A New Revolution, Tanking in the NBA: Sixers Edition

The NBA is a “superstar” driven league.  In recent years, every team that has won a championship had one, two, or even three elite players. I hate to say it, but the NBA has become a league highlighting individuals, rather than teams. The most synchronized, unselfish team can only get so far when they eventually face Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, and Lebron James wearing the same colors. The select few approaches in acquiring talent to be able to beat a team like the Miami Heat in a seven game series, is either through free agency or of course through the first few picks in the draft.

A few teams tend to dominate the free agency market. These teams share a few key aspects in common; warm weather, beaches, big and bustling cities, and an abundance in wealth. They are the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angelos Clippers, New York Knicks, and Miami Heat. These teams are popular targets where top players like to join forces together and take the league by storm.

Thunder rebuilt through the draft, grabbing Durant (left) and Westbrook (right).

For the rest of the teams in the NBA, attracting free agents is extremely difficult and they end up paying too much for the leftovers. The free agents passed on by the few destination teams are usually extremely overpaid and on the decline in their careers. These players are the perfect ingredient in placing a team in the dreaded state of mediocrity. The Washington Wizards are the perfect example of a team signing an overrated free agent for way too much. This team desperately wanted a top player on their team so in 2008 they signed Gilbert Arenas to a 6 year, $111 million deal. Arenas was past his prime so he ended up being a solid role player on the team. But he was making 18.5 million dollars a year to underperform so this left the Wizards in no mans land. The team had no stuck salary cap space because of the lucrative deal. Also because they retained Arenas and a couple of other decent players so they were still able to compete leaving them in the cycle of mediocrity. The Wizards have not made the playoffs since that awful signing.

Based on everything that can go wrong with signing leftover free agents that the couple premier teams have not purchased for themselves, the majority of the league is forced into obtaining premier talent through the draft. The teams that have had super-star talent, and have enjoyed success without signing the big free agents are the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. These respective teams have drafted their way to success. The Spurs have won 3 titles in the last decade without signing any big names and securing Parker, Duncan, Ginobili, and Splitter all through the draft.

The other prime example of a direct product of tanking is the Oklahoma City Thunder. This team was the laughing stock of the NBA for four years as they had a W-L percentage of .332 for the span of those years.  However, in that span of four miserable years they drafted a trio of superstars using the second, third, and fourth picks in the first round in separate years: Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden. Their average winning percentage in the next four years improved from .332 to .681.

Nerlens Noel, MCW, and several first-round picks in next year’s draft will provide the 76ers with more than enough All-Star caliber talent.

Critics like Coach K say they cannot fathom NBA teams tanking for better draft position. But critics do not realize how hard it is to acquire talent to compete for a championship without being those destination teams.

In the Sixers case, the team has finally grasped the tanking strategy. Their new management team understands analytics and how the NBA works, so Sam Hinkie, the new general manager and Co. are finally looking past the present to run away from their past. The Sixers have been stuck in the cycle of mediocrity since the 2000-2001 Sixers when they made it to the finals with Allen Iverson. Since then, throughout the past 11 years the Sixers have not played in a game past the Eastern Conference Semifinals and have finished below 30 wins only once. This is the recipe for disaster that I have been talking about. Because the team wasn’t bad enough to reach a top pick in the draft and since Philadelphia is not a city where superstar players want to play. The Sixers were stuck overpaying for pretty good players like Elton Brand and Andrew Bynum and drafting decent players in the mid-first round like Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, and Jrue Holiday. These players are not scrubs so the team never performed terribly but they are not even close to the level of LeBron James or Kobe Bryant. The team was never able to reach the next level, and lost many valuable fans as a result.

Sam Hinkie has seen the light and decided to go the tanking route in a loaded upcoming draft. What he did is think about the future: he let go of Andrew Bynum, traded Jrue Holiday for a 2014 first-round pick and highly touted prospect Nerlens Noel who many scouts thought was destined to go first in last year’s draft. They then grabbed Michael Carter-Williams, one of the top point guard prospects, with their 11th pick. tI believe Hinkie will trade Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, and Thaddeus Young for future first round picks, which will make us worse now and help the team tank away to climb up to the top of the draft. This is where the elite talent like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Julius Randle are available.

Tanking is the yellow brick road to success, as many teams realize that before they reach the top, they need to be much worse.


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Categories: 76ers, Editorial

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One Comment on “A New Revolution, Tanking in the NBA: Sixers Edition”

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