The NBA’s tanking issue is still far too noticeable with more teams than ever proving the disparity in the talent across the league. The problem is not one that has a quick fix, as it is quite difficult to gauge whether a team is losing on purpose or if they are just not very good. With the enormous hype surrounding the 2014 NBA Draft class, teams have had their eyes on guys like Jabari Parker from Duke and Andrew Wiggins from Kansas for over a year and have done anything possible to wind up in a position to draft one of the potential superstars in this year’s draft.
The yearly Sloan Conference about sports analytics on Friday at MIT. At the conference, former Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo confessed that his team intentionally tried to avoid winning games under his tenure, according to ESPN.com. He justified his actions by saying that he never directly told his coach to throw games, but with the way the NBA is set up, playing and developing younger players is the only way to improve their abilities, but unfortunately that will inevitably result in a large amount of losses until they catch on.
An issue being discussed with how to fix the tanking problem is the NBA Draft lottery, which rewards teams for losing. It was created with the basis of avoiding tanking since the team with the worst record still has only a 25 percent chance of landing the top overall pick. However, in the NBA it is nearly impossible to build a consistent good team without a superstar, so when teams miss out on the top three picks year after year in the lottery it leaves them perpetually stuck in rebuilding mode since they cannot get that one player to turn the franchise around.
A big reason why tanking is also popular is because of the NCAA’s one-and-done rule. It has been years since the league has seen a truly deep and talented draft class because too many college freshmen declare for the draft before they take the time to hone their craft. This past year, freshmen Nerlens Noel, Anthony Bennett and Ben McLemore all were selected in the top ten of the draft. Noel has not seen the court due to his recovery from a torn ACL, and the other two are averaging a combined 11.6 points. All three are obviously raw talents that could have used more seasoning in college.
If NBA teams were drafting players who were ready to be stars from day one instead of needing a solid two years to develop, there would not be as many teams stuck in a never-ending cycle of losing.
The recently passed trade deadline further proved how relevant tanking is. The Philadelphia 76ers traded former No. 2 pick Evan Turner for a pair of second-round picks and Danny Granger, who they immediately cut. The team has lost 12 games in a row, yet still has plenty of company towards the bottom of the Eastern Conference.
The NBA tanking issue is still far too noticeable amongst a good chunk of teams across the league. New commissioner Adam Silver knows he is going to have to address this problem at some point to avoid rewarding teams in the draft lottery for losing. Hopefully the NBA and NCAA can put their heads together and come up with a solution to improve the product being put on the court.
By Justin Hussong