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Mar 28 2014

Daryl Morey On the Anti-Tankers

Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey had some interesting tweets this morning on the anti-tank studies and what they get wrong. (Keep in mind, this is coming from someone who built a contender without ever taking a deep dive into the NBA lottery.)

Again, nobody is calling tanking the ultimate cure. There are downsides, like revenue loss, player development, fan morale, media morale. These shouldn’t be discounted.

But the reward is very real too, even if the draft is an inexact science. On average, more losses –> more pingpong balls –> better talent.

If the pros (the pingpong balls) outweigh the cons — I suspect the Sixers brain trust has already evaluated this — then tanking is the winning strategy. A study suggesting that, on the aggregate, shitty franchises remain shitty, shouldn’t stop GMs from thinking at the margin.

  • robbybonfire23

    Deliberately losing games – isn’t that what the Chicago Black Sox did? Difference being, in those days you paid a severe price for conspiring to lose – it cost you your career. Slimy Mr. Silver is in denial of the existence of “tanking,” but I am not ready to say “Bring back Mr. Stern,” just yet. lol.

    • hk99

      Robby,

      There’s a huge difference between players deliberately throwing games for gambling or tanking reasons and management building a team like the Sixers have built this year….but you already know that. These Sixers have been blown out of their share of games, but I don’t believe that they have gone into any of those games with Brett Brown or the players doing anything but trying to win. This isn’t the Black Sox, any of the NCAA point shaving scandals or even Mark Madsen going 0-for-7 from 3 point range. This is a team that decided to surround their two good players with a lot of young guys trying to earn a place in the league rather than win a few extra games by giving playing time to the likes of Damien Wilkins, Nick Young and Dorrell Wright. I have no problem with what the Sixers are doing and neither should the commissioner. If they were losing games by letting Henry Sims shoot 3 pointers, then I’d have a problem.

      • robbybonfire23

        This raises an interesting question, and that is, is deliberately assembling a crassly inept team more acceptable, from an ethics or morals standpoint, than just going out and tanking with an actually talented personnel core? I think we are getting into semantics, here, and becoming involved with “enabling” one approach to losing, as somehow being more “noble” and “dignified” than another. It gets back to teams becoming amply rewarded for doing less than their best, on and off the court.

        We can agree that a team has every right to take advantage of loopholes in the league bylaws, such as the current system of rewarding with high draft choices the least successful teams of the previous season.

        The question I would like to raise is how can the rewarding of abysmal failure, from the standpoint of any tanking approach, whether direct or subtle, be discouraged? On one hand you don’t want to give teams incentives for losing; on the other hand you certainly don’t want the best teams in the league reaping the bulk of draft day plums, either.

        There is also the problem connected with the public perception of a former Commissioner manipulating a draft day pecking order so that the highly visible and TV ratings-centric New York franchise could land the choice plum in a draft, back in the 90′s, consistent with the NBA’s desire not to take a ratings and P.R. back seat to the NHL’s highly successful New York franchise, at that time.

        It was far from a perfect system, but in the old days there was no draft in baseball, for starters, professional sports teams just sent scouts around to athlete’s homes to directly bid for the services of highly-touted young men, and sign up those leaned their way. So that no team ever “tanked,” in fact, the more games a team won, the more attractive the most successful franchises were perceived to be. Something akin to this system, applied to today’s NBA, would go a long way toward restoring the leagues presently sleazeball image.