In most professional sports, tanking (intentionally losing for a higher draft pick) is frowned upon and deemed against the rules. The NBA is one of the few professional sports organizations where tanking in hopes for a higher draft pick is acknowledged and widely accepted.
Tanking in the NBA has been around ever since the very first draft in 1947. The biggest tank job in recent memory was arguably
in 1997 when the San Antonio Spurs played as poorly as they possibly could for a chance at Tim Duncan. Four NBA championships later, it’s safe to say tanking paid off for the Spurs.
Tanking Is a League-Wide Problem
The Spurs are not the only NBA team that has benefited from tanking. For example, the Cleveland Cavaliers have had a great track record of successful tank jobs. In 2003, Cleveland played awful for the ability to draft LeBron James. When they lost LeBron James to the Miami Heat in free agency, the Cavaliers once again decided they would benefit from having a horrible season. In 2011, their tank job earned them the No. 1 pick that they used on future star Kyrie Irving.
Then again, tanking isn’t a foolproof way to guarantee future success or a future star. There is always a chance that the worst team in the NBA won’t even get the first pick.
Creating the NBA Draft Lottery
In 1985, the NBA implemented a lottery system in a way to combat teams from deliberately losing as many games as
they can in the regular season.
Since the NBA draft lottery was implemented in 1985, it has been altered several times. However, one thing has always remained the same. The team with the worst record at the end of the regular season has by far the best chance at getting the No. 1 overall draft pick.
The draft lottery was a great idea by the NBA, but it has never stopped teams from tanking for a higher draft pick. There is only one thing that can possibly stop tanking in the NBA and that had never happened before the 2012-13 season.
Teams Hunger for Elite Talent
In past basketball seasons, there has always been at least one NBA prospect that is considered an elite talent. There has always been at least one player who teams believe will be a future superstar capable of leading them to multiple championships.
That’s not the case in 2013.
During the 2012-13 college basketball season, there was not a single player that emerged as an elite talent. It was considered a down year for college basketball which has ultimately led to arguably the weakest NBA draft of all time.
In 2008, Derrick Rose stood out from the crowd. In 2009, every NBA team wanted to get their hands on Blake Griffin. In 2010, the Washington Wizards jumped at the chance to get John Wall. As stated previously, the Cavaliers tanked their season away for Kyrie Irving. Last year, the New Orleans Hornets were overjoyed when they earned to No. 1 draft pick, and ultimately, big man Anthony Davis.
A Talentless Year in College Basketball
It’s hard to accuse any NBA team of tanking during the 2012-13 season simply because there isn’t a single prospect worth tanking for. In fact, there is not a single prospect in this year’s draft pool that is even considered to be a guaranteed future starter, let alone a future superstar in the NBA.
The 2013 draft class is widely believed to be full of a bunch of bench players with no elite talent available.
The next time the NBA owners and executives get together and try to implement a way to stop teams from tanking, all they need to do is analyze what took place this season. No matter what the NBA does, tanking will be around forever.
The only way tanking can only be taken away from professional basketball is if the NCAA cooperates by not producing a single player believed to have elite ability. And that only happens once every 50 years or so.