This week NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that he does not think any team in the NBA is tanking, but the Philadelphia 76ers are trying desperately to prove him wrong. Yesterday the 76ers lost by 26 to the Memphis Grizzlies to extend their current losing streak to 20 games. Getting dangerously close to the record for most consecutive losses the 76ers are doing a better job of tanking than the rest of the NBA.
It has long been a debate among NBA fans, writers and teams whether or not teams actually tank their season in order to have a high draft pick the next season. The draft lottery was designed to keep this exact practice from happening by not guaranteeing the worst team the number one pick the next year. Former NBA Commissioner David Stern always denied that this went on, but in some cases it has been pretty obvious.
While no coach or player would ever say or do anything to deliberately lose a game, there are ways teams can put themselves in position to lose. This year’s 76ers are a perfect example of this; their effort to not be successful in 2014 started on the night of the 2013 NBA draft. On draft night Philadelphia shocked everyone when they traded their young All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Nerlens Noel, a player who tore his ACL while in college and had said he would not be playing until at least the second half of the NBA season.
Things were looking up for the 76ers at the beginning of the season as they won their first three games. Rookie Michael Cater-Williams was playing great as he had a triple double in his NBA debut against the Heat. Since then nothing has gone right for Philadelphia as they continue to lose and currently have a record of 15-51, but are surprisingly not in last place in the East as that honor goes to the 13-54 Milwaukee Bucks. Since their somewhat promising start the 76ers have gone to work on dismantling their already depleted roster. Their two best players at the beginning of the year, Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, have been traded for basically nothing. Hawes was traded for Earl Clark and some draft picks, while Turner was traded for former All-Star Danny Granger who was later released. Their current losing streak started around the time of both trades and it shows no signs of slowing as the 76ers close in on the record for longest losing streak, which was set by the 2011 Cleveland Cavaliers at 26 games.
Milwaukee may have the worst record currently in the NBA the 76ers are tanking better than anyone in the NBA. The Bucks have very little talent and have shown that all season and that is the difference between them and the 76ers who have talent but have either traded it away or chosen to not use it. While tanking is bad for the overall product of the NBA it may work out for the best for the 76ers as they will have a lottery pick in the 2014 draft and be able to pair a young rookie with Michael Carter-Williams and a hopefully healthy Nerlens Noel and build their franchise from there.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius