Tanking is a term used to describe a sporting team’s effort – or lack thereof – to intentionally lose as many games as possible in order to succeed in the long term.
In the NBA, losing equals a better chance at higher draft picks. Usually, the subject doesn’t come up until towards the end of the season when the lottery teams are well and truly decided.
This season, however, things are different – to the point where tanking was a topic discussed before a basket has even been made.
The term “Riggin’ for Wiggins” (we will get to this name later) has become popular around the league and is a funny name for what is very serious business.
Tanking is not something I enjoy or condone as it basically ruins the spirit of a game where two teams should battle each other for a win every night.
If one team doesn’t want to win, what’s the point of watching?
In principal this makes great sense, but the NBA is a multi-billion dollar business where wrong decisions can haunt a franchise for years (New York/Minnesota, nod your heads).
In a league of 30 teams and even less genuine franchise players, a team will look at every option available to land a high level talent capable of taking their team to success and financial success.
Short term pain in the form of half-filled arenas, disgruntled fans and a credibility loss is easy to take when you get that blue chip draft prospect and can build around him for years to come.
In some cases, teams can actually turn the tanking process into a positive experience for the fans. The great light of hope is offered to them early and the rewards of having a young, exciting player to cheer for is always on their mind.
So why this season, of all years, are teams going to be tanking?
It’s simple – the 2014 draft class is touted as the best draft class since the star-stacked 2003 NBA Draft, which produced LeBron James, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Darko Milicic (wait, that’s not right).
Expected in the 2014 NBA Draft are:
Andrew Wiggins (SF): A Kevin Durant clone from Canada who will be a franchise changer for whoever lands him – hence the “Riggin’ for Wiggins” catchphrase. He has a complete game and is a freak athlete to boot. In short, it is worth ruining an entire season to secure him.
Julius Randle (PF): An offensive beast with all the moves you expect from a polished veteran. An above average handle for a PF means he can hurt you in the open court.
Jabari Parker (SF): Another great all-rounder who has great size for a wing player, can score from anywhere and possesses the smarts of a player much older.
Dante Exum (PG): The highly talented PG from Down Under is spending this season in Europe developing his game. A natural scorer and above-average defender, Exum will be a force in the league given the impact score first PGs are having right now.
Joel Embiid (C): A legit seven foot tall with a massive wingspan and athleticism to spare. His defence is also top notch and will be a big guy to build around.
Aaron Gordon (PF): Essentially the second coming of Blake Griffin. Watch his YouTube videos and be impressed by Gordon’s supreme abilities.
So now we have established the quality talent that will be on offer in 2014, who will be the teams fighting for the right to draft a potential franchise player?
Expected lottery teams this season are the Philadelphia 76ers (despite their 3-0 start), Phoenix Suns, Charlotte Bobcats, Utah Jazz, Orlando Magic and the Boston Celtics.
All these teams have either announced they are in rebuilding mode or it would be basketball suicide not to finish in the lower half of the league given their rosters and/or team location.
While finishing with the worst record doesn’t guarantee you the first pick – statistically it works out to be a 25% chance – it does help to have a few extra balls in the lottery.
With all the talk of tanking this season it would be slightly amusing to see an outsider take out the #1 pick, just as Chicago did in 2008 to get Derrick Rose (they were a 1.7% chance to land the #1 pick).
So is tanking right? No. But this is big business and there is plenty to play for.
My tip would be to concentrate on the teams fighting for a title and enjoy the quality of basketball that will be on show this season.