Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The Anti-Tank Cranks Must Be Stopped

Clearly I have been asleep, because somewhere along the way the “Tanking is an offense to the game!” crowd just took over column inches, airwaves, and bandwidth. They seem to be yelling a lot louder than the “embrace the tank” crowd. When Kevin Pelton, as reasonable a hoops analyst as you’ll find, is pulling out the virtual slide rule to assess the relative merits of competing anti-tank proposals, you know real change on this issue is likely pending. Now I’ve got nothing against those who find tanking morally repugnant, or just plain unsightly, but allowing what looks increasingly like a moral panic to drive policy is a classic recipe for bad policy.

I cannot truthfully claim to have read every single column bemoaning the cardinal sin of tanking, but I’ve read quite a few in recent weeks. Although proposals to fix the problem differ in specificity, they are almost uniform in how they view the problem. Although very few columns bother to define tanking with any precision, they are all quite committed to distinguishing the “deserving” from the “non-deserving” bad teams. Every columnist has in mind a textbook offender who exploits a draft system meant to help genuinely struggling teams. (Philadelphia is currently the NBA’s food-stamp hoarding, Cadillac-driving welfare queen.) Coincidentally, the draft-manipulating cheat is NEVER the San Antonio Spurs, who made no credible attempt to win in David Robinson’s absence but were rewarded the following year with Tim Duncan and a healthy David Robinson. Well, unless Rick Pitino is telling the story.

At the risk of going all Piven and Cloward on the reader, this anti-tanking business has many of the hallmarks of a classic moral panic.

  • Is there a separation into ill-defined yet somehow absolutely rigid moral categories (i.e., “deserving” vs “non-deserving”)? Check
  • Are the non-deserving identified by, and summarily punished for, fitting some nebulous description rather than specific behaviors? Check on the first part, and the knives are currently being sharpened for the punishment phase.
  • Are there proposals purporting to “tweak” the current system that appear reasonable, but only compared to the most dramatic and outrageous proposals to fix the problem? Check

If US history is any guide here–and it is–well after the moral fervor has died down someone will go back, sift through the wreckage, and determine that no real problem ever existed. Or, that it existed for a long time with no particularly ill effect. Some young Salemites may have practiced witchcraft. There were certainly American communists in the 1940s and 50s. Some Japanese-Americans probably did favor the empire over the stars and bars. Some women on AFDC probably did allow the fathers of their children to sleep in the house. Yet in each of these instances, it was obvious to anyone who cared to look that the “fix” to these alleged problems mostly scratched some people’s itch to punish the less powerful.

And no. I’m not making James Dolan the moral equivalent of a Japanese internee. I’m saying that moral panics in a variety of contexts have the same behavioral hallmarks. This is true when their consequences are insanely unjust or, as in the case of this tanking business, are mostly petty and self-defeating.

The fundamental problem with the anti-tanking narrative is that “tanking” is a managerial strategy, and a reasonable one for turning around a wayward franchise. To be clear though, I’m not here to advocate for tanking per se. My point is that once we move from good and healthy debate over competing morals to the land of policy then we must be clear about what policy can and cannot do.

Good policy cannot reliably legislate against strategy. It can only legislate away its behavioral proxies. Tanking, however one cares to define it, is behaviorally indistinguishable from just being a bad team. The fact that the Knicks were not perceptibly worse after releasing STAT, trading JR, Shump, and Prigs, pretty much proves that one cannot distinguish (a priori) a tanking team from a bad one. Despite being a poster child for “the team that couldn’t even tank right,” the Knicks began the season thinking a playoff berth was not out of the question. After the first few weeks made it clear that this was laughable, they never again gave any more than a cursory nod in the direction of winning. Yet there is no behavior one could reliably point to  from a policy standpoint that distinguishes early season bad-but-deserving Knicks from later season still-bad-but-non-deserving Knicks.

 

81 comments on “The Anti-Tank Cranks Must Be Stopped

  1. Farfa

    If anything, the only ones who could have a say in the right way about tanking are the fans, as in the fans of that particular tanking team (who pay to watch an awful product).

    It seems like the fans are almost always on board with the tank, so I don’t understand all the fuss about tanking or not tanking.

  2. iserp

    It seems like the fans are almost always on board with the tank, so I don’t understand all the fuss about tanking or not tanking.

    Yeah, because it is usually good for the team. But for the fans of the rest of the teams, or people that just like watching basketball, it is boring and sucks. Not to mention that is disappointing that legitimately good players fake injuries or waste their prime.

  3. thenoblefacehumper

    Agree that the distinctions become unclear at (many) times. For example, I’d wager that every GM, probably in every sport, has a trade they could make right this second that would improve their team to some degree. A fair amount of those trades, however, would be anywhere from somewhat damaging to absolutely crippling to a team’s future, so they don’t make them. Is that “tanking?”

    Honestly, I just don’t see it as the huge problem it’s made out to be. I’d say four teams this year were certifiably trying to lose (NY, LA, MIN, PHI) this past year. It created some unsightly basketball when these teams would have to play each other, but was it really any worse than watching the “non-tanking” awful teams of year’s past? It’s a strategy that’s far from a sure thing and comes with plenty of risk (like falling-to-the-fourth-spot-with-the-second-worst-record kind of risk), so it’s hard for me to say these teams are “gaming the system” or whatever.

    Now, if someone were to object to the Minnesota method of just benching good players that are in all likelihood healthy, then yeah I kind of understand that. You could argue that is “gaming the system” so to speak, since the top draft picks are supposed to restore talent to teams barren of it.

  4. tastycakes

    I super agree that “Tanking” is nowhere near the problem that people claim it to be. But I also think that mostly, when it comes to rules of the game (and metagame) people are generally really bad at expressing what it is they have a problem with. I think when people complain about “Tanking” they are usually complaining about teams being bad. Like that’s somehow supposed to get fixed?

    There is a cycle of despair, renewal, and hope that one goes through when one watches a bad team, as the Knicks faithful know well. Ideas like the Wheel — where your draft position has zero correlation with your badness — could create pits of despair that no franchise could recover from. I like the current, messy combo of randomness and awarding top picks to most dismal teams.

    That said, there could be more interesting systems. I think there are ways to artificially make the seasons of bad teams far more exciting. 538 ran a contest soliciting solutions to this “problem” and the half-baked idea I submitted had to do with giving the most lottery balls to the teams with the greatest win differential in the second half of the season relative to the first. i.e., incentivize improvement.

    I had another fun half-baked idea recently, which is to randomly award “lottery balls” (within some pre-established ranges) to games involving lottery teams and announce before start time how many lottery balls the Knicks and Sixers are playing for tonight. Late in the season, I tried watching 1 lousy Knicks game with my Dad, and I couldn’t bear it, they were so fucking miserable. But if they did have something to play for…?

  5. tastycakes

    Actually, let me correct myself:

    When people complain about “tanking” I believe that they are really complaining “my shitty team has nothing to play for, and is in fact rewarded for playing like even greater dogshit.”

    Which is why I land on these ideas to “fix” the problem which involve incentivizing improvement, rather than the current system, which incentivizes losing.

  6. tastycakes

    Oh, fivethirtyeight announced their winner and finalists:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/how-to-stop-nba-tanking-tie-your-fate-to-another-teams-record/

    Of course they chose a convoluted, indirect, weirdly dispassionate solution that was probably written by a couple of investment bankers (“Futures”?!?!). I do like how left-field it is, but it seems like if you’re entrusting your fate to other GMs, you’re still not really incentivized to be a franchise that does its job well; I’m not sure why a GM would grant a high pick to a franchise that is going to kick its ass in the future.

    The other proposed solutions are all things I’ve heard before and are all pretty enjoyable.

  7. wetbandit

    Yeah, incentivizing losing is the problem here. I just don’t like the idea of losing being a goal, it’s unseemly, unentertaining, and makes for bad organization management. As dumb as it was, I would watch a Knicks game this past season, mentally willing the team to lose, but emotionally pissed if they were.

    If, say, all the non-playoff teams had equal shots at the lottery, what harm would be done? Here is all that I think would happen:

    1. Almost all teams would try to win games.*
    2. You would not see as many trades to get worse.
    3. *7th-10th seeds may try to lose, but just as many may try to win- see OKC, Spurs)
    4. Games would be more watchable. The NBA is an entertainment organization.
    5. Teams and fans of a winning lottery team would feel pretty awesome

  8. DRed

    I’ve seen lamestream media figures who think tanking is ruining the game criticize the Knicks for screwing up their draft position by winning those last two games.

  9. kronicfatigue

    Let’s make #7 even more simple (and mitigate the negative consequences). Spots #9 and #10 don’t get lottery spots either. That way, if you’re in a position to fight for a playoff spot, you might as well, b/c there’s no incentive to tank.

  10. Farfa

    Of course they chose a convoluted, indirect, weirdly dispassionate solution that was probably written by a couple of investment bankers (“Futures”?!?!).

    I read it. At a first glance, it’s ingenious. On second thought, I think it would create a domino effect of precarious Risk-like alliances. It could still be fun, but if McHale did a solid to Ainge in trading Garnett, try to imagine what it would mean if, for example, Morey had chosen the Hinkie futures.

  11. jkhar

    The funny part is that the Knicks never actually tried to tank, they just truly sucked. They tried to win every game, and just happened to win a few games at the end of the year.

  12. Farfa

    I think a simple solution would be to do away with the lottery and base it on record but you can’t have a top 5 pick two years in a row.

    Three years in a row is better. Two years is really too volatile.

  13. tastycakes

    “I’ve seen lamestream media figures who think tanking is ruining the game criticize the Knicks for screwing up their draft position by winning those last two games.”

    I don’t know, I think it’s reasonable to criticize a thing you’d like to see changed and then advocate for the best strategy under the current system.

    I don’t really believe that TEAMS tank — but ORGANIZATIONS certainly do.

  14. tastycakes

    #11 – the more I think about it, the more I dislike it — your team then almost doesn’t control its destiny at all. Bad teams could get stepped on, particularly in weaker drafts. The rule might be fun in theory if we were privy to the horse-trading discussions behind the scenes; obviously we are not.

    I guess I’m in the camp of “give bad teams rewards so they can get better and so we don’t perpetually have rich-get-richer type scenarios in the league.” But I wouldn’t mind balancing that against “reward front offices that manage to field improving, competitive products.”

  15. wetbandit

    Eh. Too convoluted, and could be downright conspiratorial.

    I like the “all non-playoff teams get equal shot” plan more. No chance of anything nefarious, simple, and actually fun.

  16. tastycakes

    I don’t know about #1 draft pick exceptions personally… not all #1 draft picks are equal. Basically, you’re saying “if you win the lottery, you automatically lose next year” which is kind of a weird exception to make. Does it prevent teams from tanking? The #2 pick is still really dang valuable, it’s still better to be bad and have more chances at that than to be mediocre and land in the #11 spot.

    Really, the idea of a #1 pick is perceived to be more important than the reality of a #1 pick. It’s a similar phenomenon that helped Andrea Bargnani stay in the league for so long (“well, he was a NUMBER ONE PICK, he MUST be good!”)

    The way to win long-term is to manage ALL of your assets, stockpiling, investing in youth, finding bargains in FA, not signing over the hill injured guys to be your star players, etc. What the Knicks do, but opposite.

  17. KnickfaninNJ

    On a completely different matter, did anyone else notice that ESPN announced that Bill Simmons would continue to get paid for the remainder of his contract but would have nothing to do for them? Specifically, he will not edit or do anything on Grantland, not write anything and not do any TV. He must have really pissed them off somehow.

    Now he’s in purgatory because he can’t do work for them but, since he’s still getting paid until sometime in the fall, he can’t appear or write anywhere else. As Donnie Walsh would say, there seems to have been a disagreement over value. Bill thinks he’s a star, but ESPN sees a not so good TV show that hasn’t come close to challenging TNT’s basketball analysts; and a web platform, Grantland, that probably doesn’t make much money, although it gets good press for the writing quality. So from ESPN’s point of view, Simmons is very replaceable. Other TV networks are probably not lusting to hire him, because they have people already and his ESPN TV show wasn’t popular enough. I don’t know what print media or web media would give a platform like Grantland since Grantland already exists, so I think there’s a significant chance Simmons ends up on Sirius radio hosting sports talk shows. It fits their market and strategy. He could also start a new website, but that would need funding and would be an uphill battle, given how many are already out there.

  18. tastycakes

    It occurs to me that the Knicks’ #4 draft pick is almost certainly their most valuable single asset for the next 3 years. And in fact, the value of that asset probably goes down after they draft a player with it.

  19. iserp

    I like the draft wheel. The rich dont get richer. And it is easy to plan ahead: You would not have teams that plan on being good, trade their draft picks and then be miserably bad and grieve they dont have their high pick (see Nets, Knicks).

    There still be teams that go through a rebuilding phase, and try to take young players and picks. They are just not incentivized to put the worst product on the court (see 76ers).

  20. tastycakes

    The wheel is sort of “fair”, but it’s also boring as fuck.

    Part of the reason the draft lottery exists (and is televised) is because throwing a dash of randomness into the equation facilitates drama.

    Personally, I think the best solution would still disproportionately reward crappier teams, but would also incentivize improvement or winning, and would also keep a dash of randomness/fate/luck in the mix. It’s a balancing act.

  21. DCrockett17 Post author

    Another point I chose to leave out based on length is that a LOT of complaints about tanking fail to appreciate a pretty important point.

    Ideally in sports you’d like for mediocrity to be a transition phase for teams on the way up or the way down. Few fates in sports are worse than topping out at or around .500. It is all but impossible to escape from that purgatory without at least temporarily being awful.

    Designing systems that in effect force more teams to mimic this year’s Brooklyn Nets is an awful thing to do. It is the quintessential act of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

  22. KnickfaninNJ

    I seem to be in the minority here, but I think the current ping pong system doesn’t work so badly. If you pick something like the wheel it’s true there is no incentive for tanking and all teams are treated equally. But the time scale for a full turn of the wheel is just too long. And I think that there would be a lot of outcry if, say, Cleveland and Golden State got the best draft choices this year after doing so well in the league.

    Any system that gives better choices to the worse teams will create some sort of break points where there is a strategic choice between tanking and trying hard. So any of the many systems proposed will be different, but still allow for some sort of tanking.

    Historically, first picks in the draft have sometimes been much better than the next few picks, but after that there is a lot of randomness. So what really matters is who gets the first pick. If losing one or two more games would have gotten the first pick definitely, I don’t think the Knicks would have played the way they did. The current system guarantees no one knows who will get the first pick but makes sure it goes to one of the more deserving teams in the league. With the current system, Jackson decided that teaching the team to win and making sure they played hard every night was worth a possible 5% change in the odds for the first round draft pick. Lots of people on this board wish he hadn’t decided that. But the fact that he did decide that supports that the ping pong ball system is doing something to make for more enjoyable games.

  23. swiftandabundant

    Yeah I think the lottery overall is fine but maybe do like I said earlier and make it where you can’t have a top pick or top 3 pick multiple years in a row. So long term tanking is eliminated. Maybe you can’t have the number one pick 2 years in a row and you can’t get top 5 more than 3 years in a row. That way its kind of sh*t or get off the pot as far as improving your team through trades, etc.

  24. Z-man

    What about eliminating the draft altogether? Make all “draftees” free agents and have a “salary cap” you can pay players new to the league based on record? Lousy teams can offer “max” money while better teams can only offer vet’s minimum…

  25. MBunge

    1. No one really has a problem with normal tanking.

    2. People do have a problem with the hyper-tanking being done by the Sixers, for several reasons.
    a. It’s an affront to the principles of sportsmanship and competition.
    b. Part of their hyper-tanking strategy involves the Sixers sponging of the rest of the league, propping themselves up with league TV deal money while driving their attendance, merchandise and individual TV ratings into the ditch.
    c. It’s a strategy that only works if no one else is doing it. If multiple teams starting deliberately making themselves as bad as possible for multiple seasons in a row, it is a mathematical certainty that many if not most of them WILL NOT get the franchise-type player they want. Look at the Sixers. No one has tanked harder or longer but after all this, the only potential franchise player they got out of it is a guy who fell to them because of serious health concerns. If Embiid is a bust or even if he “only” turns out to be an Alonzo Mourning/Brook Lopez-level center, where exactly does that leave them?

    Mike

  26. Glew

    i just don’t see any reason not to have the single elimination tourney for all the poop teams, seeding based on your record
    1. provides rest for playoff teams
    2. revitalized excitement in ones own crappy squad
    3. tanking is no longer possible
    4. Any team can beat any team for one game so still somewhat randomized
    5. winning is encouraged at all times

  27. DCrockett17 Post author

    On a related note:

    I read somewhere, but don’t recall where, an interesting proposal for addressing conference competitive balance. It involved moving one Western non-playoff team to the East. They suggest NO. Short run, that makes the SW a 4-team division. But, it rids the NW and Pacific of a gruesome travel outlier. (Memphis is perhaps a more logical move candidate. Hell, it’s barely west of Chicago. But I’ll assume that moving a perennial playoff team is a non-starter.)

    The East would get one 6-team division with either a playoff ready team with a blossoming superstar. Some of this comes down to how big a problem you think competitive balance is. I’m open to shooting holes in this, but I don’t think it’s a bad idea.

  28. DCrockett17 Post author

    @28 I’ve heard LOTS of people say that they hate “normal” tanking (whatever that is). Again, what is the reliable *behavioral* distinction between what the Sixers have done and what any team you consider to use “normal” tanking?

  29. stratomatic

    IMO, the Sixers are executing “tanking” brilliantly. It takes a LOT of time to turn a team around with draft picks alone under any conditions, but twice as long when all 19 year olds are coming into the NBA as they are these days. As far as I can tell, the Sixers could very well ALREADY have their “big 3″ after this draft and STILL have plenty of assets and cap space to add to the team or replace one of them if he doesn’t pan out .

    The reason no one “gets” the Sixers is because few people in our current society can think past the next 5 minutes, let alone think in terms of 5 years. I wish the Knicks were in the 76er’s position. The Knicks may finish ahead of them next year (maybe), but the Sixers are about to start improving rapidly over the next few years.

  30. thenoblefacehumper

    Apparently the Celtics really want to trade up to take Cauley-Stein. I think he’s my preferred choice for us at 4, but could they put together an enticing package for us? Some of their assets include the 16 and 28 picks in this draft, three first rounders (!) in next year’s draft (their own, Brooklyn’s, and Dallas’), and Marcus Smart I guess.

  31. Frank

    Since Mills has already said they are going to tamper with FAs-to-be, what do people think of going after Kevin Love and drafting WCS (either at #4 or in a trade-down) to play next to him and Melo?

    Love is definitely opting out. Assuming the Lakers take Okafor or Towns, their front court of the future is set between Okafor/Towns and Randle — would be much smarter for them to use their FA money on Kobe’s future replacement, so my guess is that LA will not be a major competitor for Love’s services. Probably would come down to NY and CLE.

  32. Frank

    If Embiid is a bust or even if he “only” turns out to be an Alonzo Mourning/Brook Lopez-level center, where exactly does that leave them?

    I was feeling you until this sentence, your last sentence. I cannot believe you have Alonzo Mourning and Brook Lopez only separated by a “/”. They’re more appropriately separated by several galaxies. You know Mourning made the HoF last year right?

  33. swiftandabundant

    The problem with the 76ers strategy is at some point you have to cash in those assets. Either sign those young players to long term contracts or trade them for a star or whatever. Their strategy is contingent on those young players not getting fed up with losing multiple years in a row and staying there. Its a great strategy in the sense that you build up the assets and have all the cheap picks and players. But at some point a coach has to coach a team that keeps the same core, etc. This is now year two of this strategy. I imagine they can’t go more than one more year doing this before they either have to actually build a team, system, culture, etc…or some of these players are going to get pissed and demand trades or not resign when their rookie contracts are up. If that happens then they basically are a farm team for other NBA teams who reap the benefits of them picking the players and them developing and then they leave when they are actually good.

  34. iserp

    As far as I can tell, the Sixers could very well ALREADY have their “big 3? after this draft and STILL have plenty of assets and cap space to add to the team or replace one of them if he doesn’t pan out .

    At some point Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors were going to be amazing when Utah was the trendy young team. We will have to wait and see. Noel looks good indeed, but who knows.

  35. Garson

    I read that lakers are willing to trade the #2 pick. Regardless if this is true or not , we are a perfect match for this scenerio

    Melo for the number 2 pick

    Lakers get to bypass rebuilding and fill the building again.

    Melo will agree to the trade , as it allows him to play in la and with Kobe.

    We get okafor and mudiay to build around plus and empty payroll to offer out to free agents.

    Pending this working cap wise, I actually feel Phil would be ok with this as I get a feeling he didn’t want melo in the first place.

  36. thenoblefacehumper

    At first glance I really don’t see too many viable trade down scenarios, so for people like me who want WCS or Turner I think we’ll have to just take one at 4.

  37. ess-dog

    I’m starting to lean towards Winslow, personally. It would be a great reason to move Melo to the 4.
    I’m not even anti-Mudinay, I just can’t see Phil taking that style of pg.
    Muddily actually seems like a better fit for the Sixers, and if Russell falls to us, so be it. But if Russell is gone, I like Winslow.

  38. The Infamous Cdiggy

    *sigh*

    I really wanted a big man for us in this draft. Was sold on KA Towns.

    So stepping away the ledge, I think it’s best we understand that the best thing for the team to do, despite the length of PJax and Melo’s remaining tenure here, is start from the ground up and let this be a 3 to 4 year process (at least?). Not saying they have to go full Philly on us, but it’ll take time to build and acquire assets.

    I understand our complaints: No 1st rounder next year. Near-MMM w/a NTC. Questioning Phil’s master plans. Questioning if Dolan will continue to keep his word to butt out. Questioning if Coach Fish can be the guy on our bench long-term. Look, our team is barren lands that’s suffered from acid rain. We have to improve the air quality and atmosphere to get rid of the toxins (Jackson getting Dolan to back-off), then break the land of the tainted soil to unearth fresh soil. Then we’d have to let clean, fresh rain irrigate the land. That’s all just to rebuild the foundation of the land. I haven’t even gotten into purchasing or acquiring the right seeds, getting fertilizer, and keeping the fields free of weeds and vermin so our young vegetation can grow.

    I’m not worried about near-MMM and his NTC. My opinion is that the rebuild can happen with or without him; he’s shown his priorities are $$$, NYC, and winning in that order. The smart thing for the team to do is quietly ignore the Melo-wants-to-win-window and just rebuild properly. If he gets impatient, then let him waive his NTC.

  39. GoNyGoNYGo

    @32 – You are so right. That’s why when most people were whining about getting the #4 pick, I was glad that the 76’ers didn’t land 2 or 3 of the lottery picks. In a way, LA getting the #2 was a blessing.

    The other team that “gets it” is Boston. The Celtics have a zillion picks (virtually all of of Nets picks) the next couple of years. They could restock very quickly too.

    My biggest complaint about Phil Jackson is what he settled for with the trade of JR and Shump because a few days later the Cavs traded two (protected) #1 picks for Mozgov. We should have gotten one of those damn it! We got a pair of old socks and a box of Cracker Jacks.

  40. Glew

    Guys, lets move past the fan-boy trades of Melo he choose to be here just as Phil choose to give him the contract. No one is making a move one year after the deal, it’s really wasteful of your own brain power to consistently try to think up trades that will never happen. If we win <20 games next year perhaps this conversation can start to gain some basis in reality.

  41. thenoblefacehumper

    Guys, lets move past the fan-boy trades of Melo he choose to be here just as Phil choose to give him the contract. No one is making a move one year after the deal, it’s really wasteful of your own brain power to consistently try to think up trades that will never happen. If we win <20 games next year perhaps this conversation can start to gain some basis in reality.

    You’re probably right, but there were some reports this year of Melo being willing to waive his NTC and the like. So who knows.

  42. er

    Winslow at the 2 and some at the three works for me. You can sign Middleton and Jordan.

    The team will be chock full of wings again.

    Starting lineup

    Calderon
    Middleton
    Winslow
    Melo
    Jordan

    Bench
    Gallo
    Thjr

    Big man filler.

  43. DRed

    Big man filler.

    That’s spelled C-o-l-e

    It would be really, really great if we could find some way to dump Timmy this summer. He’s such garbage.

  44. Brian Cronin

    Someone voted for Melo for the All-NBA Third Team. That’s awesome. Methinks that someone needs to have the point of the exercise explained to him/her.

  45. thenoblefacehumper

    Winslow at the 2 and some at the three works for me. You can sign Middleton and Jordan.

    Don’t have the space to do that without a Calderon trade.

  46. thenoblefacehumper

    It would be really, really great if we could find some way to dump Timmy this summer. He’s such garbage.

    His trade value has fallen, but is still probably higher than it should be relative to his shitty play. I’d like to somehow include him in any potential draft trade whether it involves moving up or down.

  47. thenoblefacehumper

    A reasonably good and realistic scenario to me is signing Joseph for around $8m a year, Ed Davis for maybe $6m or so, and using the rest on Middleton (if these look like overpays please do keep in mind we’re asking these guys to come to the Knicks). Draft Cauley-Stein.

    Joseph/Middleton/Melo/Davis/WCS
    Calderon/Galloway/Cole/Acy/filler

    That’s a team that could still have some potential even if Melo completely crashes and burns.

  48. prezs2reprsntme

    useless to speculate about middleton. He’s a stud and MIL is going to match any offer thrown his way.

  49. thenoblefacehumper

    useless to speculate about middleton. He’s a stud and MIL is going to match any offer thrown his way.

    Probably true, my scenario was more of a general blueprint than exact idea. Target young players that are probably undervalued. If you split the money I allocated to Middleton between some combination of Aminu, Koufos, Carroll, etc. I’d still be very happy.

    Also, man, putting together these fantasy teams really highlights what could be possible without Melo. It’s ironic that trading him would be considered some kind of long-term success move because I honestly think we’d have a good team quicker if we did. Oh well.

  50. Brian Cronin

    The rising cap is what really kills the Knicks on guys like Middleton. In the old days, people might think twice about matching a max offer to Middleton or Greeen or even Butler, but with the cap about to explode, those “max” offers will soon look puny, so all of the teams are bound to match them.

  51. Donnie Walsh

    Someone voted for Melo for the All-NBA Third Team. That’s awesome. Methinks that someone needs to have the point of the exercise explained to him/her.

    Ruruland got to vote this year. Way to go, Ruru!

  52. Donnie Walsh

    I actually think the lottery system works pretty well and that tanking is a myth, as we bore witness to during the last week of the Knicks’ season. The players on the court try to win games no matter what. The Sixers actually tried to put the worst basketball team ever together this year, spending about $60,000,000 less than everybody else. They still managed to win 18 games.

    My main gripe with the current system is when good teams have an injury to their best player and end up with a top pick. Like when Duncan went to the Spurs. If OKC had moved up into the top 3, that would have been a travesty of Justise [sic].

    Minnesota is a team deserving of the top pick: they had a franchise player that chose to move on, leaving them with no choice but to rebuild. The Lakers, too, are in a natural rebuild as their franchise player slowly turns to dust before their eyes.

    The Knicks, for as horrible as they were, aren’t as bad as their record if their core player was healthy. And they managed to beat teams like ATL and SAS, so maybe picking 4th is the right place for them, no?

    As for Philly, I don’t find their “tank job” offensive at all. They are not a perennial loser. Three years ago they played a 7 game series in the 2nd round of the playoffs. During their “tank” they’ve selected #11, #3, and now #3. So they haven’t been rewarded by the system more than any other rebuilding team. (And trading Jrue Holliday for Noel and Payton is a great move, whether you’re vying for a championship or not.)

  53. Donnie Walsh

    Personally, I think the hack-a-Jordan strategy of winning is more offensive to competition than the lose now to win later strategy.

    (Ps– to dissuade good teams with competitive cores in place from dipping into the high lottery for a year due to injury, perhaps the pingpong balls can be designated based on combined record over the past two seasons instead of just the one season? If that was the case the lottery ranking this year would have been:

    1 PHI
    2 LAL
    3 ORL
    4 NYK
    5 MIN
    6 MIL
    7 SAC
    8 UTA
    9 BOS
    10 DEN
    11 CHA
    12 NOP
    13 CLE
    14 MIA

    This keeps the 60 win Pacers and Thunder from sneaking in and grabbing an extra franchise player because of repeatable injury to their star player)

  54. Z-man

    I’m starting to think that we should roll the dice on Porzingis or Stanley Johnson. I just can’t get over Winslow and Mudiay being lousy shooters for guards.

    Re: Porzingis, his upside might be higher than either Towns or Okafor. Obviously the “braintrust” should do a hard core job of researching, but does anyone think he can’t be at least as good as Nurcic, Valenciunas, Kanter, et. al. but with a much higher ceiling? Did vesely and Bargs look that good at 18? He’s certainly not Thabeet or (ssssh!) Weis.

    Re Johnson: Exactly what can Winslow do at SF that Johnson can’t do better? Johnson has a monster SF body, while Winslow is more of a tweener. Johnson shoots and dribbles better. Johnson is a plus defender. Why did he drop so far?

  55. JK47

    Stanley Johnson doesn’t shoot better than Winslow unfortunately. His shooting fell off pretty badly in conference play.

  56. stratomatic

    NY was EASILY the worst team in the NBA. The Timberwolves played in the western conference and therefore had more really tough games. NY deserved the #1 pick in a non lottery scenario.

  57. stratomatic

    The rising cap is what really kills the Knicks on guys like Middleton. In the old days, people might think twice about matching a max offer to Middleton or Greeen or even Butler, but with the cap about to explode, those “max” offers will soon look puny, so all of the teams are bound to match them.

    Exactly.

    Management’s are smart enough to understand they can sensibly pay more for FAs this year than in the past. There are going to be some bidding wars this summer that look insane by former standards.

    Is Monroe worth a max contract?

    Personally I think he’s a good player, but there’s no way he’s a max player. However, looking out, a max contract for him now may not look so bad 2 years out.

  58. stratomatic

    It sounds to me like Bird wants to trade up for Cauley-Stein. He has clearly lost patience with Hibbert and is ready to move on.

  59. dtrickey

    Great write up. I think tanking has been somewhat bundled in with rebuilding. I have no problem with teams making a decision to rebuild, with a view to getting better draft pick etc. To that extent I don’t have a problem per se with the Philly model. I can fully appreciate that in order to rebuild you need to be bad. What I have the biggest problem with is when teams actively throw games by holding out healthy players for no good reason or putting out unconventional lineups. The suggestion that the Knicks should have thrown games to better their lottery chances irks me, and I think it is this kind of behavior we should be looking at trying to stop.

  60. J Weezy

    Who knew to be able to work hand in hand with the New York Knicks front office all you needed to do was job search on Indeed

  61. Donnie Walsh

    What I have the biggest problem with is when teams actively throw games by holding out healthy players for no good reason

    When a team is losing by 20 in the 4th Q, they take out their starters and play the scrubs. Have teams come back from being down 20 in the 4th? Yes. But it is a long shot, and comes at the risk of injuring starters. It’s high risk, low reward.

    The same goes for teams that are 20 games back on the 4th Q of a season. Sure, you can play starters and try to win the worthless games, but it comes at a high risk. Carmelo could have played through the all-star break. But why? (Especially when there are young players that can gain valuable experience and exposure just sitting there).

    Popovich sits his starters for games when he’s competing for a championship. It’s basically the same thing the “tankers” are doing– actively throwing a game now to win more games later.

  62. dtrickey

    When a team is losing by 20 in the 4th Q, they take out their starters and play the scrubs. Have teams come back from being down 20 in the 4th? Yes. But it is a long shot, and comes at the risk of injuring starters. It’s high risk, low reward.

    The same goes for teams that are 20 games back on the 4th Q of a season. Sure, you can play starters and try to win the worthless games, but it comes at a high risk. Carmelo could have played through the all-star break. But why? (Especially when there are young players that can gain valuable experience and exposure just sitting there).

    Popovich sits his starters for games when he’s competing for a championship. It’s basically the same thing the “tankers” are doing– actively throwing a game now to win more games later.

    I see your point regarding a team being down by 20 and the Spurs situation. Obviously the game is already gone once you’re down by 20 so you may as well waive the white flag so to speak and empty your bench. The Spurs self-preservation situation is probably a little different given that Pop is still probably looking to win and they aren’t gunning for a better lottery position. My main beef is when teams like Minnesota keep out healthy players with the view to be less competitive so as to get a better draft position. In my mind that really flys in the face of sportsmanship and integrity. Then again, I could be being melodramatic and also still be a bit butt hurt from the other day ha ha

  63. mura2337

    Noel didn’t get on the court till this year and Embiid won’t play till next year. Generally, the tanking teams are drafting a player who’ll actually play that year providing fans someone to root for since they’re the future. An example of that would be the T-Wolves. They’re gonna put a lot of exciting, young talent on the court next year. As far as the argument of producing wins, that’s strength of conference, skill, and avoiding catastrophic injury which is simply dumb luck. The Sonics before moving to OK as a recent example.

    The draft process is fine. If anything, this argument distracts us from the real problem, which is the people up top making the decisions. I was never a fan of Gallinari, but I understood why we drafted him since he actually fit our system. Conversely, you have the Cavs draft Bennett while already having Tristan Thompson. You have the infamous David Kahn and his baffling 09 draft. A player may or may not work out, ultimately it’s a crapshoot, but at least putting a little thought into what you’re doing may actually help the franchise.

  64. massive

    Agreed. Bad decision makers don’t wake up one day and get everything right. The Hornets/Pelicans may have drafted Anthony Davis, but they immediately overpaid to surround him with Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Tyreke Evans. The Kings draft in the top 10 every year and the only player selected by them worth mentioning? DeMarcus Cousins. The only thing that saved Cleveland was that LeBron is an Ohio native, otherwise he’d have never come back. So, as Knicks fans, we cannot expect our team to ever be built like GSW, SAS, or OKC before cheap ownership got in the way. We will always be prone to selling out for a player who scores a lot of points. Our only saving grace is if Kevin Durant is the next player we sell out for. We just have to hope whichever guard we select with the 4th pick (or Justice Winslow) turns into a flat out stud and that we get lucky in free agency. Everything else won’t matter. The draft process is fine if you know what to do.

  65. iserp

    The rising cap is what really kills the Knicks on guys like Middleton. In the old days, people might think twice about matching a max offer to Middleton or Greeen or even Butler, but with the cap about to explode, those “max” offers will soon look puny, so all of the teams are bound to match them.

    I think Batum is a player very comparable to Middleton and just got $46 million. He got matched, but Milwaukee is stacked at the wings and needs a center. If we make our offer at the very beginning of FA, they have to decide whether to use their cap space to match or to pursue a center. They could be very well a destination for Roy Hibbert.

    The Knicks should try to make a $50 million offer at the beginning of FA.

  66. Brian Cronin

    I don’t disagree with that approach, I just don’t think that it is likely to work, because while yes, Milwaukee will likely want to try to sign someone, I imagine that they’ll be telling Middleton beforehand “Let us sign someone first and then we will max you out.” If it doesn’t work out with Middleton, they can just trade him next year. His contract will be affordable enough to net them some serious assets.

    But yes, it is very true that Milwaukee has way too many wings. I just don’t think they’ll risk losing perhaps their best wing.

  67. MBunge

    I cannot believe you have Alonzo Mourning and Brook Lopez only separated by a “/”.

    Mourning was a LOT better than Lopez. However, I think we all appreciate that Mourning was still not on the same level as Ewing or Shaq or Kareem or Olajuwon.

    Is losing 60+ games for two years in a row worth it if all it gets you is somebody like Mourning?

    Mike

  68. Brian Cronin

    Yeah, Mourning was a franchise center for sure. Although it’s fair to note that Miami needed to pair him with the amazing Tim Hardaway to really click.

  69. Farfa

    Yes, but then again, has any single superstar (mind you, I don’t think Mourning was one; but he was a hell of a center. In today’s league he’d be easily top-5) ever done something all by himself? Only example I can think of is Allen Iverson.

    And I was never an AI fan.

  70. MSA

    Those Iverson/Brown 76ers didn’t had many big names and Allen Iverson sure did scored a lot of points for them, but they were a incredibly good and consistent team on defense.

    They were always in the top 5 in DRtg and in my opinion that was much more important than Iverson chucking all those 30 PPG.

    If we gonna stick with Melo (and PJ will), that’s what I would like to see from the Knicks.

  71. Farfa

    Wow, I completely forgot the ’07 Cavs. I don’t like LeBron, but that team was awful apart from him and still reached the Finals.

  72. Farfa

    They were always in the top 5 in DRtg and in my opinion that was much more important than Iverson chucking all those 30 PPG.

    If we gonna stick with Melo (and PJ will), that’s what I would like to see from the Knicks.

    Agreed about the importance of DRtg in those teams. As for Melo/Phil, it would be something I’d like but you’d still need to increase the pace. In modern NBA it’s great to have a very good defense, but open court is essential to grab wins (unless you have two polished post players, a-la Memphis).

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