In today’s NBA, many teams are trying to lose in order to secure higher draft picks. This method of rebuilding, called “tanking,” was popularized by the early 2010’s Philadelphia 76ers, and their then-GM Sam Hinkie.
This season many teams are in the process of tanking, hoping to get their hands on a high draft pick in a very top-heavy draft class that includes top prospects like Luka Doncic, DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, and Michael Porter Jr.
However, one of the biggest problems for tanking teams is when their players are a bit too good. Last year, NBA Twitter crucified then-Lakers guard D’Angelo Russell for hitting a game-winning shot late in the season, which at the time looked like it might hurt the Lakers chances in the draft.
This season has been no exception to the “anti-tank commanders,” as many of the bad teams have players who are playing too good for comfort.
Atlanta Hawks- Kent Bazemore, SG
Kent Bazemore has not been the Hawks best player this season, as that title belongs to either Dennis Schroder, who goes for layups instead of game-tying threes, or rookie John Collins. Bazemore has been the player who’s contributed the most to “ruining the Hawks tank” though. In recent weeks, Bazemore has hit two game-winning shots, one against the Pelicans and one against the Knicks. With the Cleveland Cavaliers and Portland Trail Blazers both reportedly interested in Bazemore, it will be interesting to see if the Hawks deal out their clutch wing.
Orlando Magic- Aaron Gordon, PF (Currently Injured)
In 2014 the Magic selected Arizona forward Aaron Gordon with the fourth pick. After struggling in his first three seasons, Gordon is finally having his breakout season for the Magic. However, Gordon might be doing a bit too good in the eyes of the Magic front office. On February 2nd, Michael Scotto of the Athletic reported that the Magic have been fielding offers for Gordon. If the Magic front office is willing to trade a 22-year-old who is averaging 18 points and eight rebounds a night, they are clearly ready for a long rebuilding process.
Sacramento Kings- N/A
This might sound mean, but nobody on the Kings has been good enough to warrant the label as an “anti-tank commander.” While Zach Randolph has probably been their best player, saying that his play is slightly ruining the Kings’ chances at a top pick is reaching.
Dallas Mavericks- Harrison Barnes, SF
The Mavericks are in for a long rebuild at this rate. Their first-round selection from 2017, Dennis Smith Jr, has been very impressive in his rookie year, but the Mavericks clearly need to add a lot more to the roster before they can compete again. Harrison Barnes hasn’t been helping out their tanking process too much. In his second season with Dallas, Barnes has been solid on offense, averaging 18 points per game on 45 percent shooting, and has continued to be a solid perimeter defender.
Phoenix Suns- N/A
Despite Devin Booker and TJ Warren both having fantastic seasons thus far, I can’t really say either are ruining the tank. In fact, with the abundance of young talent on the Suns roster, I think the front office might think their days of tanking are over. While this Suns team won’t be able to compete for a few years, it seems like they already have the cornerstones- Devin Booker, TJ Warren, Josh Jackson, and potentially Marquese Chriss and Dragan Bender- of their future on the roster right now.
Memphis Grizzlies- Tyreke Evans, SG
If Mike Conley hadn’t gotten hurt 12 games into the season, the Grizzlies would likely be competing for a playoff berth in the West right now. However, due to Conley’s injury, Memphis finds themselves with a record near the bottom of the league. Tyreke Evans has been one of the big reasons as to why the Grizzlies have been winning some of their games. In his best season since his 2010 Rookie of the Year campaign, Evans has garnered a lot of trade interest. Since he’s on just a one year deal, Memphis likely wouldn’t retain him in the offseason, so it’s smartest for the Grizzlies to dump Evans now.
Chicago Bulls- Nikola Mirotic- PF*
The Bulls no longer have an anti-tank commander, as they shipped off Nikola Mirotic to the New Orleans Pelicans. In his 25 games since being punched in the face by Bobby Portis, Mirotic played lights out for the Bulls. Getting the Pelicans first round pick for him is a move that only helps out the Bulls tank. Wait, does that mean that GarPax actually made a good move?