The Paw Print

The Race to the Bottom of the Standings

Kyle Coffee

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As the NBA season comes to an end, many teams are fighting to reach the playoffs by grinding each and every day to extend their season. On the other hand, teams that are already out of contention are doing the opposite. Franchises at the bottom of the standings like the Phoenix Suns, Memphis Grizzlies, Atlanta Hawks, and many others are finding ways to lose every game on purpose in an effort to land a top pick in the upcoming draft. This idea of intended losing, or tanking, has swept the league over the years and the amount of teams involved this year is unprecedented.

Tanking has become a controversial topic due to the negative effects it has on the league. Teams that choose to quit on the season causes fans to lose interest in not only their team, but to the entire NBA because of the lack of competition. This leads to a decrease in revenue and ratings which makes league executives upset. While it may seem like poor decision making to tank, you have to view it from the team’s perspective. Those in the NBA that choose to tank tend to be located in small market cities like Sacramento or Memphis and are unable to attract star players to sign with them. Now they have to rely on the development of young players rather than proven veterans in order to succeed. In order to get as much young talent as possible, these teams have to get in position to draft the best possible player which is achievable by sacrificing a full season by losing as much as possible. That’s why so many of these teams tank, they value long term success over short term failure.

Marissa Caldwell (11) believes in the positives of tanking saying, “Tanking is good for the league because many of these teams who need to draft good players rather than sign them in free agency, have the chance to do so. It gives teams who aren’t as big the opportunity to succeed.”

Nick Jefferson (10) believes that tanking doesn’t do any good saying, “These teams suck and they are telling their fans that they don’t care about them. Fans don’t want to watch a team that doesn’t want to win.”

A success story to come from tanking is the infamous “process” done by the Philadelphia 76ers. Their four year stretch of tanking from 2013-2017 showed how much losing can kill a  team’s reputation while also setting up a foundation for a prosperous future. The 76ers embarrassed themselves year after year with terrible records, especially the 2015-2016 season where they went 10-72, in order to draft the best players out of college. While they created an awful culture built around losing that is easy to ridicule, they were also acquiring different players that will shape their franchise for years to come. From All Star Center, Joel Embiid, to Rookie of the Year candidate, Ben Simmons, these players are in Philadelphia because of tanking. Without them, the 76ers would still be a joke, but with them, they are serious contenders that other teams are scared to face. Tanking has saved this franchise and has the chance to save other franchises in similar situations.

Shaun Dunn (11) loved what Philadelphia did saying, “What the 76ers did is the model of tanking. They sucked for years, but now they have great players and are winning for years to come. All other teams should be doing the same.”

If you look at the league currently, there are more teams tanking than ever before. With franchise altering players in the draft like Deandre Ayton and Marvin Bagley, many GM’s are going to lose as many games possible to get their hands on this level of talent.

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