NBA AM: Tanking Isn’t All Bad
Tanking Isn’t All Bad: A lot has been made recently about the decision some NBA teams make to lose games rather than win them, and last night’s elimination of the Houston Rockets is a great case study in the virtues of being average in the NBA.
Before we go tossing Houston General Manager Daryl Morey under the bus, keep in mind that Les Alexander, the Rockets’ owner, refuses to lose games. He refuses to allow his team to drop low enough in the standings to secure those coveted top draft picks, so his team is doomed to be one game away from the lottery virtually every year.
Not every team is a contender, and what the pundits that are bashing the idea of deliberate or planned losing are missing is that every team’s priorities are different.
The Cleveland Cavaliers are building for tomorrow. Trading away Ramon Sessions was about opening opportunities to try on young guys at the expense of a player that was walking away in July as a free agent. Just look at what Manny Harris and Alonzo Gee have brought to the Cavs. Neither would have gotten much of a shot had the Cavs been chasing the eighth seed every year. Today they might be part of a new Cavs unit that wins playoff games in a year or two.
Sometimes dipping low into the draft lottery is where the next great player comes from, and, as they say, ‘the cheapest talent a team ever gets is its first round draft choices’.
Is that fair for the fans? Not likely. But riddle me this… as a fan would you rather have one crappy season and see it result in two or three players that fast track your team into serious playoff contention, or watch a mediocre team year after year?
The issue of teams shifting to development mode and playing young guys is not a bad thing. What has become bad is when it’s the same teams over and over every year.
Including this year, the Charlotte Bobcats have drafted in the lottery eight times in their nine-year history – their first season was 2004; they did not draft in the lottery in 2010.
This draft will also mark the 6th straight lottery selection for the Sacramento Kings, the longest streak in the projected lottery field.
Tanking games is not bad if it’s done for a season or two to amass the right kinds of talent to improve. When it’s the same teams year after year, it’s a sign of bigger issues.
Not everyone is competing for a championship, so to condemn teams that are building for tomorrow is a little naive.
The biggest knock the NBA gets from outsiders is that too many teams get into the playoffs… so if the top 16 teams is too many, why is it bad that the bottom 6 or 7 are working on improving?
Does it stink for paying fans? Absolutely. Does it stink for the broadcast partners that pay money for the rights to games? Sure.
But if you are a real fan of your team, wouldn’t you rather have a shot at Anthony Davis today than being in the perennial 14th slot like the Houston Rockets, who are just bad enough to miss the postseason and get another late teens level draft pick?
Losing games isn’t always a bad thing, what tends to be the bad thing is when you lose just enough games to miss the playoffs but not enough games to get good draft picks… that’s what stinks, because Houston will miss the Playoffs and unless they trade up they will likely miss out on the eight to ten franchise-changing players that the 2012 NBA Draft could contribute. That’s been the Rockets’ biggest problem over the last handful of years.
How Did It Go So Wrong?: There was a master plan conceived more than two years ago. The plan was to get Dwight Howard into a major market; a situation where Howard could become a transcendent athlete that crossed over into the main stream. Where the fruits others in Howard’s peer group were enjoying could be his.
It hasn’t been nearly that poetic since.
To sum up in one word how all involved parties got here – trust.
Dwight stopped trusting the Orlando Magic when they opted to break up the 2009 NBA Finals team. The beginning of the end started there.
He stopped trusting Magic president Otis Smith when he traded away core guys that fit for selfish players that didn’t.
He stopped trusting Stan Van Gundy when he routinely threw him under the bus with the press and stopped going to him in the clutch of games. Good or bad, that’s when it went bad for Van Gundy and Howard and that happened in 2010.
Once Dwight hired power agent Dan Fegan, a longtime nemesis of Otis Smith, the Magic stopped trusting Dwight. They knew then what was going to transpire this season and they started making their own plans that Howard was not involved in.
The Magic got here because of trust. None of the parties involved trust each other, and all of the parties involved go out of their way to remind each other that there is no trust between them.
With the Magic having two more regular season games to go and what’s lining up to be an eventual sweep by the Indiana Pacers – the off-season in Orlando is going to be a tough one.
If anyone in an authority role is retained in Orlando this summer, expect for Dwight Howard’s camp to beg out of the Central Florida.
There is no trust there, and Howard’s camp isn’t going to sit idle and go through all of this again.
The Magic find themselves in the same boat.
They too have been thoroughly embarrassed by all of this, and ownership has a tough choice to make. Do you give in and trade Howard for whatever his surgically-repaired back will return in trade, or do you rip the entire team apart and start again?
The problem is, in order to repair the trust gap that exists, almost everyone has to be replaced. Will the DeVos family, who has been extremely loyal to their staffers, kill off the entire front office, coaching staff and senior management team in order to keep Howard? That’s what it’s going to take and that’s going to be the biggest question.
Howard’s trade value will be non-existent this summer. So the idea that the Magic can or would trade him around the Draft is a little unrealistic, unless it’s simply to get something for nothing and move on.
This situation got to where it was at because of trust. This situation is public because of trust, and ultimately this situation will be resolved by addressing that question?
Can the Magic rebuild the trust gap that exists with Dwight Howard? Do they even want to?
As the Magic season comes to a close that’s going to be the most pressing question and everyone future hangs in the balance.
To rebuild things with Dwight a small army of people will lose their jobs, and given how this played out maybe they should.
If the DeVos family wants to stay the course, they will never have Howard’s trust, which means biting the bullet and moving on might be the best for all involved.
It’s going to be an interesting offseason, that’s for sure.
Lou Williams’ Big Payday: This weekend John N. Mitchell and Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer reported something that was extremely obvious – 76ers guard Lou Williams plans to opt for free agency and not pick up his $5.35 million player option, making him an unrestricted free agent.
Williams has been one of the more consistent bright spots for the 76ers this season, averaging 15 points per game on 40% field goal shooting. Lou has become a decent three point shooter hitting on 36.2% of his threes this season.
Opting not to pick up his option does not mean Williams is leaving Philly, but it does put some pressure on the 76ers to pony up the dollars to re-sign him.
Philadelphia is sitting on $50.6 million in salary commitments next season, so they have room under the cap and the luxury tax line to re-sign Lou, the question is what’s Lou Williams’ value on the open market?
As HOOPSWORLD’s Jason Fleming mapped out recently, there are as many as five Eastern Conference teams looking at ample cap space, and as many as nine Western Conference teams staring at ample cap space, so for players like Lou Williams it will absolutely be a sellers’ market, meaning there could be several suitors for Williams’ services which will likely push up the cost for the Sixers.
One thing is pretty clear… Lou Williams is likely looking at a nice payday come July, the question is will the 76ers let him slip away?
Picking Up The Option: Before injuries hit the team, namely the season-ending ACL tear of Ricky Rubio, the Minnesota Timberwolves looked like they were on their way to a playoff berth. The biggest reason was likely the play of Rubio and All-Star Kevin Love, but also because of the coaching style of Rick Adelman.
One person who tends to get more grief than he’s earned is Wolves’ president David Kahn, however Kent Youngblood of the Star Tribune is reporting that the Wolves will be picking up Kahn’s option year on his contract, keeping him in charge for at least another year.
Kahn has one more option year after this option, so it’s conceivable that the Wolves could have Kahn for two more years, at their choice.
Minnesota is sitting on $71.789 million in salary commitments for next season which include Qualifying Offers on Michael Beasley ($8.17 million) and Anthony Randolph ($4.04 million). It also includes non-guaranteed deals on Martell Webster ($5.71 million) and Brad Miller ($5.10 million).
In a best case, the Wolves could opt to not issue offers and let both players walk and open up as much as $12.2 million. Toss in passing on Webster and Miller and the Wolves get themselves closer to $48.7 million in commitments, getting them in the neighborhood of $9.2 million under the projected salary cap.
With what could be $9 million to spend Kahn will have to be smart about using his assets, because he may not get much more time to return the Wolves to the post-season, but it does seem clear he’ll get at least one more year to try.
NBA Chats: There are three NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram at 11am. Bill’s chats do fill up fast so getting in early is always wise. HOOPSWORLD’s Stephen Brotherston returns to hold down his weekly chat at 3pm EST. While HOOPSWORLD editor Jason Fleming rounds out the day with his weekly NBA chat at 8pm EST. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats