All Things Tanking  Pt.1

With perhaps the tankiest of all tank games the Raps have ever played about to approach (Thursday April 26th vs NJ) I thought an all tank breakdown might be appropriate.

ESPN Truehoop - Hoopidea has been doing an entire string of articles related to tanking. Specifically how it doesn't work, why it should be fixed and how to do so. I'm not going to touch on everything, but there are some amazing parts that they gloss over, or avoid, that points out exactly why teams tank. So for fun, I thought I'd to get the 'pro-tanking' evidence from their very own articles.

"To contend for a title, you need a true MVP-caliber player"

Kind of obvious. With the exception of Detroit, every championship team consists of a superstar player (or more than one).

"Here’s my list of top five picks that have become surefire franchise players (and the spot at which each was taken) in the last 10 years:

Yao Ming (2002, No. 1), LeBron James (2003, No. 1), Dwyane Wade (2003, No. 5), Dwight Howard (2004, No. 1), Deron Williams (2005, No. 3), Chris Paul (2005, No. 4), LaMarcus Aldridge (2006, No. 2), Kevin Durant (2007, No. 2), Derrick Rose (2008, No. 1), Russell Westbrook (2008, No. 4), Kevin Love (2008, No. 5), Blake Griffin (2009, No. 1) and Kyrie Irving (2011, No. 1)."

So of the remaining 'MVP-Calibre players' who played over the same 10 years, lets see where everyone else came from. Kobe Bryant 13th pick, Allen Iverson 1st pick, Dirk Nowitzki 9th pick, Shaq 1st pick, Kevin Garnett 5th pick, Steve Nash 15th, Tim Duncan 1st pick. Whoa something crazy is happening here... every single 'MVP-Calibre player' except one was drafted in *gasp* the lottery. Not only that all but 3 were in the top 5? Oh and 2 of those non-top 5 picks were in the same draft? which was also one of the greatest drafts in history? (1996 draft consisted of Iverson, Camby, Abdur-Rahim, Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe, Peja, Nash, Jermaine O'neal - thats 10 different all-stars, 7 all-NBAers, and Camby who while never being an all-star or all-NBAer was a DPOY winner and a 2 time first team defensive player)

Now "MVP-Calibre player" is a subjective description, and you definetely can add some great talent that has come outside the lottery (eg. Ginobli, Parker, Boozer, Rondo, O'neal), but its not hard to point out that the vast majority of top tier talent comes from the lottery, and high in the lottery.

"bad franchise pursuing "the Thunder model," my advice is the same as it would be for someone hunting a unicorn: good luck"

Interesting that if we look at the above its seems more likely that you are actually "luckier" to get top talent outside the lottery (and high in the lottery) than you are inside the lottery. But lets skip that for a minute.

If we assume the "OKC model" is building through the draft, then other models would be not using the draft as extensively (yes a broad description I know)

John Lucas (former Cavs coach) - "You can't fault the Cavaliers for wanting to get LeBron. It was hard to get free agents to come there."

Hold on here... not all NBA locations are created equal? What a suprise. How about something a little more close to home?

"Whether it's concerns over the weather, taxes, the metric system or a lack of U.S. exposure, there is a league-wide myth that makes it harder to attract big-name free agents. "It just baffles me," says former Raptor and current NBA analyst Jalen Rose. "Toronto really gets a bad rap because it's the only team in Canada, so that makes it an anomaly. That means from a personnel standpoint, it's very important not to miss: not to miss on trades, on signings, on the draft."

An actual NBA player admitting Toronto isn't an attractive destination? Must be mind boggling experience for fans out there.

Well lets break this down a bit more. Lets go back to the "MVP Calibre players" that you 'need' and figure out how many changed hands, where to, and how.

Kevin Garnett - traded from Minn. to Boston for 2 first round picks (6 and 9), Al Jefferson, Sebastien Telfair (obtained through a 7th pick), and Gerald Green.(15th, 13th and 18th picks respectively)

Shaq - Signed as a FA with the Lakers. Traded to Miami for Caron Butler (10th pick), Lamar Odom (4th overall pick - signed with Miami as a FA) Brian Grant (8th pick - signed with Miami as a FA) and a future 1st round pick

Steve Nash - signed as a FA with Phoenix

Lebron James - S&T to Miami

Deron Williams - Traded to NJ for Devin Harris, Favours (3rd pick), a #3 pick and, depending on GS this year another lottery pick (top 7 protected)

Chris Paul - Traded to the Clippers for Kaman (6th pick), Gordon (7th pick), Aminu (8th pick), Minn. 1st round pick this year (lottery)

Iverson - traded to Denver for Andre Miller, Joe Smith, 2 first round picks

So a lot of information there, but what can we take from that? Well how about this:

1) 'MVP Calibre players' rarely change hands - only 7 of the 18 listed did at some point

2) When they are traded its for a slew of lottery picks - 3 of the 7 that changed hands

3) The few times they have signed as FA its to a few teams that are attractive markets. They are large, have nice weather, and offer tax breaks. (LA doesn't offer the 'tax breaks' but it also offers a unique celebrity location) - thats 3 of the remaining 4. (we can expand and add NY if people like - Stoudamire and Melo - but its still the largest market in the US)

4) The exception to the above is Iverson... who had become a cancer and was really no longer his former 'MVP Calibre player'.

So instead of "hunting for Unicorns" what teams should do is either:

- collect high picks (more than a bit counter intuitive to their point no?) and trade for 'MVP caliber player',

-become an attractive market (not sure whats more likely bagging a unicorn or a complete reversal in the world's ecosystem, physics and political structure) and sign a 'MVP caliber player'

-build a Detroit team (which ESPN hoopidea admits itself is extremely rare, has happened less often than a championship team built based on the draft, and was in part facilitated by a trade that consisted of a #3 pick (Hill) for Ben Wallace) and not bother with a 'MVP caliber player'

-or trade for Allen Iverson (which has accomplished nothing)

Sure looks to me like 'hunting unicorns', and building through the draft, is actually a more much reliable choice for the vast majority of teams. Or perhaps a better description for all this would be most teams trying to build a contending team without at some point tanking is like 'hunting unicorns'

to be continued.....

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