3-pointers.
In tanking, the Knicks have found a rotation player, perhaps even a starting point guard for next year.
If we can agree the Suns have been tanking the longest – word on the street is, they started tanking from CHRISTMAS in the 2016-2017 season – the Grizzlies are a close 2nd. After Mike Conley was ruled out for the season in the final week of January, they’ve been trying hard to lose. After another blowout defeat Wednesday, the Grizzlies have lost a staggering 26 of 29 games since the end of January.
Again, I have no problem with this. Tanking works. It’s encouraged. Consider this for Memphis: As long as Conley, Marc Gasol and Chandler Parsons – yeah, I know the latter has the most unlucky injury history – are healthy next year, the Grizzlies will have legit playoff aspirations. Toss in a Top 5 pick – DeAndre Ayton? – and you’ve got the best of both worlds: Veteran talent and a future building block.
And thanks to the tanking, Memphis has found a future contributor in 2nd round pick Dillon Brooks (10.4 ppg, shooting 43/38) and another one in undrafted shooting guard Wayne Selden, a former Kansas star. He’s averaging 9.3 ppg in 35 games, and his 40 percent from deep has been impressive.
The NBA is embarrassed that Phoenix, Memphis, Atlanta, Dallas, Orlando, Sacramento, New York and Chicago – basically 1/4th of the league – is aggressively tanking. The reality: Tanking is smart.
Ask the Philadelphia 76ers, who are on the cusp of a deep playoff run – thanks to a process of tanking.