The Philadelphia 76ers have lost 15 games in a row, igniting a new discussion about tanking in the NBA.
At a conference last week, new NBA commissioner Adam Silver was unapologetic in his defence of the tanking as a long-term strategy.
Silver’s brilliant explanation (via USA Today):
“You look at any business, you look at short-term results and long-term results. And if you told a business, if somebody told you a business was going to operate on a quarter-by-quarter [basis], you’d say, ‘That’s not the way to operate a business.’ You’d say, ‘You need a strategy. 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.
“And so, if you look at what’s happened here over the last several years, it’s badly needed. Somebody needs a plan. Somebody needs a vision to win here. And I think that’s what’s happening.”
There is no question that the Sixers have set themselves up to fail in 2014. The evidence:
- They just traded two of their best players, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes, for almost nothing.
- They’re actually below the salary floor — the minimum amount of cash a team must spend on player salaries.
- Their top pick from the 2013 NBA Draft, Nerlens Noel, isn’t playing because of a knee injury sustained over a year ago.
- Ten of the 15 players on the roster have two or fewer years of NBA experience.
There is a difference between this sort of high-level strategic tanking and losing individual games on purpose.
It’s not like the Sixers coach is ordering players to miss shots. This isn’t a 2012 Olympic badminton situation.
The Sixers have a long-term plan. That plan is to amass high draft picks, build a team from the ground up, and compete for a championship a few years down the line.
What we call tanking is just long-term planning. It looks bad in the short term, but it’s a vastly more intelligent way to build a team than simply planning year-to-year.
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