The tanking, from Tim Duncan to Zion: solution or catastrophe?

More and more teams are trying to accelerate their reconstruction processes and the NBA is looking for solutions. But is tanking really useful?


The tanking or being bad as a virtue. At the end of the corridor, is bad as a goal and, therefore, a problem in essence for any competition. The question is how much and to what extent. And in that has been the NBA in recent times, which until a year ago had not passed the mouthpiece reprimand because it exists, the tanking has always existed. There are cases to be boring in practically any franchise and, in fact, in any competition with a draft model that (and it has to be that way, the matter is in the nuances and the proportions) distribute the best talent of the universities among the most people in need. The Spurs, the exemplary franchise of the last two decades, a miracle in motion in the history of sports, took advantage of the injuries (David Robinson, Sean Elliott) to, with Gregg Popovich recently arrived on the bench, let go of 62 with which he bought many lottery tickets: they got a number 1 that was the fat one for Christmas and the Euromillion, all in one: Tim Duncan.

But for every Pops-Timmy marriage there are a million races to nowhere, dreams that are always around the corner and projects in eternal suspense, always a couple of years from. From there, the certainty that the candy is poisoned, we must add another fact that is often overlooked: teams do not play to lose, coaches do not train to lose although sometimes they accept suggestions in making decisions or follow plans thinking about a medium and long term that help build but that surely will not be part. After all, it is about accepting the production of results that will essentially serve to justify your dismissal. The tanking, the truth, orchestra in the offices with formulas to leave the team in a position to earn very little for much effort to be made: injury management, transfers, rotation adjustments ...

An obvious example of all this are the Mavericks, who went from beating the playoffs to sink to the last positions in the league, and a quintet Dennis Smith-Wesley Matthews-Luka Doncic-Harrison Barnes-DeAndre Jordan to the current (with injured Doncic and the other pierced) with Jalen Brunson-Courtney Lee-Justin Jackson-Dirk Nowitzki-Dwight Powell. 17 defeats in 20 games have brought them closer to the ideal scenario for executives and, surely, for the franchise: get out of the draft lottery with a pick in the top 5. If it falls further down, it will be the Hawks for the exchange Doncic-Trae Young But the Mavs have not stopped trying to win games on the track, and with that quintet they just beat Thunder and Sixers, two playoff teams. Some more victory would reduce their chances of top-five in the hype that defines the draft ... but, of course, teams do not play to lose. With little interest sometimes yes, although there are always contracts that end, others to sign or statistics to ensure, in the worst case.

Last year, all alarms jumped at the door of a draft that promised to be historic and that he's not disappointing (DeAndre Ayton, Marvin Bagley, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Jaren Jackson, Wendell Carter ... and many more, actually). Then, he outdid the All Star Weekend with eight teams in 20 wins or less. It was also the route to the last lottery with the traditional probabilistic system. And this (May 14) will be the first with the new distribution of options, thought to prevent the fight to be the worst is reduced to a fight for being one of the worst: the worst team, for example, now passes a 25 to 14% of options to take the number 1, from 64 to 40 to have a top 3 and his most likely pick goes from 2.6 average to 3.7. And the next two will have the same options as the worst in relation to the picks 1, 2, 3 and 4. And the fifth by the tail will have a 10.5% chance of winning 1, only 3.5% less now that the last.

This reform, in any case a revolution and whose effect has been little visible this season, was approved after having to convince some franchises, not interested in principle because they finally know that everyone can be seen in the worst the situations and when it touches reconstruction, it touches reconstruction. And these start with draft elections ... or in the pick market. And this year, of course, is one of those in which from the number 1 to 2 there is a chasm. In the media, in the economic, in the social a priori also in sports: number 1 of the draft of 2019 will be Zion Williamson.

Circumstantial process ... or industrialized

This new formula, which was born with detractors and a few suggested amendments , it was not meant to end the tanking, it is not radical enough, but it does discourage enough to avoid planstoo industrial. On the one hand there are teams that the reality of the season will always end up taking there, for injuries and sports problems of all kinds. You only have to see, to each in its measure, how things have gone this season to Lakers, Wizards or Grizzlies. But also, more and more, there are others who since the previous summer plan the season with an eye on the next draft: this time Knicks, Cavaliers, Bulls or Hawks. The new contractual formulas of the last collective agreement, in addition, increase the importance of having the great talents from rookies; In the global world there are still very unattractive markets for free agents and in recent times it is trying to acortar desert crossings and avoid the temperate zone of the NBA with formulas increasingly short-term. And many times is not the way.

Pongamos the very well sold in the mediatic process of the Sixers, who went into demolition because they got tired of being in what they ended up looking like the no man's land of the East. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are like to be satisfied, risks related to health included, but along the way were Markelle Fultz (number 1 who cost an extra first round), Jahlil Okafor (number 3), Michael Carter-Williams ( 11) or an adjustment to take Nerlens Noel (number 6) that cost a pick which was then Elfrid Payton (number 10) and Jrue Holiday. The best reconstructions, in fact, have more to do with how and when the previous cycle ends, the more tricky the more successful it has been. And you only have to see the paths of Lakers and Celtics since they met in the Finals of 2010. The seconds have been relevant much faster by his management of the end of the Ubuntu project (Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and the Nets as allies). The Lakers, with the verdict of the LeBron era in dangerous suspense after a horrible year, ended up kneading young talent after suffering the unspeakable since the transfer was twisted by Chris Paul in which they were going to leave Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. All that talent, you have to remember too, would have been packaged to New Orleans if the Pelicans had given their yes to the Anthony Davis operation. Something similar can happen in a few months with the young base of the Celtics.

In the 2011-12 season, shortened by lockout, there were eight below 35.3% wins, the full-season equivalent to 29 wins. Normally, SB Nation compiles data, there are no more than four or five franchises below 30 wins in the same season. This time it will be five or six depending on the Hawks (they have 28). So the thick numbers have hardly changed. A year ago, in addition, the NBA imposed on Mark Cuban the third highest fine in history ($ 600,000) for saying that the best for the Mavericks (who ended with Luka Doncic on board), reached the point where they were, It was losing the greatest number of games. Then the Texan franchise came the great scandal of its poisonous work environment and that matter was in a girlie. Now, and as almost always after the All Star break, the frontal accumulation of defeats and the evident aroma of planning (quintets, rotations ...) have become topics of jokes and debate. And that, obviously, is what the NBA does not like. That much talk of tanking ends up looking, ultimately, worse than the tanking itself.

Ways to lose ... and ways to sell it

The draft, for many teams, ends up appearing as an obvious solution, so much that it often ends up appearing the only solution. But it is not a magical shortcut and many times the degradation of the culture of a franchise that entails the accumulation of defeats is more than the revenues obtained in the lottery. Plans with such good publicity as the Sixers The Process (a joyful tanking industrialization) have helped to give, in recent times, an excess of good press to a practice that was previously little more than a desperate measure, makeup for bad seasons. Or was acting as if it were, at least.

But, it is written, solutions usually need the market one way or another: the Lakers, for example, have worked (with the feeling that it was because they had no choice) with its young base without ever losing sight, even the obsessive, the free agent market. And in that they continue. In the same way, there are teams that (almost) always make bad decisions and seem anchored to the lottery in perpetuity. The Magic make and break their project and in the last six years they have had a number 2 (Victor Oladipo), a 4 (Aaron Gordon), a 5 (Mario Hezonja), an 11 (it was Domantas Sabonis) spent together with Oladipo to become with Ibaka, who is in Toronto, and two 6 (Jonathan Isaac and Mohamed Bamto). Most have been nothing left in the box.

The Suns have been in the lottery for eight years, five of them with picks in the top 10, including the first number 1 in their history (Ayton). But, while developing the pivot, which points to star in the medium term, the best player obtained, long, has been from a number 13: Devin Booker. There were also 13 Markieff Morris and Kendall Marshall. Alex Len took a 5, Marquese Chriss forced to go up to 8 and there is a 4 that already seems clear that it will not break (Dragan Bender) and another one that begins to run out of patience (Josh Jackson) .

Peor has This is the case, undoubtedly the most paradigmatic, of Sacramento Kings, who this year has finally shown green shoots but who will again be without a playoff that has not played since 2006, the longest open streak of the entire league: 12 years in the lottery, 10 in the top 10 plus all its operations. And eye: Spencer Hawes was number 10 in 2007, Jason Thompson 12 in 2008, Tyreke Evans 4 in 2009, DeMarcus Cousins 5 in 2010, Bismack Biyombo 7 in 2011 (traded to get Jimmer Fredette in 10), Thomas Robinson 5 in 2012, Ben McLemore 7 in 2013, Nik Stauskas 8 in 2014, Willie Cauley-Stein 6 in 2015 and, in 2016, pick 8 (the aforementioned Chriss) was changed by Bogdanovic (it was a number 27), Skal Labissiere (28) and Papagiannis, a 13 that was cut and suffering to have an impact on Panathinaikos. A waiting for the last litter to come to the rescue (De'Aaron Fox, number 5 and Marvin Bagley, number 2 in 2017 and 2018) , a disaster: the romance with Tyreke was very brief and the huge presence of Cousins did not help to play a single playoff game for six and a half seasons.

The road is very hard and nobody has the magic formula. Other data: from James Worthy and Hakeem Olajuwon (with Lakers and Rockets), these are the numbers 1 that have been champions with the team that drafted them: David Robinson and Tim Duncan with the Spurs and Kyrie Irving and LeBron James (previous stay of four years in Miami) with the Cavaliers. So the recurring question is: How much is a draft pick really worth? Attempts have been made to synthesize in several ways: one study analyzed all the picks between 1995 and 2010 and concluded that 68% of the selected players did not race in NBA, 17.8% ended up being rotation players, 8.1 First level% and 5.5% stars. That is to say, of the 60 total selections that have a draft 41 they did not have great utility, 11 were of rotation, 5 players of very high level and 3 super stars. The chances of winning a star went from 32% if it was chosen in the top-5 to 11.8% if the range was lowered 5-10,

82games.com made its own study and concluded that this was the most likely future according to the pick number (and add to the top-10, in the link you can consult the full article):

Number 1: 70% of options to be a star, 25% to be a top-level player and 5% to be a player of role.

Number 2: 60, 25 and 15.

3: 85, 10 and 5.

4: 60, 30 and 10.

5: 60, 15, 10 and 15% of options to be a substitute with few minutes.

6: 25, 30, 30 and 15,

7: 30, 40, 25 and 5.

8: 35, 15, 15 and 35,

9: 30, 10, 35, 20 and 5% of not having any relevance.

10: 35, 25, 25, 10 and 5.

3 333333 They are data. There are the champions and intrahistorical teams on how they have been formed, including of course great hits on draft nights (and there is the unique case of the Warriors). But what is it that compensates for and how much does it compensate? The deeper it gets, the harder it seems to find the goose that lays the golden eggs. Tanking will exist except for unforeseen revolutions in the system. Also the bad teams and the punctual trances in which agrees what agrees, many times without putting even too much cynicism. But beware: for each Process, with its lights and shadows, there are a few crossings through the desert that never seem to end. Although, of course, another spring finally arrives and, again, all this sounds like chatter for many hobbies. And more now that they appear, at the end of the hall (June 20, 2019 draft), the 130 kilos of Zion Williamson ...



Photos from as.com

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