Nba nerd

Is This Worth Tanking For?

I've got a prediction I feel very confident about: one of Draft Express' current top 5 prospects (Wiggins, Randle, Parker, Embiid and Exum) will be a bust.

Hell, let's ignore Exum because he's an Australian prospect and replace him with Smart. I predict that at least one of these guys will be a bust. Like a doctor who can predict that at least ten people in a room full of 100 are going to get cancer, I can't tell you which one, but I'd be willing to bet a big sum that one of them will.

Seem like a bold prediction? Let's look at the top 5 picks going back a few years. Let's skip the last few drafts because the jury might still be out on some of them, and go backwards from 2009:

2009 Griffin, Thabeet, Harden, Evans, Rubio
2008 Rose, Beasley, Mayo, Westbrook, Love
2007 Oden, Durant, Al Horford, Mike Conley, Jeff Green
2006 Bargnani, Aldridge, Morrison, Tyrus Thomas, Shelden Williams
2005 Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Raymond Felton
2004 Howard, Okafor, Ben Gordon, Shaun Livingston, Devin Harris
2003 James, Darko Millicic, Anthony, Bosh, Wade
2002 Ming, Jay Williams, Mike Dunleavy, Drew Gooden, Tskitishvili
2001 Kwame Brown, Tyson Chandler, Pau Gasol, Eddie Curry, Jason Richardson
2000 Kenyon Martin, Stromile Swift, Darius Miles, Marcus Fizer, Mike Miller

A couple of things spring to mind: first, almost every draft has a bust, even the 2003 draft, which everyone considers the best since 1984 (Olajuwon, Bowie, Jordan, Perkins, Barkley). Second, there isn't a universal reason that a pick might be a bust; sometimes it's because the players never became good enough to justify their draft slot (Bargnani, Milicic, Tskiti, Morrison, etc), sometimes because the players had injury troubles (Oden, Livingston, Jay Williams, etc), and sometimes because they never became much more than rotation players. And finally, as I think you can imagine, when I was looking at these, things got a lot worse if you expand to the top 10 picks in each year. (Another thing I noticed is that if your last name is WIlliams you've got a better shot at the NBA, apparently). 

If I had just blindly made a bet for ten years that one of the top 5 picks would be a bust, I'd have won 10/10 times, unless you want to argue that Thabeet or Beasley aren't busts. Hell, if we wait long enough, even Derrick Rose could be a bust -- his injuries have been devastating and he might never achieve his old performance levels. Furthermore, if I had blindly bet that two of the five would bust, I'd have won 6 times, with the jury still out on 2008 and with some disagreement on 2007 (lots of people consider Green a star; I think he's an overrated bad player).

Now, let's look at this list again: How many of these players would be worth throwing away an entire year? I'd argue that list would be short: James, Howard, Love, Harden, Wade, Durant, and Paul. That's 7 out of 50 players. So, arguably, the "reward" for losing a lot of games in one season is a 14% chance at a franchise player...if you get a top 5 pick. Many teams that "tank" end up far from the bottom, and finish with the 6th-10th worst record, and have much smaller chances at the top 5.

I've said this before, but all this talk from clueless armchair managers who claim that a team should be losing because this is "the deepest draft in memory" is getting tiresome. Here's another bold prediction: The Spurs are going to grab somebody in the late first round, he'll be pretty good, and everyone else will be surprised. And with their mid-first-round picks, the Bobcats and Timberwolves will each draft somebody who turns out to be awful, even in this "deepest draft in memory".

The point I am making is this: Yes, there are teams that that tank in the sense that they actively try to construct rosters that lose. And there are teams that actively tank by telling a perfectly healthy starter to sit out with "back spasms" or a "stomach strain". But these strategies are simply stupid. There is no nefarious reward for this baked into the system; there is only fool's gold. Draft picks are valuable in the sense that you want to collect lots of them (because some will work out, and when they do they are the best contracts you can have); but pursuing any one particular draft pick in any one particular year is an awful strategy.

Then there's the other thing that every NBA journalist calls tanking because he doesn't understand what's happening. When the Raptors traded Gay, they were not waving a towel; rather, they genuinely felt that this trade made them better. It wasn't about tanking. When the Bulls traded Deng, they were a) saving money and b) getting something from a player that was going to leave them next year anyway. Again, that's not tanking.

The Deng trade does not make the Bulls better...today. But, once again, it's not really making them much worse. The Bulls have this other guy named Jimmy Butler who's returning from injury. They have a very underrated backup wing in Mike Dunleavy. Both of them can slip in and replace Deng's minutes. The drop-off won't be catastrophic. Deng is going to get a contract this off-season that might be fair in its first year or two, but is going to look awful when Deng is 32 years old. The Bulls made a trade that saves them a boatload of money without really making them worse in the immediate term. As a fan, you might not like this, because you'd prefer an owner who will spend whatever it takes to win. But it's a far cry from tanking in the sense of "losing on purpose".

My last piece of advice for the average NBA journalist: if the first thing you are asking about literally every trade is "How does this fit into the tanking narrative?" then you're doing your job poorly. Stop letting ESPN set the agenda of your storylines for the year.

I think what the media often fails to understand is that the narrative should not be about absolute quality of player, but rather relative value of player.

Rudy Gay was clearly overpaid, but to really drive this home, you have to think about guys like LeBron. What is he really worth? There obviously comes some level at which even LeBron is overpriced (much higher than the current max, but would LeBron at $75mm per year be a good deal?).

For me, tanking only makes sense when teams actually improve their long-term odds of winning, and in terms of the value of the draft, that is overrated. The "smart" form of tanking is what the Bulls are doing: turn overpriced or short-term assets into more valuable longer-term assets. The goal is not to lose; the losing is a side effect. The goal is to have more valuable assets which lead to long-term winning.

Gambling on low probability draft picks does not fit this mold.
However tanking is a way for owners to not win and not alienate the fan base because you sell them a lottery ticket.
Honestly if you frame the expectations of a top 5 pick that is sold to fans, media etc. On average 3 players a year don't hit that mark.
Fans expect a top 5 pick to be a multi-time all star at least. By that logic I'd argue most top 5 picks from 00-09 don't hit that expectation.
Great work Patrick, good article.
Pedro,
We mostly agree but the "Don't alienate the fanbase" is off. The research shows fans like winning. Fans will put up with bad/"evil" owners (see Stirling), they'll put up with "horrible" criminals (see Kobe, Roethlisberger, Vick) if their team is winning.

Now an owner might believe their fanbase "likes" them if they sell a top pick or a free agent (Arturo's argument for signing Kaman) But that's like using the results of a survey asking people if they'd buy your product and not the actual sales numbers. Bad teams alienate fanbases, full stop. It doesn't matter the story the owners put behind them.
Oh I agree winning brings people, but if you tank and get a top 5 pick it can buy off fan ire enough for some guys to keep their jobs even though they suck at them. David Kahn, Cleveland GMs .. etc.
I am comparing a 20 win team to a 38 win team not to a 50 win team.
But honestly I'll cede that to you, won't argue. I still think tanking to winning is a fools errand just like you do because there are only a few franchise changing players and they weren't all the #1 pick.
And teams screw up draft picks taken from tanking constantly, see Cleveland.
Waiters pick doomed them for two drafts because they thought they couldn't draft another guard this year so they didn't take Oladipo who actually compliments Irving's weaknesses theoretically.
Normally GM's who can't put together winning teams without franchise guys can't build a good enough team around them to become great anyway.
Pedro,
Think we actually can unify on the idea here. A top pick is enough to get a response from the fan base that you can report to management that will let you keep your job. The reality is your fan base is ticked off, won't buy season tickets, BUT they'll tell your owner "yeah, we'll be back."

It's funny how much of the NBA is about people bad at their jobs making bad moves to keep their jobs.
This isn't a superduperstar draft- there's no Durant or LeBron. Yes, there are about 10 players who scouts agree have all-star potential, but the depth of this draft all the way through the first and second round looks absolutely unprecedented - http://tinyurl.com/mjh5x3z

In any given year, there are about 10 players with an unadjusted WS/40 of over 15.0. On average, between ½ and ⅓ of them become long-time NBA players. Right now, there are 40. We may be on the threshold of a golden age for D-League and international basketball with four years worth of NBA caliber players hitting the market and the fixed number of NBA jobs available.
I mean there MIGHT be a Durant or CP3.
Its all percentages I wouldn't say there is no chance 3 of these 6 big names turn into All pro guys. It is possible but people pretending like it is a certainty is nuts...
Predictions: Wiggins will be drafted 1st no matter what Jabari Parker and Julius Randle do. He will be an OJ Mayo type of bust. The Spurs will watch Doug McDermott fall into their laps. He will be the opposite of a bust.
I'd like to argue that the average fan takes a slightly different approach in his analysis of "tanking." Here are the basic steps in the thought process:
1. I want my team to win a championship
2. Big stars win championships (hello David Stern and ESPN)
3. You find big stars at the top of the draft
4. We need a top draft pick to get a big star of our own or we'll never win
5. Let's tank
The thinking is flawed, but I suggest that's how many, if not most, fans think.
@Pete

I'm not wholly convinced on the win shares metric. I took a quick glance at the previous year win shares and I saw a very weak correlation with win shares and career success. The cut off 15 or more winshares applies to a lot of players who were not drafted as well; whereas players like Andre Drummond or Kevin Love were highly undervalued when evaluating using win shares. I don't disagree this is a talented draft class, but the win shares may be decieving.
Reinholt:

"The goal is not to lose; the losing is a side effect."

YES. This is what I have been saying for months. Organizations should be WILLING to lose (e.g. trade Evan Turner for great future value because he's about to be very expensive), but people who say shit like "Sam Hinkie needs to tell coach Brown to sit MCW so that they lose some more" as if the losing were the GOAL just make me want to choke them.
Pete,

Let's postulate as a given that this is the deepest draft ever, for argument's sake.

Doesn't that make a deliberate tanking strategy EVEN WORSE? By definition, in such a deep draft, I don't need to have a super high lotto pick to get a good player!

One MIGHT make an argument that some teams should tank just enough to keep their lottery-protected pick, but that's obviously not relevant to all teams.
Good article and several good comments. Thanks, all, for writing.
It sounds like it is not worth losing more for a high 1st round pick, but for Chicago it was worth losing more for 2nd rounders? I'm not sure how I can believe both of these ideas at the same time.

Draft picks have been stated to incredibly valuable low cost/high reward commodities on this blog, but are not worth losing in the short run for?

And what exactly are the other options for your teams like Sacramento and Charlotte? They can't attract free agents at all and have to pay a high premium for even marginal players. The draft seems like the only way they can acquire undervalued players. Get players through trading? But they can only acquire valuable trade assets through the draft. These teams are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Either lose a little in the short term, or lose a lot for consecutive years and hope to get lucky.
Regarding Chicago, the point isn't losing. Here is the core question:

Given the expectation of Deng's next contract, and that you are not a championship contender this year, is the value of keeping him or trading him higher with regard to the long-term success of the team?

If you thought Deng was undervalued and would be undervalued for his next contract, trading him is a mistake. If you thought Deng was overvalued and would be overvalued for his next contract, trading him was the right move. The current losing isn't relevant to the analysis. The analysis is "this guy will be a FA, and the market for him will pay him x, but he is worth y. Is that a good or bad deal"? If you are a team with championship aspirations, obviously, this may be a bit different as absolute talent matters for that one season.

In theory, it's possible that trading overpriced players away for literally nothing will improve a team if they are then able to use the cap space to acquire more fairly valued (or undervalued) players. Arguably that is what really happened with Rudy Gay (maybe even twice).
In general I tend to agree with the arguments being made but I think this one is a little spurious.

Tanking in itself isn't necessarily bad, hiring bad GM's/bad scouting is bad.

"Throwing away" (losing slightly more than just losing with a bad team) a season short term for long term success can be a good strategy done by the right people. There are not many right people.

Not every team has inherent free agency advantages. LA NY BOS CHI have market/location/legacy. Texas Florida have no state income tax/warm weather. These places can and do get free agents. These guys probably won't ever need to tank.

The good teams that aren't those? IND has a drafted core of PG, Born Ready, Hibbert and signed DW at a premium and traded for GH at a premium. OKC similar situation.

OKC tanked in SEA playing Durant at 2 guard. Orlando is trying to do a similar thing. I think Orlando is 1 piece and a nelson/davis clearing house away from contending. Orlando IS tanking by giving those guys minutes, but like PHI that's smart tanking. Pump up value on scrubs, lose games, "look" competitive all at once. Noel is never going to see a minute this year. Again smart tanking.

Bad Tanking is just incompetence disguised as tanking.

I don't think it makes sense to confuse the two.
The point is that with Chicago trading Deng and the supposed tankers are doing the same thing. They are giving away this season for future draft picks. If they wanted to give Deng away for nothing, and believed his next contract to be overpriced, they could have held on to him this season, win more games, and let him go in free agency. But they chose to lose more this season for assets that won't likely help in future seasons. Half a season with Deng will likely give them more wins than what those 2nd rounders will likely give in their careers with the Bulls (that is, next to 0). This was a cost minimizing move, with the low draft picks thrown in to give a better face to the fans; this was not a win maximizing move.

And if a player intends to leave once their contract is up, how long must their contract be to give it away for second rounders? 2 more seasons? One more season? Look at Asik. Rockets see value in his 1 and a half years remaining, and aren't giving him up for nothing.
@DG22 I think that goes for every team Except the Knicks, Heat and Lakers. I am not even sure the Nets even count. Maybe Chicago is a destination city?
You can always acquire undervalued assets. If you value them properly then you go get them. Or better yet trade away overvalued assets that other teams wrongfully covet. Like Masai keeps doing to Dolan.
I wish my team took advantage of Dolan...
GnoXiak,

I live in Seattle. We weren't taking by playing Durant at the 2. We played Durant at the 2 because the coach didn't know what he was doing.

Furthermore, Durant was awful in his rookie year and first half of his second year not because he was playing the 2, but because his usage rate was sky high but his shot selection was awful.

To put it another way: If Durant played the 2 for team USA, do you think he'd be bad? Or would he be the best 2 in the tournament?
Higher draft picks are valuable. They are not gold, but neither are they fools gold. A higher draft pick will give you, on average, a better player. A lower position in the regular season gives you, on average, a higher position in the draft. The value of losing games may be radically over-rated, but it does have value.
(Whoops, didn't quite finish what I was writing, to continue...) OK but it might seem uncharitable to think the author disagrees with this, and I don't think they do. However, it seems to me the author goes a bit too far when they say things like "And there are teams that actively tank by telling a perfectly healthy starter to sit out with "back spasms" or a "stomach strain". But these strategies are simply stupid." This strategy isn't simply stupid, because it does give, on average, a higher draft pick. Consider the Deng trade; *part* of its value is in the fact that Chicago are likely to get a higher pick. To say that *is* its value is wrong, but so is to ignore it.
MrE,

I guess we disagree. We've addressed this a billion times. The 4th pick might be worth more than the 5th, and the 3rd the 4th, etc on up the chain.

But winning more games is worth more than losing games. This is just the plain economics of gate receipts, TV contracts, merchandise etc. The lost revenue from losing is NOT made up by future gained revenue from a top pick. You have to give something up to get something, and the marginal difference is not net positive.

Losing games today DOES NOT make you more likely to win next year (after drafting that high pick), or 3 years later. We've explored this with 30+ years of data that we've dragged out in many articles. The correlation just is not there, no matter how badly fans of shitty teams want the draft to be their savior.

Now, in the old days, when the worst team got a guaranteed #1 pick, that might have been different. But that is, of course, why the lottery was introduced anyway.
But what is the reason that "Losing games today DOES NOT make you more likely to win next year..."?

If the 76ers sat Michael Carter-Williams for five games at the end of this season, do you really think that they would be less likely to win next year?
Good discussion!

It appears to me that the most important individual in any American pro sports organization is, by far, the owner. If you have a great owner, then you inevitably have great management. And, if you have great management, you inevitably have a great team.

A great owner knows that he needs to hire really smart people, put those people in a position to succeed, and let these really smart people do their jobs.

The smart people that this great owner hires will identify talent, draft well, find undervalued players, refuse to overpay for talent, make shrewd trades, will know when to hold them, know when to fold them, etc.

The best owner in the NBA is, by far, Peter Holt of the Spurs. Yet I'd wager the average NBA fan cannot rattle off the name of the man who owns the Spurs, which is indicative of the low quality of NBA journalism and the sheer ignorance of NBA fandom.

My point here is that if you have bad ownership/management, it really doesn't matter where you draft. You will figure out a way to screw the whole thing up. The most obvious example here is Lebron and the Cavs. The Cavs were able to draft arguably the best basketball player of all time and they completely screwed the whole thing up. They drafted poorly and their track record in free agency was shockingly terrible. One offseason, they had an enormous amount of cap space. They used every bit of it to sign the following three players: Larry Hughes, Donyell Marshall, and Damon Jones. Wow!

Meanwhile, the teams with strong ownership/management always seem to figure out how to get star players, and win big. The Lakers, under the great Jerry Buss, would somehow accumulate star after star after star. It was ultimately because of Jerry Buss, the smartest man in the room. The Lakers post-Jerry Buss have quickly become completely irrelevant.

So again, whether you have high picks or low picks, success depends on strong ownership, period. You can tank all day long but if you have lousy ownership/management, you will fail. The Cavs will fail. The Nets will fail. The Knicks will fail. The Bobcats will fail. I can keep on going here.

Pretty sure Jerry Buss never tanked, by the way...
The other side of losing, which I don't often see discussed, is that it can make it harder to attract free agents from other teams or to keep your own players.

The LeBron Cleveland example is a good one: do you think he would have left if Cleveland was well-managed?

Teams that are absolutely miserable tend not to be teams that players are willing to go to, or to stick around on. Losing for the sake of losing, although it creates incrementally better odds in the draft, has a series of knock-on effects. Take it to the logical extreme: a team, without championship aspirations, hires five guys at the minimum salary level who are terrible, terrible players and proceeds to lose every single game by at least 50 points. They will have great odds for the first pick.

Will anyone sign with them?

Deliberate losing (other than perhaps corner cases at the end of a season, where if you are up one game or down one game on someone in the standings with 5 or less games to go and out of the playoffs) is not a good thing. It's harmful to the reputation of the organization, the development of players and coaches, and to the ability of a team to attract talent. I suspect it's hard to fully quantify this, but the "bad teams stay bad" evidence seems to support it.

I agree that ultimately it's a reflection on quality of management (or lack thereof). Every team is bad sometimes. Only some teams are bad all the time.

I didn't advocate losing to win. I said that losing does have a good effect. It has bad ones as well, but the good effect should be part of the calculation. It seems too strong to say that it must always be a net-negative: wouldn't then the best option always be maximizing wins (in a particular year)? Maybe that is the best option, if so, that would be really interesting.

"Losing games today DOES NOT make you more likely to win next year (after drafting that high pick), or 3 years later. .. The correlation just is not there, no matter how badly fans of shitty teams want the draft to be their savior."

I agree. But the lack of a correlation dos not show that there are cases where losing is the best choice.
Here is a question. Is the claim as strong as this: resting a healthy player is always a bad choice (because losing always outweighs any positive effects gained).
Great article but I'm going to have to disagree with you Patrick, Tanking doesn't GUARANTEE the savior you want in a given draft or turn your franchise around but it can definitely shift the odds to your favors for some organizations ALOT more than others, so it's not always a bad idea/move. A top 5 pick can't just be about the most efficient and productive player for A LOT of teams, of course that is really important but the average NBA fans are looking for the superficial values which are buzz, hype and style of play. It shouldn't be a popularity contest but among the average NBA fans it certainly is. So in that regard I completely agree there is going to be a bust in the top 5 no matter how deep or can't miss a draft class, because most of those teams can't just draft an efficient/productive player they need the buzz/hype/excitement and style of play that has mass appeal to the general audience, hence the usual teams will always reach for that "YAY Points" player.

I also humbly disagree with the Bulls, I feel they are tanking but not in a pathetic and immoral way (IMO whenever you cut/trade a great and productive player for picks you are tanking) On the other hand I (most people) definitely have a problem with "loosing/giving up/surrendering" your way to a top draft pick, which is sitting out young players and not developing them, doing crazy rotations just not caring about winning at all, it doesn't matter if you are loosing if the effort is there, I think anyone can tell or pick that up from watching a team play.

Tanking can definitely work with the right management.The Spurs tanked and got Tim Duncan, the best player in the 2000's and the spurs if I recalled did it deliberately, they sat David Robinson for the whole year. Teams like Minn, Tor, Millw, Charlottte, Sacremento, Orl - you can't tell me that they can compete by building through free agency, no way! only way is by drafting that top 10 franchise player then the FA market opens up but only then, they have no other choice. (Houston doesn't count IMO because it's a large market bordering a huge one and they got lucky with a rushed OKC management team)


To MrE, I don't think resting a healthy player is always bad, hence the Spurs resting at the end of last year (or the year before) and everyone else stepped up especially Patty Mills, players received a lot of development burn.
Sorry guys, Last short comment. Tanking to me should not be about loosing your way to great draft picks or to build through the draft. It should be about making moves for the future to build through the draft, not caring about winning or losing in the short term but not compromising on effort.
Two Words: Cleveland Cavaliers.

They got the GREATEST nobrainer saviour of all-time (LeBron) and have zero titles to show for it.

Then when he walked for lifestyle reasons, they got Kyrie for taking on Baron Davis's contract and then got ANOTHER 1st pick and wasted it (so it seems) on Bennett. And they've also taken Waiters and Tristan Thompson 4th.

Recapping: the Cavs roster has 2 overall 1st picks, and two 4ths, and they are currently 12-23 . The Cavs have not one, not two but FOUR saviour picks, and have the 6th worst record in the NBA.
Hey motherwell, I think the Cavs are a perfect example that shows tanking can work as well as fail miserably. They had to tank to position themselves to take Lebron (which I feel is rigged), they got their savior, turned the franchise around, went to the championship, were contenders, but even with the best player in the NBA still could not land an elite free agent, just goes to show you that certain teams cannot compete through free agency even with an elite player on hand.
The point is I don't think tanking is stupid or ridiculous at all when that is the only option some teams have, it's when they compromise on effort and development and just lose their way to high picks that is ridiculous. The Cavs not only don't draft well but they can't develop or utilize talent whatsoever, you can get away with not drafting high if you know how to develop(SAS) or utilize(LAL) players efficiently. The idea of tanking is a good idea bordering great one for certain teams but only if they can execute, like any ideas in general, the Cavs just cannot execute.
Oh and I disagree with you on the Cavs getting 4 savior picks, I feel there's no such thing as savior picks(even #1's) there are only Savior prospects. I'm not sold on any of the Cavs core, but I think it's too early to write them off completely even if I want to.
Re lottery picks and tanking: looking at the data it strikes me that there are two ways to build a successful franchise. One is to front load your squad with a few high-producing players. The other is to avoid negative producers. Right now there are two contenders carrying one negative producer and one contender carrying NONE. Kudos to some GM's.
Sooo, Randle is the bust then. Low offensive efficiency and bad defense in college is not nearly dominant enough to translate to a successful pro.
@yung_henry

Spurs DID NOT tank for Duncan, they tried to play Robinson. He got injured. He came back and they tried to go for wins again (this was basically the same team that it was the year before). He got injured again and the thought was he might have come back too soon. The players around him ALL regressed basically, which is not something you would expect. That year was a shitstorm of injury and regression, NOT AN EXAMPLE OF TANKING. Holding out your star player with a serious injury is not even close to tanking, especially when it was a serious injury that might have been brought on by coming back too soon earlier in the same year. Look at the minute allocations, they played people who had been a vital part of a successful team the year before.

Want to know what else? San Antonio has no problem getting the free agents they want because they win. Small market teams that cannot attract free agents are in that position because they are terrible, not because they are small markets. Older players were falling over themselves to sign with the Cavs when Lebron was there, unfortunately management signed all the wrong ones.
The only issue I have with the "problem" of tanking is not that it doesn't actually work or that it is "bad for the game", the problem I have is that crappy owners and crappy GMs keep getting mentioned year after year. Why on earth is there no required mercy rule? You cannot get to the playoffs 2x in 10 years and you have to sell your franchise. You cannot create a team capable of winning 50% of its games over a 4 year period? You cannot work in the front office of the NBA again for 4 years. Punish the decision makers and we don't have to have this stupid argument year after year. Want to know why monarchies/dictatorships don't work? Because some decision makers are just dumb regardless of any advantages given to them. Want to know why monarchies/dictatorships can work? Because intelligent people given near-complete control can do incredible things. Talking about "fixing the draft" is always a completely idiotic task, there is nothing wrong with the draft, just with some of the drafters.
@Dodgson
Thanks for clearing things up about the Spurs. It was the stereotypical example I had from the top of my head, thing is there were many different accounts about the severity of Robinson's injury, I've read that the team sat him out on purpose, some say that it was really that serious but regardless, seeing how their second best player(Elliot) went down for half that year, I'll give the Spurs reasonable doubt that they weren't deliberately loosing on purpose to the top pick. The 07-08 Heat are another example of tanking, they didn't get lucky in the draft that year(Beasly) but they position themselves to get Lebron and Bosh by cutting a lot of contracts.

I'm not advocating for tanking but some teams they could only build through the draft, it's their only option in my opinion, I still believe that. Yes the spurs have no problem whatsoever signing FAs, but they only sign role players, veterans all for low contracts but SA never signed another MAX level type elite player, of course they didn't have to but a top 10-15 player will never sign with small market teams that I talked about no matter how much improvement they made like Mil, Min, Orl, Char. No one signs with these teams unless there is that one or (now) two elite players.

Great ideas about punishing the decision makers who make all these ridiculous decisions but not every team and GM can afford the be as pragmatic as the SAS or OKCT and HOU. Some of these GM's are in the spotlight to make these Huge flashy moves while others just flat out don't have the resources (assets, market, money).
@yung_henry

They actually did an alright review of that season on this site (http://www.boxscoregeeks.com/articles/the-myth-of-the-tanking-spurs). I've always been annoyed that NBA people view that season as a tank job though because I watched it. They tried hard, they just didn't succeed very well. I was all the more amazed at Duncan after watching that season and I've always thought "NBA thinkers" who believe that he always had a great supporting cast were out of there mind.

I do actually agree with you that a team needs to get talent through the draft, I just don't think GMs that construct bad teams are necessarily equipped to take advantage of that talent. If your team has a top 5 pick fire the GM and let the new one actually try to do something because the old one was probably bad barring something like the Spurs collapse that year largely due to injury and age.
@Dodgson
Thanks man for that link, it was really convincing and it made me feel like an idiot, haha... I am definitely guilty of looking at that year only on the surface, it's just hard to believe that they didn't somewhat compromise on their effort even a little, when the very next year they had a franchise record year. But I do give the Spurs the benefit of the doubt that they weren't loosing on purpose they lucked out at the PERFECT time. However losing is the biggest factor in tanking, intentional or not so I can see why many people still believe the Spurs tanked to get Duncan not that I do anymore.

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