The NBA’s Race To The Bottom: Tank You Very Much

Better To Be At The Bottom? How do you get better in the NBA? You get worse. How do you win? By losing. It’s a race to the bottom...

Better To Be At The Bottom?

How do you get better in the NBA? You get worse.

How do you win? By losing. It’s a race to the bottom to eventually get to the top.

The worst teams in the NBA get the higher picks. The higher draft picks theoretically yield the best players. So teams without a ton of hope often tank. They dump players, they lose and they hope that the charade of their play is enough to keep fans interested while the team slowly rots. It can take a few years to become sufficiently terrible.

Sadly, the system works. Your Philadelphia 76ers prove it. In the 2013-14 season, they won 19 games and lost 63. They were a game worse the following season and an execrable 10-72 in 2015. Now, the players they were able to draft – Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons among them – have the Sixers in the likely position of earning a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

The NBA takes this tanking seriously … almost. It fined Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban $600,000 for saying a bit too much about his team taking the big dive. The Mavs are 18-40 and certainly in great position to profit from the NBA’s draft lottery, with a shot at the first overall pick.

The Chicago Bulls, 20-37, want to sink a bit to improve their chances of being good, so they’ve said they’ll play a couple of key veterans less down the stretch. The Atlanta Hawks, 18-41 and tied with the Phoenix Suns for the worst record in the league, won’t make “drastic changes,” in coach Mike Budenholzer’s words, over the final 23 games.

Imagine. Competing to be the worst. While customers pay full price.

The NBA’s regular season, on hold since Sunday’s All-Star Game, resumes on Thursday night. Be sure to tune in Monday night when the Bulls play the Brooklyn Nets (19-40) for the right to pile up defeats and thereby better their chances in the draft lottery.

May the worst team lose. So it can, uh, win.

 
 
Post By: Larry Weisman, a longtime sportswriter for USA TODAY, blogs for Twistity.com. Follow him on Twitter @MrLarryWeisman

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