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Friday, March 16, 2012
An end to tanking

By Beckley Mason

Can we fix this?

One of the clearest lessons from the 2012 Trade Deadline is that tanking is no longer a strategy to be discussed in accusatory whispers, as it was when Cleveland trashed its season to improve its chances of netting LeBron James. In today’s NBA, tanking is a way of life. It’s an accepted theory now synonymous with “the Thunder model.”

Yesterday Portland, a team one goaltending call from twice beating the Thunder, unceremoniously tanked its now lost season by ditching useful veterans for cap space and a mid-lottery pick. The Blazers are about to become much worse, which is good for Portland fans. Henry Abbott explains:
Here's the crazy thing about this: As a Blazer fan, I think this loser of a strategy is a winner. I'm only sad they didn't go further. The team was not on a path to win a title. My conviction is that LaMarcus Aldridge should be traded, too. As a talented big-man All-Star in his prime he'll hurt the lottery positioning. But he might fetch some splendid cap space and picks. ...

Meanwhile, consider the Rockets. They have dealt with all kinds of injuries to Yao Ming and many others. But have made trade after trade, year after year, just trying to win a few more games, and to get a tiny bit better. They have always been competing and scrapping, and by the looks of things always will be. And do you know what's sad? In the NBA, teams almost never progress from pretty good, like the Rockets and Blazers have been, to excellent. It's the jump we allege every team can make, but it's one of the least likely in sports.

So remember this Camby trade, and watch the Rockets and Blazers from here forward. They're racing to be the first to make it back to the Finals. One of them is trying to win by competing hard every night, the other is trying something that nobody in their right mind would want to watch.

As much as I appreciate the strategy in Portland, as a fan of competition, I wish I could support a league that inspired 30 teams to approach things like Houston.

A commenter chimed in: “I endorse the current blazer direction......can we lose all the rest of our games?“

NBA teams and fans are willing to throw away entire seasons (full of games that people pay good money to attend) to end up at the top of the lottery with an empty capsheet, also known as “Position A” for building a longterm winner.

Don’t like it? Well don’t blame NBA front offices, their job is to win within the current system.

So blame the system.

And help us come up with a way to fix it.

The crux of the issue is this: how to can you ensure competitiveness during the season while still affording a modicum of fairness and upward mobility for bad teams? That is, if we punish bad teams with bad picks in a lottery system that is the reverse of what we have today, how do those teams ever get better?

A lot of smart people have already weighed in, and in the weeks to come we plan to present some of the smartest ideas. Now’s your chance to join in.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

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