Tanking has become a hot issue in the NBA in these last weeks of the season. It happens every year, but has picked up recently with the Golden State Warriors’ front office moves. Outside of at least half of the Warrior fan base, the team’s tanking ways are mostly looked down upon. Yes, ideally tanking is terrible for sports, but let’s look at the Warriors’ situation from a fan’s point of view: mine.
Here is why tanking in general is a horrible idea:
Teams are putting lower quality basketball on the court. As a viewer and a fan paying for seats at a game or paying for NBA league pass broadband for certain teams, what would you want to watch? Great offense and/or defense as well as some wins. When teams tank, the front office essentially tweaks the team’s roster in order to gain losses instead of wins, leading to better chances of gaining a higher draft pick. These tweaks usually mean sitting better players and starting worse ones, meaning worse basketball being played. Who wants to pay for that?
With the way that the draft is set up, teams are essentially rewarded for losing, getting better chances at a higher draft pick. This eventually leads to pointless games in the waning weeks of the season where teams have any real motivation to fight (win). More bad basketball.
Here is why the Golden State Warriors should tank:
I’ve written before about the Warriors’ Top-7 protected draft pick that currently belongs to Utah, so I won’t get into much detail about that situation. What I will say is that as their record currently stands, the Warriors have the 8th worst record in the NBA, trailing both the New Jersey Nets and the Toronto Raptors by 2 losses. If the Warriors lose all of their remaining 6 games and both the Nets and Raptors win at least one more each, they would have the 6th worst record, giving them a 95.9% chance of keeping their draft pick, as opposed to 75% if the 7th worst, and 10% if the 8th worst.
The Warriors also have good pieces to eventually becoming a Playoff team, and a role playing rookie wouldn’t hurt either. Right now the Warriors have decent core: Stephen Curry, a point guard who can pass as well shoot. David Lee, a big man that can rebound, score, as well as pass. Andrew Bogut, a top 5 defensive center that can also pass. Klay Thompson, great rookie who has flourished since Monta’s departure and has shown that he can do more than just shoot the ball. Yes, a high draft pick doesn’t necessarily mean the Warriors will get a rookie that will make an immediate impact, but they could essentially get a very good role player at a decent price (a 7th pick would have a salary around 3 million his first year). I’ll get into who I would like to see the Warriors draft once the NBA lottery is settled.
Here’s how the Warriors essentially aren’t tanking, in spite of the signs:
Trading Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut looks like tank move, but essentially it’s an improvement for the Warriors in the long run. The undersized, defenseless Curry and Monta backcourt wasn’t helping the team, so the front office kept the player with higher upside. Meanwhile, Andrew Bogut, when healthy, is a Top 5 center in the league, leading the NBA in blocks last season with 2.6 per game, and can help hide David Lee’s defensive deficiencies. The Warriors haven’t had a great center since… who, Robert Parish? Yes, there is a risk in investing in a player who is injured, but in this league it is difficult to trade small for big. The Warriors were able to do that.
Shutting down both Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut for the rest of the year is more about health issues than tanking issues. Curry’s ankle has been a problem all season and it will be more beneficial in the long run to get it 100% healthy than to rush him back on the court. Bogut’s ankle has the same issue, except that his injury isn’t chronic, which actually bodes better in the long run. Shutting down both David Lee and Richard Jefferson for the rest of the season, though, are definitely tanking moves, having only 6 games left of the season where wins are useless.
Starting rookies Klay Thompson, Charles Jenkins, Jeremy Tyler, and Mickell Gladness definitely won’t give the team wins, but it will definitely help their individual development. Developing young players during practice is a lot different from developing young players in actual games. Development comes faster when actually given minutes against top NBA players in their positions. I would much rather watch the young players grow on the court in losses than rot on the bench in meaningless wins. Klay already looks like a great starting caliber shooting guard and Jenkins has shown that he can be a decent back-up point guard, while both Tyler and Gladness have shown potential to be good rotation big men (though I personally don’t believe in them just yet).
And there it is, my thoughts on the Warriors’ impending tank. In principle, I do dislike tanking because I would rather see great basketball on my favorite team’s court, but what else is there to do for the rest of this season? As a fan, I want the Warriors to win a championship, and to eventually get there, they may have to bottom out in a season or two. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Here’s the thing though, why is national sports media making a big deal of the Warriors’ tanking effort (when they’re actually doing it correctly) and not any of the other teams with worse records, especially the Charlotte Bobcats? Granted, the Bobcats are just a terrible team and just can’t win either way, but why is no one criticizing them for not doing anything in the past year and a half to help improve their team?