After starting the season as a bad team, the Philadelphia 76ers have suddenly become the worst team in the NBA and many think they are losing games on purpose.
Making matters worse, the NBA does not see what the 76ers are doing as a problem.
At the recent Sloan Sports Conference, former NBA coach Stan Van Gundy called the 76ers “embarrassing” and accused the team of intentionally losing games (via NJ.com).
“If you’re putting that roster on the floor, you’re doing everything you can possibly do to try to lose,” said Van Gundy.
It is hard to disagree with Van Gundy when you take a closer look at the numbers.
Through 42 games, the 76ers were 14-28 and were being outscored by 8.4 points per game. That’s bad, but it has gotten much worse.
After their 11-point loss to Orlando on Sunday, the Sixers have now lost 17 of their last 18, including 14 in a row. During this losing streak, the 76ers are now being outscored by a whopping 18.9 points per game.
But maybe the strongest evidence that the 76ers are tanking can be found in Las Vegas. The Sixers are an NBA-worst 22-38 against the point spread, suggesting that they are consistently underperforming what the experts are expecting, which isn’t much to begin with.
On top of that, Philadelphia recently traded Evan Turner, one of its better players. Also, rookie Michael Carter Williams, who looked like a superstar in the making early in the season, has seen his playing time drop (see chart at right).
Many see tanking just to improve draft position as a huge problem. The NBA does not.
New NBA commissioner Adam Silver went so far as to praise the 76ers.
“You need a strategy, Adam Silver told USA Today. “You need to look at the long-term. And I think what this organisation is doing is absolutely the right thing. What they’re doing is planning for the future and building an organisation from the ground level up.”
There may be no easy solution to keep teams from intentionally putting inferior teams on the court to increase the chances of losing. But it doesn’t help when the NBA doesn’t even feel there is a problem.
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