The World Champion Cleveland Cavaliers. The historic New York Knicks and Los Angeles Lakers. Three of the most well-known teams in the NBA have done it in recent years, among many others. What they have done is controversial, frowned upon and borders on disrespecting the game. Call it what you may, but it works, folks. What I am talking about of course is tanking. Tanking has taken over the NBA and it is spreading like wildfire. Those teams who know they do not have a shot at winning the title in Lebron’s NBA, which is about all but three teams, have a choice.
Their first option is to try and succeed just to get knocked out by the seemingly unbeatable star-studded Golden State Warriors and Cavs, who are headed to the finals for the third straight season, blazing through their respective conferences. Or they could try and lose, making it look like they are trying to win about as much as LeBron in the regular season. In doing so, they increase the chances of getting a star of their own, vaulting themselves into the NBA lottery, hoping they are lucky enough to have their ping pong ball get picked. That ping pong ball can change a franchise. That ping pong ball can be LeBron James. Or John Wall. How about Markelle Fultz. Or, a team could get the ‘moral victory’ of sneaking into the playoffs as an eight seed just to get throttled by a loaded team and stay in mediocrity.
Ask the Atlanta Hawks. Ask the Indiana Pacers, Memphis Grizzlies or a number of other teams who have struggled to make it past the first round without that fateful ping pong ball. Tanking, purposely losing to get a high pick, is something that is becoming more and more popular, but not everyone that is doing it is doing it right. The Knicks are not only atrocious at trying to win games, but also trying to lose games. Knicks fans must enviously look at the Lakers who have much more young talent and a considerably higher pick in this year’s draft. I consider myself a connoisseur of all things tanking, and love to do it when playing NBA2K, and am happy that my team executed tanking well. The Cavs would not have brought LeBron back if they did not tank well enough to get three No. 1 overall picks. For the teams who have not been so successful, I am here to help. Without further ado, here is how every NBA team should tank if they choose to do so.
Nets, you are what I want to be when I grow up. You have dedicated yourselves to tanking more than I could have even imagined. Not only did you trade for a bunch of washed up old veterans like Gerald Wallace, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to ensure your team will not be anything special in the present, but also mortgaged your entire future by trading draft picks like you were a medieval farmer trying to unload their cattle. You have tanked so hard that you want to make sure you are so bad in the future, that you are the worst team in the league currently and will not get any better because you have no draft picks. “Tanking is not just a phase, mom, it is a way of life,” – Nets. I have nothing to teach you; rather you are what all teams who tank should strive to be.
Philadelphia is the epitome of tanking. They are the poster boy for the revolution. Now could they have done it better? Absolutely. That is of course if they are trying to win. I am assuming here that each team’s end goal is to win. The sixers maybe are so into tanking that they purposely drafted a bunch of big men who play the same position that either are so injury prone they never play, or foreign players who do not play on the team for years. My only advice for you is to maybe throw a guard in your rotation, but you have tanked pretty well over the years.
New York Knicks
Oh Knicks. You are just bad in every sense of the word. You are the only team I do not want to write about due to just sheer dysfunction. I am a Browns fan, and I still view you as sad. Kristaps Porzingis is great, but is frustrated and can’t win alone. He needs a playmaking guard to play with. Carmelo needs to go. Trade Anthony and whatever it takes to get his contract off the books for whatever you can get. Be terrible this year. Draft a guard high to pair with Porzingis and hopefully the high upside selection you make this year will help turn things around.
Let us look at things realistically. I am a big fan of how this team was built, but c’mon. Lowry ain’t getting any better and is a free agent. Derozan has no outside shot and is inconsistent. You do not have much else. Lowry should not be brought back. You are going to be left with Derozan and not much young talent and draft assets. Feel out the market for Derozan. Objectively, you have no future competing in the east and have to tank. Get ready for a long rebuild Toronto.
This may not be as difficult as you think. Continue to do what you did a few years ago. Trade assets when they are still high in value. Isaiah Thomas can’t be the best player on a championship winning team. Trade him and Terry Rozier for the number two pick in the draft. Get rid of Al Horford and his huge contract for some more young assets. With the top two picks in this year’s draft, a solid pick next year and underrated Avery Bradley, the Celtics roster would be loaded.
Things looked good a little while ago. Now, not so much. Drummond is a worse shooter than a storm trooper (zing). Stanley Johnson needs a lot of work maturation-wise and offensively. The rest are role players, which is enough in the Eastern Conference to make you a fringe playoff team. Build around Andre Drummond and just have faith he can learn to shoot maybe just 50 percent from the free throw line. Get rid of Tobias Harris and Reggie Jackson which will make you one of the worst teams in the East. Get a star guard to work with Drummond and Johnson.
This is simple. Do not extend Wade next year (presuming he stays this year). Get Rondo the !@#$ out of town, no matter how important he looked in the playoffs. Ideally get rid of Jimmy Butler, but only if you get a young player and a high pick back. That should put you in position to be bad for years but have some assets too.
I am a HUGE fan of Paul George as a player, and it is clearly best for him and Indiana for him to move on. Send him to the Celtics with maybe another asset for the next two years of Brooklyn Nets picks. That will put you in position to have Myles Turner, two top draft picks and plenty of cap room.
Hey, a lot of teams (every team to be exact) would like to have a lot of the Bucks assets. Hear me out because this will be confusing. Trade Giannis Antetokounmpo to the 76ers for Embiid and the number three pick. Khris Middleton, Jabari Parker and the newly added Embiid always get hurt so that leaves you with not much talent on the floor. That team should be bad enough to find themselves in the lottery with youth and draft picks galore.
LeBron is getting old. He can’t possibly continue to be dominant forever. Why not trade him when his value is still very high. Lonzo ball looks tempting. Trade James to the Lakers because why not, for the No. 2 pick, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle. Lonzo comes with Lavar, turns the Cavs into a circus, and Ingram and Randle continue to be nothing special. A Kyrie-led team does what a Kyrie-led team does, plays no defense, and misses the playoffs. Kevin Love would have to be traded as well in order to go full tank mode.
Magic, you do not have much. Elfrid Payton and Aaron Gordon can’t shoot. Mario Hezonja and Terrence Ross look to be wasted talents. Look to deal Vucevic, who is a large reason your team is winning at all. If Bismack Biyombo and Evan Fournier can net you any solid return, trade them in a heartbeat. Completely blow it up as you have no real assets, and look for brighter days in the future.
Another team that is a mess. This team is a mix of overpaid veterans and draft picks that turned out to be busts. The Cody Zeller, Marvin Williams and Nicolas Batum contracts would look awesome somewhere else. Kemba Walker is good, but is one of those players that will get a max contract that does not really deserve it. Absolutely unload. A potential team that wants to take on some of the mess that is in Charlotte could be Milwaukee or Detroit. They are both teams that thought they could contend more than they have. They may be delusional enough to think of some of that Hornets ‘talent’ could put them over the top. Everyone wins. Except the teams with Marvin Williams, Cody Zeller and Nicolas Batum.
May I interest you in Kyrie Irving? The clutch performer with some of the nastiest handles in the game who hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history should be sent to the Heat. Miami would love to have him, but wait, there is a dark side to this potential match made in heaven. Kyrie would be paired with former teammate Dion Waiters. They still have bad blood and would get into another fight, perhaps with Waiters again sucker punching Irving. Turmoil galore. These two on the same team would ensure failure.
You should have tanked ten years ago. But, better late than never. Paul Millsap would have brought back a lot, but has opted out to be a free agent. Let him go. Kent Bazemore is a serviceable wing that I would keep. Get the distracting and overpaid Dwight Howard out of there. Schroeder I also like, but he and Bazemore leading a team would net about 25-30 wins. They could finally get that star they have missed since the Dominique Wilkins era through the draft.
Another promising future that I plan to ruin by the beautiful art of tanking. The Sacramento Kings are desperate for a franchise player. How about John Wall for two first picks and Buddy Hield and Skal Labissiere. Bradley Beal can’t lead a team himself, especially if Otto Porter, who will get overpaid, is let go in free agency.
Karl-Anthony Towns? More like Karl-Anthony Browns. A promising young player, but one who struggles on the defensive end. You can’t have that in Minnesota, a gritty, blue-collar city that needs a team that reflects its city’s toughness. Trade Towns for a gritty, hard-working defender Avery Bradley, and the No. 1 pick. Make sure Ricky Rubio dominates the ball to make your team worse. The lottery will once again welcome the Wolves.
Nikola Jokic is unbelievable. So why not get rid of him because the only thing better than being good now, is maybe being good in the future. The Suns could use a big man. Get back their first round pick, the uber-athletic and highlight-making-machine Marquese Chriss and Alex Len to see what he can do in extended playing time. Denver is not great now, and trading their best player would send them to tanking central once again.
Portland Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard has had his chance. Limited playoff success will spell the end of his time there. And thinking about it, C.J. McCollum doesn’t have what it takes to be a star. Trade them to Denver and Phoenix in a three-team deal to get back Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, Devin Booker and two first-round picks. A load of talent coming back to pair with Jusuf Nurkic, whose career looks rejuvenated in Oregon would be nice, not to mention another high pick next year due to the lack of experience.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook alone stops you from tanking, but can he win you a title? The answer may be no. Acquiring some overpaid veterans and ‘young’ players with ‘upside’ may sound enticing. Russell (and Enes Kanter to make the money work) to Charlotte for Cody Zeller, Batum, Frank Kaminsky, Jeremy Lamb and three first-round picks, and two second-rounders. You figure one of them has to be a pleasant surprise, and then you acquire a high pick this year, and your pick will be high next year as well.
Gordon Hayward is going to be a free agent and all indications point to him returning to Salt Lake City. But the Warriors are going to dominate the West for years. The Jazz signing Hayward would severely limit who they can sign in the future. Why just get Hayward when you can let him go, draft a stud and have cap room in 2018. Also, the importance of big men is dwindling quickly, and while a stud, Rudy Gobert can only impact the game so much, especially against a lethal shooting team like Golden State. Deal him to the Bucks, a team that loves length, for Jabari Parker. The Jazz would be injury prone, young and flush with cash.
Devin Booker was good before he scored 70 points believe it or not. He seems promising but is not the quite the charismatic, exciting franchise changer that another player could be. Put Booker in Los Angeles, and he is immediately one of the biggest names in basketball. Phoenix needs a big name. Booker should be sent to Los Angeles for the second pick which will turn into Lonzo Ball, and Ivica Zubac. This would further load the team with potential, and put them back into the lottery for yet another year.
Los Angeles Lakers
Why? Why do you pay Timofey Mozgov, Luol Deng and Nick Young large sums of money? You are clearly rebuilding but choose to overpay veterans with no upside. Get them out of Laker-land, even if you have to eat a lot of salary. You aren’t going to compete for a few years, so similar what the Browns are doing in football, do not be afraid to pay players that are not impacting your team. Your team will be young enough that it is more important to get them minutes than it is to not pay veterans. Plus, most of their players will be on rookie contracts and will be cheap to keep.
What a mess. Having the most talented big man in the NBA was not enough to translate into any success, and now that he is gone, the Kings will absolutely stay out of the playoffs for the foreseeable future. I do not understand why teams like the Kings, who are going nowhere, are paying veterans a lot of money to take minutes away from young, cheap players with promise, even if they are undrafted rookies. These youngsters need minutes to develop skills and confidence. Sacramento has to get let Rudy Gay go, and say goodbye to Tyreke Evans and Aaron Afflalo. They have multiple high picks in the next few years, and getting rid of these vets will only make their pick higher.
Los Angeles Clippers
You have to absolutely blow things up. The team has been the same for years and has gotten nowhere. Chris Paul, the point god himself, can’t do it alone. Blake Griffin has proven to be nothing special, and a huge injury risk. Deandre Jordan harms a whole offense because he is such a non-threat that whoever is guarding him can sag off and help with someone else. A lot of teams are rumored to be interested in Griffin, if he was made available. The Celtics need a star, and dealing him for the number one pick would make perfect sense. Chris Paul may just leave on his own, which the Clippers should let him do. That would leave DeAndre Jordan, who absolutely can not be the best player on a team. Send him to the Pacers for Myles Turner, who can shoot, and is much younger. The Clippers would have Turner, the number one pick this year, cap room and a higher pick next year.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors are terrified of LeBron in the east. No matter who you get, you cannot seem to take down the King. Eventually, Kevin Durant will try and join the Cavs because if you can’t beat them, join them. Steph Curry decides to go back home to the Hornets because he may as well be comfortable when losing to LeBron. The Warriors would get back three first round picks, Frank Kaminsky and Jeremy Lamb. Klay Thompson does not want to just play with Draymond Green and request a trade to Atlanta. Golden State gets Dennis Schroeder, Kent Bazemore and three more first round picks back. Draymond Green is great, but with other players and can’t lead a team by himself. Dub nation will have first-round picks out the wazoo, and a lot of young promising players that will land this team into the lottery.
Dirk has been the face of your franchise for around 20 years, and has worn down substantially. You can keep him there. Harrison Barnes is a piece that a team like Toronto would feel like could put them over the top. Send him the Raptors for two first-round picks and Norman Powell. J.J. Barea would love to go to a contender and could be great on the Cavs. Cleveland would have to part with Kay Felder and a 2020 first round pick. That alone should ensure the Mavericks are bad and can give some of their younger players like Yogi Ferrell and Seth Curry some minutes.
New Orleans Pelicans
The DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis experiment did not quite work out. You could maybe try and give them another year but that would be like staying in a relationship you know is going to end badly. The team has no real assets other than those two and Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans need a lot more to win consistently, and can get a lot for both of those players. Send Boogie Cousins off to Portland for Jusuf Nurkic, Allen Crabbe and a first-round pick. Anthony Davis is talented but has not led the team to any wins. He would be a star in Los Angeles, and could net the Pelicans a huge return. New Orleans could end up with the second overall pick in this year’s draft, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle. The Pelicans would be flush with potential and picks.
The Griz, like the Clippers, have a bunch of veterans and don’t seem to be getting any better. Mike Conley, who is vastly underrated, just signed a monster contract. Hear me out here because things may get crazy on this one. Conley and Tony Allen go to the Cavs for Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and Channing Frye. The Cavs unload some salary and realize how great Conley would fit with LeBron, while getting a defensive stopper in Allen. Zach Randolph is slowing down already, and should be dealt to the Spurs because he could be a post presence that Gregg Popovich would love to have. Memphis would get back some of the youngsters that helped out in Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard’s absence in the playoffs. Marc Gasol to the Heat as well, for Justise Winslow and two first-rounders.
James Harden clearly did not perform in the Rockets; biggest game of the year. He peaked this year, and the team is still a far cry away from competing with Golden State. How about sending Harden to the Philadelphia 76ers for Ben Simmons, Dario Saric and their top pick this year? The trade brings uncertainty, but the return could be huge.
San Antonio Spurs
Kawhi is starting to NOT look like the second-best player in the NBA like many thought he was. He sure would look great in Detroit. The Spurs would get back Stanley Johnson, Andre Drummond, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, along with two first rounders.