With a projected loaded Draft coming next year, the talk of teams tanking is at an all-time high, and now an NBA GM has admitted his team is doing so.
Looking at some of the trades and salary dumps this summer, it's clear there are at least a handful of teams looking forward at the future and wanting to win the Draft lottery rather than try for a longshot at a playoff spot.
In a piece featured in ESPN the Magazine, an anonymous GM had admitted that his team is tanking: although he is clear that it is not losing on purpose. He came up with the plan and pitched it to the owners who signed off on it. Afterwards, the coach is filled in on the strategy, so he can understand some of the personnel decisions, but the GM says the plan is kept from the players as they want them to still be competitive and not know that the team has written them off.
How do you pull it off? First, you talk it over with ownership. I analyzed the team and told them what I wanted to do, the guys I wanted to get rid of and the guys with future value whom we wanted to keep. We obviously traded away some of our veteran guys who gave us a better chance of winning right now for future draft picks and young players. The owners didn’t want to tread water any more than I did. They’d rather go down to the bottom with the hope of coming up, so they signed off on it. It wasn’t a fight at all. In a different season, it might not make sense, but this draft certainly makes it more appealing.
Our coach understands that too. It’s no secret what we’re trying to do, and you can’t lie to him anyway or you’ll lose all trust. We never really had to tell him, because the handwriting is on the wall. He knows exactly what’s going on, and he’s good with it. What’s hard is keeping it from the players. If you took a poll in all 30 locker rooms, regardless of how the roster looks, I bet they’d all say they are a playoff team. That’s good, because you want them to play with effort and lose organically. You never tell the players not to try to win a game, but it’s obvious that you’re putting out a team that’s just not good enough to win.
Tanking has become a contested subject over the years with the obviousness of teams looking to position themselves for the lottery becomes more and more evident. This is not shocking news to anybody who follows the NBA fervently, but this could become a hot-button topic for the average media member looking to spin a story.
Overall, this story leaking is good news for the league long-term. Full disclosure on tanking could force commish-to-be Adam Silver, and the league to start taking measures to change the system and not so easily award losing.
If I had to take a guess who the unnamed GM is, mind you this is wild speculation, I'd say the Phoenix Suns' Ryan McDonough. He's fairly new to the franchise, and I could envision the Suns owner signing off on a strategy that doesn't involve big spending, and is still enjoying the ticket sales and marketing success of the Steve Nash-era.