Roundtable: The Mid-Season Tankies

With the mid-year just passing, we decided to have a little round table on the most relevant topic to New York City basketball: tanking.

Which player is most valuable to his team’s tanking chances?

Kurylo: Josh Smith. Wait what??? His teams were trying to win???

Oh, then this has to be a tie between Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. The pair have combined for 2700 minutes and neither has a TS% above 46%. It’s hard to pick between the two since they hurt (help?) their team in different ways. If you want to get killed under the boards and with low volume scoring, then Noel’s 8.6 REB/36 and 9.6 PTS/36 is perfect. If you want to die from outside and just give the ball away then MCW’s 25.6% 3P% and 4.5 TO/36 will do the trick. And both are young, so you can just play them as many minutes as you want “for development.”

This driver is sure to be the Knicks next GM
This driver is sure to be the Knicks next GM

Fisher-Cohen: It’s not just how bad a player plays that determines his value to an aspiring tanker. It’s the cover he provides. Secretly awful name brand players who GMs can sell as part of some vague plan to “compete” are are the prize possessions of any GM who wants to maximize his ping pong balls but for political reasons, must do so stealthily.

In this sense, Kobe has been my MVT (Most Valuable Tanker). Sentimental fans refuse to give up on the idea that Kobe is still a superstar no matter how bad his numbers are, so despite MVT runner up Michael Carter-Williams being the better in-game tank asset, Bryant’s ability to mask the tank gives him the leg up.

Cronin: Up until this point, I think it was Zach LaVine, who was quite possibly one of the worst starters in the NBA this season. Minnesota lost their starting point guard and basically said, “Eh, I’m sure we can manage to get by with this unprepared rookie” and boy were they wrong. Going forward, with LaVine being replaced by Ricky Rubio and Kobe Bryant on the shelf, I suppose I would have to go with Michael Carter-Williams, who seems to actively enjoy playing for a terrible team so long as he is allowed to shoot as much as he wants to shoot.

Topaz: I’ll go with Kobe, as well, but for a different reason: He’s the highest-paid player in the NBA. Just as top teams find surplus value on cheap contracts, tanking teams benefit from overpaid players who don’t live up to their deals and hamstring the team’s ability to get talent. Whereas Kobe ($23.5 million, #1 in the NBA) shot less than 38 percent from the field taking more than 20 shots a game and then got hurt for the year, the Knicks have actually gotten some actual value out of their secret tank weapon, Amar’e Stoudemire ($23.4 million, #2 in the NBA) on the offensive end.

Ephus: Andrew Wiggins. He started slow and has improved in the last thirty games. Now, he has to show that he can run headlong into the rookie Wall. Minnesota is going to keep running him out there to get as much experience as possible. Could get some 8 point/ 7 turnover nights.

Which team will tank the best (aka win the lottery)?

Kurylo: I have to go with Minnesota. It takes a special kind of tanking ability to play zero defense, and the Twolves are dead last in opposing points per possession and opposing shooting percentage. Who would have thought a team would get worse on defense after getting rid of Kevin Love?

Fisher-Cohen: Minny has the headstart, but it’s hard to see them staying at the bottom now that Kevin Martin, Vucevic and Rubio are all healthy. It’s tempting to write off Philly’s chances as well since after losing its first 17 games, they have gone 10-22, but even in the last 32 games, Philly’s point differential is -10.0.

Were it not for my lack of trust in Jackson and Anthony, I would pick the Knicks. Minus Melo, the boys in blue have a net rating of -13.5, but the Knicks’ recent decisions to play Melo big minutes alongside veteran 10 day contract players suggests that they don’t take this competition seriously. My pick: the 76ers.

Cat + Sports Blog = Win the Internet
Cat + Sports Blog = Win the Internet

Cronin: Minnesota certainly seems to have the pole position, but it does seem hard to believe that they’ll continue to lose quite this much once their team is healthy (which is why I keep expecting to see a “oops, Vucevic ‘re-injured’ himself in a freak accident that also ‘injured’ Gorgui Dieng” story out of Minnesota). I think I would give the Lakers the best odds. Their coach was terrible when he was ostensibly trying to win, if he actively tries to lose they should be exceptionally bad and they play in the harder conference, so it is easier for them to rack up losses. That said, I think the team that will be the best at actually tanking will be the Celtics. They will be the best at trying to lose (Danny Ainge is an old pro at this) – they just have too much room to make up, so I don’t think they’ll ultimately “win” the race to the bottom.

Topaz: The Sixers are probably the right pick, because A) they’re just a game behind the Wolves for worst record and B) more importantly, they are the most committed team to tanking in the NBA. Sam Hinkie is in the early stages of executing his grand tanking plan horror show, and unlike several other teams, the Sixers won’t let sentimentality or dignity get in the way of losing games.

Having said that … this nifty graphic shows the remaining strength of schedule for every team, and the Wolves — they of the league’s worst record — also have the toughest remaining schedule. I’m sticking with the Sixers because they have less talent and more of a tanking mandate, but the Wolves aren’t a bad pick, either.

Ephus: The Knicks. Once Melo sits, this team will be lucky to win three more games.

What team is hurting their chances at tanking?

Kurylo: When tanking, you want a player that has a TS% under 48% taking as many shots as possible. And when that same guy has a usage of 34.8 it’s nearly a perfect synergy of tankidity (tankitude? tankishness?). Unfortunately Kobe Bryant got hurt, and now the Lakers will turn to better scorers like Nick Young, Carlos Boozer, and Jeremy Lin, all near the league average in scoring efficiency. This is not a time for them to make an uptick toward mediocrity. They really needed Kobe on the court, and this injury will certainly hurt their chances at a decent pick.

Fisher-Cohen: I’m going to go with Indiana. If any team had a chance to make this a 96/97 Spurs season, it was the Pacers, who lost far and away their best player and really would have had nothing to lose by just blowing it up. Like they did with the Knicks, the gods blessed the Pacers with early injuries, removing all doubt that this was a lost season. Both Hibbert and West are good enough that a fringe contender would have gambled on them, yet the Pacers defied the will of the gods and instead chose to gamble the future of their franchise on finding a second elite player in the mid/late lottery, a once a decade type occurrence.

Cronin: I agree with Max. The Pacers really ought to be tanking, but they’re actively trying to make the playoffs, and obviously such a move hurts their chances at tanking.

Topaz: Let’s see … which team has a top-20 player by PER inexplicably playing heavy minutes on a knee that needs surgery and on the first year of a massive five-year contract? And what player scored an average of 29 points in 37 minutes in two recent wins against prime tanking opponents, the Sixers and Nets? The Knicks and Carmelo Anthony refusing to cede this year amounts to the biggest self-inflicted wound in the tanking sweepstakes, by far.

Ephus: Sacramento. They did all their damage early in the season, when they had Malone as their coach and Boogie Cousins was playing like an MVP. They fixed it by firing Malone, bringing in Ty Corbin and have played like veterans of the lottery.

Meep! Meep!
Meep! Meep!

What move could an outside (dark horse) team do to tank more?

Kurylo: Honestly I spent about 20 minutes trying to find a team other than the Knicks. And I’m all out of alternate ideas. It has to be shutting down Carmelo Anthony and playing Jason Smith as much as humanly possible. It’s painful as a Knick fan to suggest such torture (especially when I’ll be the one watching the games), but much like a vaccination shot – one dose of short term pain will make the payoff well worth it.

Fisher-Cohen: When you take health into account, Orlando is a pretty talented team relative to other bottom dwellers. They just have the same problem as the Knicks: no one can defend a lick, and it’s only gotten worse (114.8 defensive rating over their last 9, 15 losses in the last 17 games). Unlike Minnesota, they have no injured difference-makers waiting in the wings. Unlike the Knicks, they don’t have a star who cares more about playing in the All-Star game than his health or his team’s future.

If the Magic trade Tobias Harris (but please not to the Knicks!) and they let Jacque Vaughn continue to bumble his way through the season, Orlando has a real chance to be starting twin towers next season: Okafor and Vucevic. Their defense will still suck though.

Cronin: Orlando is definitely my pick for a dark horse tanking team. They could easily get into the mix if they start sitting some of their better players. The biggest argument against them tanking, though, is that they are apparently preparing to replace Jacque Vaughn as coach, and you tend not to bring in a coach just to tell him to tank. It is typically much easier to just have the outgoing coach do that.

Topaz: The Nuggets are one Ty Lawson ankle injury away — an injury that would derail my Knickerblogger fantasy basketball team as I struggle to close the gap with a seemingly immovable Gibberman in first place — from making a late-season play for tanking relevancy. The team is 1-9 in its last ten, has pretty clearly quit on its coach, and is completely directionless in an outrageously tough conference. They’re too far out to finish with the worst record, but they could easily leapfrog several teams in their way — Sacramento, Utah, Detroit — if things continue to get worse and/or the oft-injured Lawson is forced out for an extended period of time.

Ephus: I’m going with the Kings again. DeMarcus Cousins may kill Rudy Gay during the post-ASG run. Neither gives a single damn about defense at this point. Each will point the finger at the other. Boogie is much bigger. If not for the 17 wins they already accumulated, I would have them as odds-on favorites.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of KnickerBlogger.net. His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

67 thoughts to “Roundtable: The Mid-Season Tankies”

  1. Hey guys, Minny’s starting center is Nikola Pekovic ;-)

    Jokes aside, I liked this article very much. More roundtables in this dreary, boring season!

  2. I am surprised no one has mentioned Utah as a dark horse tanking candidate. They have their actual #1 pick, plus their own #2 pick and two more second round picks.

    I would have thought Miami ought to consider tanking this season, but they have played too well and are actually in the playoffs as of today. Given the number of bad teams in the league, I think they have no chance a really good draft pick.

  3. There’s also no enough love in this column for Tony Wrotten. Noel has had a disappointing year, but the tank in Philly runs on Wrotten. Noel has an awful TS%, but he doesn’t shoot that often. Tony has a somewhat less awful TS, but boy does he shoot.

  4. The Lakers, Kings, and Heat all have draft-considerations in their tanking process.

    The Lakers need to land in the top 5 in the lottery to keep their pick from going to Phoenix (The tank is on!)

    The Kings need to land in the top 10 to keep their pick from going to Chicago. (Hard to tell what the heck Sacramento is thinking).

    The Heat need to land in the top 10 to keep their pick from going to Philadelphia. (That would be an epic tank, but it is Riley, so who knows).

  5. Hey guys, Minny’s starting center is Nikola Pekovic ;-)

    ACK! My bad. Answered that question after the dark horse question, so Vucevic was in my head.

  6. “Noel has had a disappointing year”
    Boy, The Sixers’ plan is a looonnnnggg-term plan. Noel shows promise but isn’t likely to be really good for a couple more years, Embiid might be an impact player next year but more likely not until at least the following year, the European guy probably isn’t coming over for a couple years… I wonder (a) if they are going to even try to be good next year or if they will happily stink again and (b) how many consecutive years of 15 wins the fan base will tolerate. Maybe it’s the “right” way to build a team but it must be really tough for fans to take.

  7. Why is it the right way to build a team? Has a franchise that has historically stunk/tank multiple years in a row ever built themselves into a championship team?

    We all know the odds of getting the next Lebron or Durant are always slim. NO got Anthony Davis and sure they are better than they were before they got him and everyone would love to have that player on their team, but they are hardly a championship contender team. They aren’t even a playoff team.

    The problem with “tanking” is that when players play for losing teams, especially young players, they get frustrated, they stop working on their game, they become apathetic. And even if they do get better and become quality NBA players or even All Stars, by the time their first contract is up, they are very likely to want to leave the team that drafted them because they are sick of losing. I know the new CBA makes it much more attractive for a player to stick with their team, but I think if you played multiple years for a team as bad as Philly, you’d have to really only be in it for the money to stay with that team.

    I think there is a difference between tanking one season and a multiple tank season strategy. Its one thing to have you team be bad or have a major injury go down and decide to throw in the towel for a higher lottery pick vs. actively pursuing a multi year tank strategy. Sure, the draft is a great way to get young players for cheap but its still not the only way to build a team. If the only time you are actively trying to make your team better is on draft day, you aren’t doing your job as a GM. I mean, at what point do you stop tanking? How many young potential players do you collect before you start to, you know, make that team good?

  8. Maybe it’s the “right” way to build a team but it must be really tough for fans to take.

    I don’t even think it’s the right way to build a team. As much as I am pro-tanking, if you’re not doing your best to win games for more than a year you risk losing too many guys (at least as trade assets). MCW is already seen as damaged goods around the league (and for good reason, might I say. I liked him a lot last year, he was a fearless rookie who happened to shoot very, very badly. This season he’s making many more stupid mistakes and, if possible, shoots even worse). Noel is probably a good player but has stone hands, and right now he reminds me of Kwame Brown, if Brown could jump more. If I was a Philly fan, I’d be on board with this tanking season, but next year needs to be the first where they make something, a free agent signing, anything that goes towards respectability.

  9. Why is it the right way to build a team? Has a franchise that has historically stunk/tank multiple years in a row ever built themselves into a championship team?

    The only one I can think of is OKC, and even that was, I’d say, extremely lucky.
    If Portland had taken Durant, OKC would have taken Oden, and the whole thing would’ve been a disaster.

    Honestly, the only sure way to contention is to have superstars (and supporting players!) agree to play for way under their market value. While building through the draft is what everyone wants to do, even the best GMs totally swing and miss.

  10. If I was a Philly fan, I’d be on board with this tanking season, but next year needs to be the first where they make something, a free agent signing, anything that goes towards respectability.

    I understand that most players will go where the most $ is, but given all the cap space out there this summer, what prominent player wants to go to Philly (ie. over New York or LA, or even Boston) to play for a team that hasn’t shown any desire to win? And whose probable best players (Embiid, Saric) haven’t even played a minute in the NBA? If I’m Hinkie, how do I even sell that there’s a real institutional drive to win?

  11. As much as I am pro-tanking, if you’re not doing your best to win games for more than a year you risk losing too many guys (at least as trade assets). MCW is already seen as damaged goods around the league (and for good reason, might I say. I liked him a lot last year, he was a fearless rookie who happened to shoot very, very badly. This season he’s making many more stupid mistakes and, if possible, shoots even worse).

    I definitely agree that the Sixers plan is very questionable, particularly as it relates to developing young players like MCW, who have been put in a really unfair situation. But on MCW for a moment, I’m not so convinced that it’s the tanking — are we sure he’s not just really overrated? He was the 11th pick in one of the worst draft lotteries in history. At Syracuse, he was also a really bad shooter (under 40 percent his last year) and really turnover-prone (4 turnovers per 40 minutes). On/off numbers indicate the Sixers are much better offensively with him off the court. Obviously, it’s an unknowable question, but it seems like he got too much credit for A) having his draft place inflated in a bad draft, B) putting up big volume numbers at Syracuse and in a fast-paced offense in Philly last year, C) having his surprisingly good first half last year.

  12. NO got Anthony Davis and sure they are better than they were before they got him and everyone would love to have that player on their team, but they are hardly a championship contender team. They aren’t even a playoff team.

    This is the problem-NO got a kid who at 21 might already be the best player in the NBA. They got him because they were a poorly run team. However, because they are a poorly run team, they’ve continued making poor decisions. Even though they have perhaps the most valuable single asset in the league they might not make the playoffs because he’s surrounded by mediocrities (although they still have a chance to make the playoffs, because AD is freaking ridiculous) The theory behind the Philly plan is to be like NO, but not be stupid. You still need some luck, but who knows-in 2 years Philly might be trading for Anthony Davis instead of building through the draft. Aside from being well run and trying to maintain some roster flexibility (and this is not exactly breaking news) there really is no one best way to build a team.

  13. If I’m Hinkie, how do I even sell that there’s a real institutional drive to win?

    Yeah it’s hard, but he could try with the Colangelo way in Toronto in ’06. Bring here european veterans, even overpaying them (or American players who are Euroleague standouts). Or just get some hard-working guys who fly a bit under the radar. Anyway, he pigeonholed himself in that place.

  14. I think that what some of you call “tanking” can also be called “rebuilding”. Tanking implies the team is trying to lose games. I don’t think this happens. The players play to win, and they’re not turning the ball over on purpose or missing free throws for the fun of it. More often, young players are given playing time over veterans because it is in the long-term health of the organization to do so, and that results in bad basketball at times.

    Some rebuilds take longer than others. Some is based on luck. Some is based on just how bad a team’s situation is. Very few teams can turn it around in 1 or 2 years.

    The important thing, I think, is not so much to luck into a once-in-a-generation #1 talent. That can’t be controlled. What can be controlled is committing to a 3 year strategy of holding onto draft picks while at the same time trying to build a system that can win basketball games. This is what the Sonics did. They were a rising team that had flaws (mostly defensive) and peaked out at 52 wins. They had two stars (Allen and Lewis) and had to decide whether to resign Lewis for max money or let him walk for nothing. They decided to let both stars go, get a #5 pick in exchange for Allen, and commit to a 3 year plan. They held onto their lottery picks, and at the end of the 3 years they were a 50 win team again. Yes, they got lucky with Durant, but it was a clear and achievable plan that allowed them to get lucky.

    The current Golden state team is another example. They spent 4 years holding onto their draft picks. None of them were in the top 6. Now they are all starters on a really good team.

    The key to rebuilding is holding onto picks, committing to 3 years, and letting them grow into their primes together. There is no 1-2 year quick fix without a great deal of dumb-luck. Teams that bank on dumb luck tend not to be lucky, but just plain dumb.

  15. So as a fan if you were offered a 1 in 25 chance of winning a championship in the next 5 years, or a 1 in 4 chance of making the playoffs every year but not getting any further than the conference finals, which would you choose? I’d probably go for the latter, but that may have more to do with being a playoff-deprived Knicks fan than any kind of logic.

  16. But on MCW for a moment, I’m not so convinced that it’s the tanking — are we sure he’s not just really overrated?

    I’d say yes. I’d say he’s definitely overrated (pointz boardz and stealz against Miami in his debut tend to work, for that matter). But you can work around his deficiencies in a good team. His defense could be passable, and he has looooong arms which are always a plus. He won’t be a full Rondo or a Kidd, but even a poor man’s Rondo is a good value as a #11 pick in a weak draft. Thing is, I think Rondo became a good player having those veterans around him.

  17. The players play to win, and they’re not turning the ball over on purpose or missing free throws for the fun of it. More often, young players are given playing time over veterans because it is in the long-term health of the organization to do so, and that results in bad basketball at times.

    I’d say Tony Wroten is a pretty much known quantity at this point. So if you give 30 minutes per night to Wroten, well that’s tanking. Wroten is not developable. Noel is. Covington is. Jerami Grant is. MCW could be (doubtful; he seems to be regressing and he’s not that young).

    Teams tank everyday. It’s a good strategy in the right year. But then again, you can tank right or wrong. And that’s 50% luck and 50% development. I’d say Brett Brown is doing a good job in Philadelphia, but how can you teach something to your young talents when you’re effectively saying “Hey, thanks for sucking! Suck just a little bit more”? That’s why the addition of Mbah-a-Moute was important: here is a limited veteran who stays in the league because he doesn’t do what he can’t, and played a handful of playoff games. Here’s your example.

    On the luck part: Golden State thought they struck gold when they tanked to keep their pick (Harrison Barnes, a good player but as of now their 6th most important player at best). But would you tank for a marginal starter?

    Here in my country there’s a saying that, more or less, translates to “Being wrong makes you learn”, and that’s true, but only if your intention was to be right. If you’re wrong by choice, you don’t learn anything.

  18. So as a fan if you were offered a 1 in 25 chance of winning a championship in the next 5 years, or a 1 in 4 chance of making the playoffs every year but not getting any further than the conference finals, which would you choose? I’d probably go for the latter, but that may have more to do with being a playoff-deprived Knicks fan than any kind of logic.

    I’d go for the first, even if sheer stupid crude math would say the first thing’s theoretical probability is more likely than your proposal, while the second’s theoretical probability is much less likely than your proposal. Every year there is a 1 in 30 chance of winning a championship (all things equal, which they’re not, but bear with me). So the chance of winning at least a championship in the next 5 years is 15.59%. But doing the playoffs every year (chance of making playoffs: 8 in 15 in the equal-things scenario) has a chance of 4.32%, if you can believe this. Essentially, your first proposal would make things 3 times less likely than theoretical probability, while your second proposal would make things 6 times more likely than theoretical probability.

    It’s obvious these percentages mean absolutely nothing because teams’ chances are not equal, but these numbers make you appreciate more the staggering continuity of the Spurs.

  19. I think that what some of you call “tanking” can also be called “rebuilding”. Tanking implies the team is trying to lose games. I don’t think this happens. The players play to win, and they’re not turning the ball over on purpose or missing free throws for the fun of it. More often, young players are given playing time over veterans because it is in the long-term health of the organization to do so, and that results in bad basketball at times.

    Donnie Walsh – there are some really stark examples of true tanking. Golden State started pointing some awful lineups on the court in the Spring of 2012 to make certain they kept a Top 8 protected pick. Boston (under Doc Rivers) lost 15 games in a row in 2006-07 in an attempt to get Oden or Durant.

  20. Did Philly win a game this year without MCW? I’d love to see their record with / without him in the lineup. His shooting and TO’s are obviously awful but I’m not sure he’s that great for tanking.

  21. There are plenty of examples of tanking.

    I would say that all of them are on coaches and general managers.

    I really don’t belive that 12 players will lose on purpose and even that a coach will call timeout and say “hey guys, let’s commit some turnovers!”

    Coaches will just cut some minutes from their best players and GMs will sign a bunch of scrubs to make it happen.

  22. Who was the player (who regularly played significant minutes) on the Celtics (I think) who, after being asked about why he didn’t play in a game late in the season a bunch of years ago, responded with something like, “I understand that we have to get as many ping pong balls as possible?”

  23. Right. The decision comes from above, but it doesn’t trickle down to the players. They play to win, not to look like idiots for a franchise they’re probably not even going to be with after the pong pong balls are drawn.

  24. Players never tank.

    Coaches on the hot seat are unlikely to tank.

    Coaches with job security and GMs will tank opportunistically. (Keep strong players on bench to play 32 yo D-Leaguers).

  25. I think it’s different, also, to lose a few games on the margins in order to keep from losing a draft pick, than tanking the better part of a season in order to get ping pong balls.

  26. Players on tanking teams don’t play to win. They try to play well because it will get them paid in the future

  27. Nerlens Noel is completely clueless on offense, but he is a difference maker on the defensive end, even considering his sub-par rebounding. Noel is 8th in the NBA in DBPM (Defensive Box Plus-Minus), which is not a garbage stat. The guys that rank ahead of him are guys like Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan, Tony Allen and DeAndre Jordan. Noel gets blocks and steals, and is already a fine pick-and-roll defender.

    So overall I don’t think Noel generates quite as many ping pong balls as people might think.

  28. Did any of you see the game last night? How was that effort NOT tanking? Anthony was sleepwalking out there. I think that when you strip a team of it’s (perceived) weapons the players that remain start to shut down mentally. The free agents to be start padding their stats. The stars that will stay on try to avoid injury. So while the players are not the ones to make the call about whether they’re tanking or not, they are the ones that implement the plan (whether they know it or not).

  29. Nerlens Noel is completely clueless on offense, but he is a difference maker on the defensive end, even considering his sub-par rebounding. Noel is 8th in the NBA in DBPM (Defensive Box Plus-Minus), which is not a garbage stat. The guys that rank ahead of him are guys like Joakim Noah, Tim Duncan, Tony Allen and DeAndre Jordan. Noel gets blocks and steals, and is already a fine pick-and-roll defender.

    So overall I don’t think Noel generates quite as many ping pong balls as people might think.

    He does rate dead last in offensive real +/- so even if you view real +/- with a serious grain of salt I’m pretty sure he’s still pulling his weight in the ping pong ball department. Right behind him in offensive futility? New York’s finest- Sam Dalembert and Cole Aldrich! And if you’re worried that New York has undermined their own tank by waiving Sam and dropping Cole out of the rotation, Lance Thomas comes in at 464 out of 468 (Dion Waiters is between he and Cole so you know rpm is doing something right) and Quincy Acy is at 459- just one spot above Josh Smith.

  30. When I was in college (decades ago), I learned in my political science classes that one of the hallmarks of a well-run organization was that the incentives of the individual members of the organization aligned with the incentives for the organization. When a team is trying to maximize wins, that happens to a greater extent. There are some players who have to sacrifice their individual stats (and potentially $$ on their next contract) in order for the team to win. But, by and large, each player is expected to put out maximum effort in pursuit of victory and victory will bring financial rewards.

    When a team wants to tank, the incentive structure gets all screwed up. A player still wants to work hard in order to stay in the league and maximize the next contract. But the player will want to maximize individual stats to put the case forward to other teams. And the team will not want to play guys who are contributing to victory. So minutes get awarded to slackers and limited players.

    There are also players who will become dispirited if the team is tanking, but I find that hard to separate from become dispirited because the team is losing (even if they are trying to win). For example, the Knicks had no reason to tank last year, but it was pretty clear that Tyson Chandler was totally dispirited by the end of the season.

  31. Boston (under Doc Rivers) lost 15 games in a row in 2006-07 in an attempt to get Oden or Durant.

    Looks like they actually lost 18 games in a row! But was that a tank job? They followed up that skid with a 4 game winning streak, and ended the season going 11-16 which isn’t the way a tanking team wants to go out, right? (And then they won the championship 12 months later, so they were building some kind of a winning system through it all).

    But the point is that losing on purpose to garner ping pin balls isn’t the way to go. If Boston did lose 18 games in a row on purpose, it only netted them the #5 pick– a player that was a far cry from the franchise changing talent that was at the top of that draft.

  32. It seems that the art of putting the right pieces together has given way to getting the best players you can sign. This has been a knicks problem for some time. The knicks look to sign players with no regard to synergy and balance. The Melo signing is a great example of that. How’d that work out? Bargnani is another example.
    In the old days, if the knicks were overloaded at a position and it wasn’t working, they didn’t try to force it. Out with Walt Bellamy, In with Dave Debusschere. Out with Bill Cartwright, in with Charles Oakley.

    To some extent, that’s what Phil claims to be doing, though his plan may revolve more around getting players for the system, rather than a balance of players for a team.

  33. To build an elite team, for starters, you need a great master plan. . . and stick to it. If you just create cap space and run out to sign whatever “best” FA you can, you’re going to have a hodgepodge of a team that won’t play well. Then, if you hire a coach with a predetermined style that doesn’t fit the roster, you got a real mess. Fans will think the players suck. The team trades their “suck” players cheap and then the suck players become good contributors on other teams.
    That’s exactly what the knicks do. Tyson Chandler is a prime example.

    Secondly, you need a good foundation of players. If you turnover the bulk of your roster every year, I don’t care who’s on the team, they’re not going to compete at the highest level. That’s another knicks problem (associated with thinking the players suck).

    And, not least important, you need a smart organization with a winning culture that hires great management and coaches. It’s tough to trade the owner, but it JD keeps hands off, it’s not his fault anymore. However, if Big Chief Triangle continues to blunder, at some point (year 3?), you got to consider showing him the exit.

  34. I think all this black and white tanking talk misses the point. Sometimes it makes sense to tank and sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on which city you are in, what your fan base is like, what your team looks like now etc…

    IMO the main consideration for a rebuild is the value of the contracts you have on the team right now.

    The idea is to get rid of all “bad value” contracts and slowly accumulate “good value” assets (players or picks). Then as you accumulate “good value” assets, you try to roll them up in better players with good value contracts. The only time you should ever take on a bad value contract is if you are getting rid of an even worse value contract or you believe the player is the final piece to the puzzle.

    Right now the Knicks have several bad value contracts.

    Amare, Bargnani, and Jason Smith will be expiring. There is no reason to do anything with them UNLESS you can actually get good value long term assets back for any of them (which seems impossible).

    Some would argue that Calderon’s contract is a bad value, but I disagree. He’s had a mediocre first half, but he’s just rounding into form now. IMO he will prove to be worth 7M. We’ll be able to move him if we want. The only questions are whether he fits and whether we can get a better value now or next year if we trade him.

    IMO, Melo is a bad value, but if Jackson can somehow get through to him in a way that Karl, D’Antoni, Woodson, and Fisher haven’t been able to so far, this could still work out. The difference between the Melo we have and a Melo we can be happy with is mostly shot selection. That’s not much. He has the skills to be a better playmaker, but he chooses to take bad shots. Stop that, and we are fine.

  35. You should take a bad value contract if you have cap space and receive pick (s) or young players also.

    In fact, that’s what a lot of teams that had some sort of success rebuilding did.

  36. I agree, but that approach doesn’t work with having Melo on a five-year mega max deal, so that’s not the approach they’re going to take.

  37. You should take a bad value contract if you have cap space and receive pick (s) or young players also. In fact, that’s what a lot of teams that had some sort of success rebuilding did.

    Only if the net of it is very positive and the contract will be gone quickly.

  38. Oh man, Melo ruined Syracuse, too? ;)

    It can be a new meme – “Oh man, Syracuse scandal? Thanks, Melo.”

  39. Going into the season, and even 17 games in, the Sixers were a lock to get the #1 tank seed, and perhaps on their way to the all-time worst record. Since they started 0-17, they’ve been on an 11-22 tear, and Noel and MCW have both had something to do with that resurgence. It the 11 wins, Noel has had a TS% of 51%. Same with MCW.

    They’re not winning players right now, but they have been making a difference in leading them to, get this, A BETTER RECORD THAN THE KNICKS!!!

    So, if you were to judge by wins vs. expectations, the Knicks clearly have had
    the most tanktastic players.

  40. Wilt Whiteside just made the WP48 machine tilt.

    Yeesh. Wtf.

    The Heat should think about trading Bosh. If they’re getting this kind of production from the forward spot for 1/100th of the price, they should get relief while Bosh still has value.

    (…and, of course, Riley’s first call should be to Phil)

  41. You’re 100% right Donnie. But if Melo had no NTC I’d rather have him than Bosh. That contact is an albatross. Bosh is a-maybe-15 to 20 F/C on a top 10 player in the NBA contract. As much as I hate Melo I’d rather have him next year.

  42. But DRed, Bosh has two ringzz while Melo has none! He would certainly be more attractive for prospective free agents!

  43. Wouldn’t it be wiser from a team building perspective for Miami to try and move Wade? Bosh might be overpaid but he is still healthy and productive. You are always going to overpay for at least one of your starters if you’re serious about being a contender. Why deplete the front court when they are having success with Whiteside and Bosh when the real weakness for them is the backcourt and Wade is much more in decline than Bosh?

    This is my issue with the people who are overly obsessed with salary and “value” of players. Thinking that way tends to look at players only as assets rather than basketball players. Bosh and Whiteside is a very good front court. Sure Bosh is overpaid but so are many players in the NBA and Bosh is still productive. I guess its a mute point bc Wade is probably never getting traded, but if I’m looking at it from a team building perspective and not just a getting the most value per contract perspective, I’d rather fix Miami’s backcourt than trade Bosh and have to find another good Center/PF for the front court.

  44. Without having watched too much college basketball, these feels to me like one of those drafts where having the top pick is bad. Most of the time there is a hyped big man at the top, teams feel obligated to take them. That’s great when you get Shaq or Anthony Davis, but more often you end up with Bowie, Olawakandi, or Hasheem Thabeet.

    Does anyone think Jahlil Okafor is the next Anthony Davis? Because it sure seems like it’s more a hopeful thing with him. He just seems like one of those big guys destined to max out as above-average.

    The Knicksiest way for this to end is for us to get the top pick, take Okafor, and he turns out to be as good as Theo Ratliff or Emeka Okafor, and someone drafts an all star point guard or wingman with the 3rd or 4th pick. Or get the 2nd pick, take the other big guy, and he turns out to be Thabeet.

  45. Bosh might be overpaid but he is still healthy and productive

    He’s certainly healthy.

    Does anyone think Jahlil Okafor is the next Anthony Davis?

    No, he’s got no chance of being the next Anthony Davis or the next Tim Duncan. But neither of those dudes could score like Jahlil Okafor in college. So, I dunno. He’s certainly a reasonable #1 pick at this point, and he’s got a ton of potential, but he is a bit of an odd player, so I get when you’re coming from about not wanting the top pick.

  46. My fear with Okafor (other than that he turns out to be no better than Emeka) is that even the most glowing scouting reports about him include the caveat that he is “not an elite athlete” and that he “doesn’t move particularly well laterally.” Unless a guy has an extraordinary natural sense of space on defense and an extraordinary defensive IQ (neither of which even his most ardent supporters claim that Okafor has), doesn’t an NBA center need one or both of those things to be even a decent defensive player?

  47. The fact that everyone is saying he’s just average at defense scares the bejeezes out of me. Ratliff and Okafor were poor comps on my part. Maybe Sharif Abdur-Rahim?? I’d rather lay back and grab a stud wing/PG if there is one. In an ideal world we could trade down and get more picks, but no one does that. Besides, it’s etched in NBA stone that you have to take the big guy at #1 and if there are glaring warning signs (like he doesn’t block shots or have strong DReb numbers) you need to ignore them because you can’t teach size.

  48. Now that the Knicks are in the pole position for worst record at the ASG and Carmelo has confirmed he will not play post-ASG, I will take an entirely pre-mature THCJ-like victory lap as the only member of this round table who believed in the Knicks’ destiny to be worst in 2015.

  49. This is one of those times when I’m thrilled to be wrong.

    By the way, Boston has, instead of tanking, gone the other direction and now looks like they might compete for the #8 seed!!!

  50. Boston’s got a pretty decent team. It would pretty tough for them to tank without at least faking some injuries.

  51. Smart, Zeller, Crowder, Sullinger-those are all solid players. Even Evan Turner has been okay. Avery Bradley is awful, but the rest of the guys who get minutes are at worst only kinda bad. In the Leastern Conference, that’s playoff caliber for sure.

  52. They’ve been using Turner as more of a strict forward, and it has sort of kind of still worked, especially since 3s are so small nowadays (hell, the Knicks are starting THJ as their three!) but yeah, he still doesn’t know how to score. Did you see his game-winning bucket the other day? It was like a blind squirrel finding a nut!

  53. 3s are so small nowadays (hell, the Knicks are starting THJ as their three!)

    According to Phil Jackson Hardaway is 6’8″, remember?

  54. In a very twisted way, I’m so happy we lost so many games at the beginning of the season. The bottom quarter of the playoff picture in the East is so open, even Orlando can’t be counted out. I don’t believe for a second that if we were, say, 20-33 (we lost so many winnable games in the first 30 games, it’s not that big a stretch) we wouldn’t be doing something stupid like trading a first round pick and a young player for Wilson Chandler. Thankfully, bottoming out at the start prevented us from such typical Knicks behaviour. It’s incredible but we should really be grate to the grandiose ineptitude Fisher displayed in the first half of the season.

  55. Since Melo is not going to play after the ASG, I think it makes sense to get some run for Thanasis. If he is ready to play, great. If he is not, it will show him what he needs to work on. The fans will not get on his case for his failures, at least this season.

  56. According to Phil Jackson Hardaway is 6’8?, remember?

    Yeah! And all Bargs needs is to learn a crossover dribble, right? In related news and speaking of inches, from the waist down I’m the second coming of John Holmes.

  57. According to Phil Jackson Hardaway is 6’8?, remember?

    That was just the most bizarre thing. And I love that he was never called out on it.

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