To Tank or Not To Tank: A View From All Angles

A lot of talk has been made of “tanking” in recent NBA news. That talk, mostly coming from Chicago ever since our beloved D-Rose went down with a meniscus tear Friday night *Pauses to Shed a Tear*.

With such a stacked draft class coming into the NBA next year, there is a lot of demand for certain players and teams are willing to do just about anything to get them. The easiest way being through a losing season…

What Coach Mack Thinks

One anonymous general manager in the league said that his team wants to lose, or maybe just that they won’t sleep so badly after a loss as they usually would knowing there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. Others have discussed the possibility of landing one of these future stars by obtaining the league’s worst at the end of the year. But this raises the question: How can you tell world-class competitors to go out and try not to win? tank1

How can you tell a coach, whose future leans greatly on what he produces, to go out every night and lose? In such a low-character business that is the NBA, there are no guarantees for players or for coaches. Two years ago, you would have thought Derrick Rose was going to be the best PG possibly to ever step on the court. Now, you’re questioning whether or not he could be the next Grant Hill or Brandon Roy. Last year, the Clippers were winning more games than they had in the last 10 years, but didn’t win a championship and guess whose jobless right now? Their coach, Vinny Del negro.

My point being, there is no job security in the NBA besides for those at the top; the ones who are making these decisions about whether to “tank” this season or not. Coach Mack would have serious problems going to sleep at night because of the fear of job loss rather than the sadness of losing. It’s an ethical dilemma (Shoutout to my business ethics teacher) that every coach is faced with: Listen to my boss and lose or listen to my competitive spirit and say f**k that. What can you do?

What Player Mack Thinks

Nobody likes to lose, but we’re talking about the most competitive people in the world being told to possibly not give 100% night in and night out. Not only are they being told this, but what is the reward for not winning? Oh yeah, the reward is that the front office will then be able to finally replace you because you’re clearly not good enough to take them to the promise land. That makes sense, give off the stigma that you want your players to underperform so that they can replace you. tank2

Player Mack would give my front office the 1-finger salute. Yes, I hate losing and yes there is the possibility that my team could significantly improve with Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins, but this is my job and results define job security at the end of my day. So no, GM Mack, I’m not going to lose for your sake and not mine. Sign me to a multi-year deal with a guarantee that I’m a part of your future, and then maybe I’ll listen to you, boss.

What General Manager and Owner Mack Thinks

To be a respected general manager in the NBA, you build up a resume that consists of impressive draft results, good free agent signings, and championships. For example, Sam Presit, General Manager for the Oklahoma City Thunder was considered one of the top GM’s in the league by many because of his ability to build through the draft. They picked up Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden in consecutive years. That is respect. Pat Riley was able to build a contender (Thanks to LeBron’s arrogance and what not… Another argument) through the offseason by bringing in the “Big 3”. Respectable, he now has two more rings than he used to no matter the course of action. Atlanta Hawks v Chicago Bulls - Game Five

Point being that good general managers have to make decisions that bring winning teams to their cities. As a general manager, I have to look at my team and decide whether or not this team is ready to compete for a title. If the answer is no, I have to look at ways to make that happen. One is through the draft (Sam Presti), and another is the ability to move pieces around like a puzzle and build around what you have. You can either stay content with average (Atlanta Hawks) or you can go out and do something about it.

Tanking is definitely an option for GM Mack. But, tanking needs to be done in an appropriate fashion. Let’s role play: I’m Gar Forman, GM of the Bulls. My superstar is about to miss his second straight season. I have an expiring contract of an All-Star in Lu Deng. I have an amnesty that I can use. I have young assets in Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson. Now what?

Well, it is on the minds of every Bulls fan (including me): tank for a superstar in the draft. But how do you tell a team that has two, healthy all-stars and a coach who refuses to lose, to lose for a “chance” at a top player in the draft.

The answer is you don’t. You do it yourself. You give your team no chance to win right now, while utilizing your assets to acquire more assets for next season. You trade, but you do not trade for the wrong price. I’m not trading away Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson for a last ditch effort to win this year. I’m selling my assets high because I can. If GM Mack is able to look at his team and see what’s of value and what is not, he will be able to move those puzzle pieces around to build an image.

What Fan Mack Thinks

From a fans perspective, I want to see my team go out and win every night, but if I know that they ultimately have no chance at raising the Larry O’Brien than I see the benefit of losing. You give up a year of disappointment for the possibility of elation in the years to come. All you can ask for as a fan is to be provided with excitement and hope.

If you’re team is hopeless every year (see “Opposite of Cleveland Cavalier fans”), than fan Mack will never be happy and ultimately stop paying attention. But, are you willing to give up a year of loneliness for the possibility of group love? I want my team to have a chance every year. I enjoy talking about all of the ways that my team “could” win a championship and how we’re so close and all we need to do is this. It is fun to be relevant and it sucks to be irrelevant. If tanking makes my team relevant in years to come, than I’m all in. But, if I don’t have a realistic shot at the top 4, than I’m not. tank3

This brings me to my last point: I don’t believe anybody outside of the top 4-5 are gamechangers. By that I mean that outside of Jabari, Wiggins, Randle and Smart I don’t see any of these players giving my franchise a 180. So all of this talk about tanking has to be taken into real consideration. Bulls fans, there is 0 chance we get one of those men. Jazz fans? Now you’re talking.

When talking about all of this “Tanking”, you have to understand all of the different angles that go into a losing season and who is paying attention. Tanking takes skill and smarts, and that top player is never guaranteed.


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