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The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember

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The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#1 » by Chicago-Bull-E » Mon Jan 4, 2021 10:32 pm

I see a lot of back and forth on "tanking" and why it works/doesn't work, etc etc. I feel like I would summarize the positives of "tanking", and maybe clear up some misconceptions I see with some examples of it working.

First, let's discuss what tanking is. Tanking is a deliberate attempt by a front office to have their team perform poorly, in the hopes of getting a higher draft pick, draft compensation, maybe younger players they believe in over the vets that currently help them win. Losing deliberately in the short term in the hopes of winning in the long term.

I'm not using any examples of injuries that resulted in team poor performance, like the year the Spurs got Duncan.

I see the argument of the greatest tank of all time brought up, the current mold of the 76ers, as the example used for why it doesn't work. But there have been so many more tanks that have worked spectacularly. They are more subtle than the 76ers, and often forgotten as a result.

One last thing to remember on the discussion. You know what also doesn't work? Every method of building a championship team EVER! What I mean is this, if you want to cite a traditional rebuild, lucking into a high draft pick, or free agency built team as a method that works, there are dozens of other teams that try that same attempt and fail, every year. Miami building the big three as a positive for free agency building? What about the 8-10 other teams that tried that in that particular offseason and failed miserably? All methods are going to fail many times over, because, well, there is only one champion at the end of every season.

Tank Example 1: 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers

Let's get the easiest out of the way. Lebron was a junior high school superstar already, and Cleveland tanked to get him. What did they do? Oh, just traded their best player the year before and signed a bunch of nobodies to that 2002 team. Andre Miller, Wesley Person, and Lamond Murray were the top 3 VORP leaders of that team in 2001, and all were gone the next year. The tank led to 5 years of great playoff runs in the 2000s, with the king returning for 4 more years of deep playoff runs and a championship in the 2010s.

Tank Example 2: 2012 Golden State Warriors

That's right, the dynasty of the 2010s was a tank effort. Golden State traded their best player at the time, Ellis, for an oft injured center in Bogut. Don't think that was a tank move? The fanbase hated it so much they booed Joe Lacob at a jersey retirement ceremony (oh how times have changed) But that wasn't even the big part of the tank. The Warriors owed their pick to the Jazz if it fell out of the top 7. So hey, lets lose some more games to keep that pick. It worked, and the team drafted Harrison Barnes with that pick, who was an integral part of that 1st championship team. A beautiful tank job, more below:

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/1122335-why-the-warriors-made-the-right-move-in-monta-ellis-trade

Yes, it might seem inherently idiotic to trade arguably the team’s best player in Ellis for a defunct star with a history of injuries that will likely not suit up this season. However, keep in mind that the Warriors' first-round pick goes to the Utah Jazz should they finish better than the league’s seven worst teams.

So while the move might hurt the team in the short run, losing now might be the best play for the team’s future.



Tank Example 3: 2006-2007 Boston Celtics

This unique one is an example of tanking, getting bit by the draft lottery, and still coming out ahead, because you tanked. The Celtics no doubt had their eyes on the all time great draft of Oden/Durant, and included late game lineups by Doc to purposefully lose games. I remember him getting into media heated discussions, having to defend his lineups. Despite their best efforts, the Celtics landed 5, out of the sweepstakes. They however, used the pick to get Allen, which was convincing enough for Garnett to come over. No tank, no Allen, no championships that came from those teams.

With Greg Oden and Kevin Durant both viewed as future NBA superstars, the Boston Celtics did all that they could to ensure that they had a shot at one of either Durant or Oden. At 24-58, the Celtics finished with the second-worst record in the franchise’s long and storied history, and they got there with some of the most egregious late-game performances in the league that year. Doc Rivers, then still the coach of the Celtics, used some very odd late-game lineups in games the team was winning.

The most obvious example that the Celtics were heavily invested in tanking was a game against the Charlotte Bobcats late in the season. Despite having been up by 18 points in the third quarter, Rivers benched his best player in Paul Pierce and went with a lineup that featured Allan Ray, Leon Powe, Sebastian Telfair, Ryan Gomes and Gerald Green. The Celtics obviously couldn’t close out the game and the Bobcats won.



https://www.thesportster.com/basketball/top-10-most-obvious-tank-jobs-in-nba-history/


I think in the case of all three, the front office identified who the core was, and once that core was achieved, they went after winning HARD. When Cleveland found out Lebron was the real thing, it was "win now" pieces the rest of the way. Same with the others.

Anyways, I thought some more intricate tank efforts made for interesting discussion.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#2 » by PlayerUp » Mon Jan 4, 2021 10:44 pm

Right so the teams that do tank and pile up multiple picks are usually the teams that eventually find a gem and become a contender. Obviously you need to be a good drafting team and actually tank properly otherwise you end up being the Sacramento Kings who have missed playoffs 14 seasons in a row. The exceptions of course are the major markets who attract free agents easily.

Regardless what people think the reality is that this team has not had a single top 50 player in the NBA on this roster in 4 seasons now. There is nothing to build around currently. Until we have a piece we can build around, we cannot make any run. You either find that in free agency, trade, or the draft. Since the free agents have dried up this offseason, trade targets are slim to none then it leads us to the draft only. If you delay the process and try to push for the playoffs this season, well, again you end up like the Sacramento Kings stuck in basketball hell.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#3 » by Indomitable » Mon Jan 4, 2021 10:46 pm

All your choices are nonsense.

Teams that tank badly lose in the end. Lebron came back. If he did not they fail.


Ellis was more about him and Klay.

Build a winning culture. You can tank for a decade. It is a lazy man's approach.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#4 » by PlayerUp » Mon Jan 4, 2021 10:57 pm

Which team has the brighter future?

OKC or the Bulls?

Bulls with minimal assets
OKC with endless picks

80%+ of the people would say OKC and that's because with those picks, they'll eventually get a gem especially when they're targeting high ceiling prospects with those picks.

Don't just tank, focus on building assets as well is just as equally important.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#5 » by Indomitable » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:23 pm

PlayerUp wrote:Which team has the brighter future?

OKC or the Bulls?

Bulls with minimal assets
OKC with endless picks

80%+ of the people would say OKC and that's because with those picks, they'll eventually get a gem especially when they're targeting high ceiling prospects with those picks.

Don't just tank, focus on building assets as well is just as equally important.

Who is most likely to win.

Philly
Boston
Nets
Miami

Miami and the Nets.

I am more interested in winning on the court. Ainge with his endless draft picks failed.

OKC failed with a ton of picks in the past. That is one of the reasons KD left.

You guys are dependent on luck. It is normally fools gold.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#6 » by coldfish » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:23 pm

Since the Bulls last title there have been 9 different teams to win the title. Only 1 (San Antonio), did so driven by a top 3 pick they they drafted and stayed on the team. Most teams win titles with superstars picked in the middle of the draft or was acquired through free agency or trade.

Just as a reminder, Duncan was selected in 1996. Basically, it has been 25 years since a team got a top 3 pick and won a title with him. The Bulls and Houston got their guy in 1984 so you can probably move the goalposts back further and say "since 1984, only 3 teams used a top 3 pick to win a title."

There is a reason for this. When you tank, you rip the guts out of your organization. It bleeds into the team in a way that is hard to shed. You can get a great player (Antonio Davis, Shaq, Durant, Lebron, Durant, Kawhi) but not have enough time to build around him before he bolts.

The reality is that you are far more likely to win by building a quality organization and then adding a top level player THAT SOMEONE ELSE TANKED TO DRAFT AND DEVELOP than to tank and develop one on your own.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#7 » by Friend_Of_Haley » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:25 pm

PlayerUp wrote:Which team has the brighter future?

OKC or the Bulls?

Bulls with minimal assets
OKC with endless picks

80%+ of the people would say OKC and that's because with those picks, they'll eventually get a gem especially when they're targeting high ceiling prospects with those picks.

Don't just tank, focus on building assets as well is just as equally important.

And part of building assets is developing one's, i.e. Development of young players. Yes a rebuilding effort may occassionally require the tough choice to walk away from valuable veteran pieces if it maximizes assets, but prioritizing losses over all other development is the bad approach that needs to be avoided.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#8 » by gobullschi » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:36 pm

Now that the NBA changed the lottery odds, the days of ‘tanking’ are over. All of the examples that are listed don’t work because they were before the rule change.

In 2019, NY had the best odds at the top draft pick and they ended up picking 5th. Cleveland had the 2nd best odds and they picked 6th.

In 2020, the Cavs had the 2nd best odds and they picked 5th. In

The ONLY time ‘tanking’ MIGHT work, is if the ‘tanking team’ has some elite talent AND another team is willing to sell all their draft picks and young players for said elite talent. The Bulls are not in that position, so they do not qualify as a team that would benefit from tanking. Surprised people haven’t figured this out yet.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#9 » by WindyCityBorn » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:44 pm

I want nothing to do with tanking. If we lose because of young guys are failing then fine, but **** doing everything you can to intentionally lose. I want to win every game we play.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#10 » by weneeda2guard » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:44 pm

Just want to remind everyone that while examples of tanking is being posted

This team as currently constructed was also a result of years of tanking.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#11 » by madvillian » Mon Jan 4, 2021 11:49 pm

So much has changed with the lotto and cap that I find it hard to really compare much of anything to the 2021 situation. Tanking can work, and so can adding a superstar to an already good but not great team. Just find some good players, wherever and however.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#12 » by League Circles » Tue Jan 5, 2021 12:00 am

Sooooooo, which is it? Does tanking work, as the thread title claims? Or does it not work, just like every "method" to winning a title doesn't work, as the body paragraph claims? I know it's the latter. That's why talking about methods and strategies of rebuilding is always ridiculous. All that ever matters are the specifics of every transaction and what position they bring you from and what position they bring you to in terms of roster and payroll etc.

The examples cited are patently ridiculous. Ray Allen was the third best player on that Celtics title team. The best player was acquired by trade for Al Jefferson primarily who I'm pretty sure was a mid-first round pick. And then of course Paul Pierce who was like a number 10 pick.

Cavs have failed miserably other than be near the birthplace of one of the GOATS and to be lucky enough to draft him in the first time.

Trading SCRUBS like Wesley **** Person and Monta Ellis for ANYTHING are not exactly "tank" moves IMO.

now that the draft odds are so much more level tanking is actually insane however it used to make some sense but only if you were willing to actually do it correctly which virtually no team has ever done. the way to do it correctly is to identify perhaps two or three or maybe even zero or one players that are actually potential cornerstone long-term pieces and then fill out the roster with actual 40-year-old way past their physical prime Fringe NBA players. For example these past two or three years when we were tanking we should have had Kirk Hinrich as our starting point guard instead of trying all these young players who had the potential to become rotation guys. the only way you can actually assure yourself of being terrible is to have guys playing prominent roles who are physically incapable of winning other than once in a blue moon. Actually there is sort of a team that did this correctly. The 1998 1999 Chicago Bulls lol. That was the least talented roster I have ever seen in the nba. It resulted in the number one overall pick. Which resulted in meh Elton Brand.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#13 » by Ice Man » Tue Jan 5, 2021 12:04 am

Literally, no current contender is there because of tanking, unless you call Philly a contender.

Lakers - FA destination
Clippers - Ditto
Boston - Suckered Billy King
Miami - Didn't tank
Denver - Didn't tank
Toronto - Didn't tank
Brooklyn - FA destination
Milwaukee - Didn't tank except for one year, for which it got Jabari Parker

Have I left any contender out? Meanwhile, several teams have tanked for years, so far with nothing to show for it.

No thanks. The evidence is clear.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#14 » by weneeda2guard » Tue Jan 5, 2021 1:15 am

Ice Man wrote:Literally, no current contender is there because of tanking, unless you call Philly a contender.

Lakers - FA destination
Clippers - Ditto
Boston - Suckered Billy King
Miami - Didn't tank
Denver - Didn't tank
Toronto - Didn't tank
Brooklyn - FA destination
Milwaukee - Didn't tank except for one year, for which it got Jabari Parker

Have I left any contender out? Meanwhile, several teams have tanked for years, so far with nothing to show for it.

No thanks. The evidence is clear.

Knicks bulls and Minnesota are the greatest examples that tanking doesn't work and the residual effects of gaining a losing culture coaching turnover player turnover franchise reputation makes it clear that losing on purpose isn't worth it

Especially as you point out there are so many teams competing for a title without tanking so it's clear its other ways.

For us we can possibly field a decent team with a ton of cap space next off season. Be a much better team with much better coaching next season then no telling the opportunities that can present itself from there
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#15 » by PlayerUp » Tue Jan 5, 2021 1:47 am

Indomitable wrote:
PlayerUp wrote:Which team has the brighter future?

OKC or the Bulls?

Bulls with minimal assets
OKC with endless picks

80%+ of the people would say OKC and that's because with those picks, they'll eventually get a gem especially when they're targeting high ceiling prospects with those picks.

Don't just tank, focus on building assets as well is just as equally important.

Who is most likely to win.

Philly
Boston
Nets
Miami

Miami and the Nets.

I am more interested in winning on the court. Ainge with his endless draft picks failed.

OKC failed with a ton of picks in the past. That is one of the reasons KD left.

You guys are dependent on luck. It is normally fools gold.


Bad take.

Who is more likely to win? None first off. Lakers clearly ahead of these teams until proven otherwise.

Now lets look at the previous championship winners the last decade

2020 - Lakers - Acquired Davis with Draft Assets
2019 - Raptors - Acquired Leonard with Previous Draft Picks
2018-2015 - Cavs/Warriors - Won With Their Draft Picks
2012-2014 - Spurs - Won With Their Draft Picks
2012-2014 - Heat - Won With Their Draft Pick Recruiting Other Players
2011 - Mavs - Won With Their Draft Picks
2008-2010 - Lakers - Won With Their Draft Pick
2008-2010- Celtics - Won With Their Draft Pick And Using Draft Picks To Acquire More Talent

All these teams share the same thing in common. There draft pick they selected carried them to a championship or they used their high draft picks or previous lottery talent draft pick to make a trade to win them a championship. Unless you get that talent through the draft or get your future star through the draft, you are nothing.

Bulls have yet to reach this point so they are nothing and have no way to win a championship until they get a solid talent through the draft.

Once again people, we do not have a single top 50 player in the entire NBA on this roster nor a clear future top 50 player as well. You cannot win anything until this changes. Can someone on our roster develop into a top 50 player? Maybe but that's not a guarantee unlike other teams which have a clear top 50 potential talent on their roster.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#16 » by chefo » Tue Jan 5, 2021 1:48 am

I’m probably the designated tank-hater.

In the NBA, you need lots and lots of talent to win anything of significance. The odds of any team getting said talent through the draft alone is almost null. These guys, unless they are goat-level talents that come once a decade, need to be coached up and developed a LOT.

If you are good at the above, you’re probably also good at spotting talent and getting the max out of it... which by definition precludes you from tanking properly.

All of that was true before the NBA changed the odds. Like in every other business— if you try to fail, you will. And by the way— what is referred to here as ‘assets’, say late lottery or mid/late round picks are really ‘liabilities’ or at the very best incredibly expensive lottery tickets, especially with how young players are when they’re getting drafted because most of them aren’t worth much to ANY TEAM while you’re stuck paying them 25m over their first contract just for existing and breathing the air on the bench.

The best teams view the draft as augmenting their roster; very few that have succeeded have done so drafting their greatness, as coldfish said.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#17 » by dougthonus » Tue Jan 5, 2021 1:54 am

coldfish wrote:Since the Bulls last title there have been 9 different teams to win the title. Only 1 (San Antonio), did so driven by a top 3 pick they they drafted and stayed on the team. Most teams win titles with superstars picked in the middle of the draft or was acquired through free agency or trade.

Just as a reminder, Duncan was selected in 1996. Basically, it has been 25 years since a team got a top 3 pick and won a title with him. The Bulls and Houston got their guy in 1984 so you can probably move the goalposts back further and say "since 1984, only 3 teams used a top 3 pick to win a title."

There is a reason for this. When you tank, you rip the guts out of your organization. It bleeds into the team in a way that is hard to shed. You can get a great player (Antonio Davis, Shaq, Durant, Lebron, Durant, Kawhi) but not have enough time to build around him before he bolts.

The reality is that you are far more likely to win by building a quality organization and then adding a top level player THAT SOMEONE ELSE TANKED TO DRAFT AND DEVELOP than to tank and develop one on your own.


Most of the good teams in the league are built through the draft.

Houston, LA, LA, Brooklyn are built through FA / Trades, Miami a combination (Butler isn't home grown but everyone else is).

Pretty much every other good team in the league is built through the draft. The best teams usually have the best players, and players (best or otherwise) don't tend to stay in one spot forever, so it makes sense that a lot of the really great teams aren't built through the draft, but at the same time, that's a difficult model to replicate because the reasons for star players choosing one or vs another are pretty bespoke and hard to model or repeat. Building well through the draft is a model that you can repeat / implement.

At the same time, you are right in that it is hard to fully tank. If you want to really tank, you need to do something like what OKC did. You need to get tons of extra picks and hit on a couple of them, but you're right in that its hard to develop stars and add enough around them quick enough. Ideally, if you can bottom out, actually nab a star, you typically also have tons of cap room, and have a few years where maybe you get 2-3 good players in the draft and can then add maybe a second star via FA and 2-3 other good players.

There really is no consistent model though. The main thing is you need to get lucky and land a star somehow.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#18 » by PlayerUp » Tue Jan 5, 2021 1:57 am

I should add though that there is no excuse really for Gar/Pax to strikeout so much in the draft 2012-2019. That's the primary problem here. They wasted so many draft picks and made so little moves and that is why we are in this current state. When your front office makes no progress at progressing your team and every aspect of your organization regressed and was managed so poorly, it takes time to rebound and recover from that.

I don't think people realize how bad Gar/Pax were running this team. Every part of this team was done poorly except ticket sales. This will take time and people should be a bit patient here as we have a new front office and need to give them a chance to strike gold on some picks and retool this team properly.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#19 » by HomoSapien » Tue Jan 5, 2021 1:58 am

I'm not against tanking, but it has to be done by the right person who understands how to accumulate assets, draft intelligently, and then set up the proper infrastructure to develop that talent.

Krause was GREAT at tanking. He was awful at surrounding young players like Curry, Chandler, Crawford etc. with the right vets and coaching staff.

GarPax were pretty good with acquiring the right vets, but were awful at tanking and I think did an extremely poor job of hiring the right coaches during our "tank" years with them. I think Lauri and Carter's slow development is a direct result of that.

If Denver is any indication of how AK operates, then I do think he probably knows how to draft, accumulate talent, and develop that talent. That said, Donovon left OKC because he wasn't interested in a full rebuild, so I'm not sure if they'll be looking to tank any time soon.
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Re: The argument for Tanking: Why it works, and you just don't remember 

Post#20 » by MGB8 » Tue Jan 5, 2021 2:00 am

Talking doesn’t work, especially with the new odds.

Now, if the Bulls get a Paul George or Anthony Davis level offer for Zach LaVine - sure, you probably do it.

But aside from lopsided deals, the best bet is maximizing assets - smart draft picks and smart free agent signings, and churning former picks and FAs to try to retain value - until you hit on a strong core.

Look at the current Pacers; Oladipo and Sabonis via churning Paul George; FA Malcolm Brogdon; great trade for Warren; one main draft pick in Turner, a secondary pick in Holiday.

Look at current Clipps - churned for Tobias, then into picks, had an over achieving squad with Beverly and Lou and Harrell that was able to attract Kawhi and George (enabling the overpay trade).

Houston churned players to get Harden, putting them in contention for 4-5 years.

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