Tanking season in the NBA is in full swing.
Parity in the NBA is something of a funny inside joke. The Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs still rule the Western Conference. In the Eastern Conference, the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics do the same, though the Washington Wizards have passed the Toronto Raptors—but few would argue any team gets past Cleveland regardless.
Tanking, though controversial, is a good way for a team to get into a position to actually break through the barrier. And with a stellar 2017 NBA draft class boasting the most talent the league has seen in years thanks to Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson and Lonzo Ball, among others, now is as good a time as any to start a serious tank job. Here is a look at eight teams probably already in the process of a massive tank.
The Dallas Mavericks aren’t doing themselves any favors by getting blown away in the first round at the hands of Golden State.
Dirk Nowitzki is 38 years old and it’s time the team gets serious about finding a new superstar to lead the team. With Deron Williams gone, the team is already on the tanking path, even if it continues to hang around in 10th out West.
With no real star power outside of Harrison Barnes, a quiet tank seems like the best option, even if Mark Cuban is used to fielding a consistent winner.
The Orlando Magic are the team always creating buzz around the deadline by helping out other franchises.
Case in point, dealing Serge Ibaka at the deadline, a further spinning of the wheels after initially getting Ibaka in a draft-day trade while shipping away Victor Oladipo.
There isn’t a clear plan in Orlando and Elfrid Payton isn’t meshing with the offense well, so a clear-cut tank now might help the Magic once again get in a spot to start over. Actually hitting on an important pick and sticking to a cemented plan is key, though.
The Minnesota Timberwolves seem to have a great plan in place.
It just hasn’t panned out on the hardwood.
A team with Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony-Towns should be putting up gaudy win totals. Instead, Minnesota sits 11th out West.
A tank needs to be in the plans by now. A high draft pick, dumping Rubio and starting Dunn next year could be the jolt a talented roster lacking direction needs.
Say hello to another team without much in the way of direction.
The Chicago Bulls looked like a team ready to rebuild, then signed Rajon Rondo and Dwyane Wade. Fine, except the team hardly hangs around in the playoff conversation this year. At the trade deadline, the team moved Doug McDermott, a player the front office had spent a bevy of resources on bringing aboard just a few years ago.
Rather than getting hammered in the playoffs, the Bulls might be eyeing a quiet tank before moving on from Rondo and rebuilding.
The Phoenix Suns don’t need much help in the tanking department, with even the New Orleans Pelicans passing them in the standings after getting DeMarcus Cousins.
Maybe this has been the plan all along. The Suns still have a guard-heavy lineup with Eric Bledsoe, Tyler Ulis, Brandon Knight and Devin Booker.
Tanking now for a higher draft pick and getting ready to move some guards over the offseason could have Phoenix back in the playoff conversation. Provided, of course, this is all part of the plan.
New York Knicks
Carmelo Anthony isn’t going anywhere and wants to compete for titles, so the New York Knicks have some serious work to do while building around Kristaps Porzingis.
The Derrick Rose experiment hasn’t worked and the team sits 12th in the East, so going into a full-on nosedive to finish off the year makes sense. It won’t help the locale’s attractiveness to free agents, but the Knicks might be able to tank as far as 14th, even below Philadelphia and Orlando.
At this point, why not? Anthony has shown he won’t go anywhere regardless, so bottom’s up.
Things haven’t been normal for the Miami Heat since LeBron James left.
Chris Bosh’s health issues slowed the rebound down and Goran Dragic became more of a liability than anything. Wade leaving topped it all off.
With Pat Riley at the controls, one can’t think the Heat will be down and out for long. A rebuild has already started around guys like Tyler Johnson, Hassasn Whiteside and Justise Winslow, so throwing in the towel on a ninth-place season right now and getting another key cog for the future this offseason seems like a good way to speed up the process.
This one isn’t what fans of the Indiana Pacers will want to hear.
But the Pacers are hardly a .500 team and hanging onto a spot in the playoffs as of this writing. At the deadline, fans had to deal with incessant rumblings about Paul George, a Los Angeles kid, either getting dealt to the Lakers or going there soon as a free agent.
If George eventually leaves, all the roster has left of note is Jeff Teague. With it looking like the Pacers don’t have a surefire way to pull something off and convincing George he can win a championship in Indiana, the Pacers might be better off tanking and building for the future. Otherwise, the Pacers might suffer the predictable fate of a midmarket team that doesn’t prepare for losing its only superstar—years of futility.