I am Brad Winter, owner and sole writer of The Corner Three blog.
I love basketball.
I love the NBA.
I love everything about this beautiful sport and the wonderful league. That is, except for one thing: tanking. Not just any type of tanking though. Tanking in its regular form is hard enough to sit through. Seeing a team trying to get worse is awful. I'm a Celtics fan and I'll even admit that when we tanked for Durant in 2007 and Wiggins in 2014, were terrible seasons that I'd like to have back, even though we got high draft picks from those seasons. Tanking in its normal form is bordering on unwatchable, even if you are a diehard, but the issue that I am going to attempt to tackle today is far more severe than tanking. It reaches new levels of being bad and it can be explained in two words:
Sam Hinkie is the general manager of the worst team in basketball. If you've been living under a rock recently, you should know that the Philadelphia 76ers are awful. They have won just one game so far this season, in 21 attempts. They have officially broken the record for the longest losing streak ever in both NBA history and the North American big four's history, at 28 straight losses (carrying on from last season).
After Hinkie took over as GM of the 76ers in 2013, he made it clear that his intention was to tank. The upcoming star-studded 2014 NBA draft was still a summer away and so he decided to prepare for then by riding himself of any and all talent to gain a higher draft pick. In the 2013 draft he picked Michael Carter-Williams, who replaced all-star Jrue Holiday, who they traded to New Orleans for a 2014 first round pick and the sixth overall pick, Nerlens Noel. This move was purely to get worse and begin the stockpiling of assets. Noel was arguably the draft's best player and the great thing for Hinkie was that he was injured, thus not making the team any better.
The Sixers landed only the 3rd pick in the loaded 2014 draft. He took Joel Embiid, the best player on the board, once again as a sly ploy to get worse and prolong their rebuilding process due to his injury. I mean, the pick didn't even make that much sense, even if he was the best player on the board. Embiid is a big guy, like Noel, neither shoot particularly well and in the the new found era of small ball and floor spacing, this is completely the opposite style of building a team. Also, in the same draft, Hinkie pulled another maneuver to get worse. He picked Dario Saric, who he knew would go overseas for a year or two, giving him more time to tank.
Then there's 2015, the worst of the lot, where he took the best player available, Jahlil Okafor. Another big guy. It's clear that Hinkie doesn't care about getting better at this point and only uses his cold hands to pluck the best asset. Or trying to make his team worse. In fact, since he took over, the Sixers have gone from a borderline playoff team, to winning just 38 games in two and one quarter seasons. Since he has been in charge, he has traded away Jrue Holiday, Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Michael Carter-Williams and K.J. McDaniels. Essentially, the only guys that were actually doing anything good. He has kept only the people that could potentially land his team the game-changing superstar it needs.
It's not that this strategy won't work. It's actually ingenious. Becoming so bad, that you end up with 4 or 5 straight top picks, along with an abundance of cap room is great from the outset, but it is ruining the 76ers and the NBA. Here's why:
If this works, by working I mean that it ends in acquiring a big star and eventually winning an NBA championship, it will become the template for every NBA rebuild: get so bad that you rid yourself of every contributing piece, draft the best player available (regardless of fit) and continue to do this until you get a game-changer, where you can build your team around him with all of the assets you acquire. Why is this a bad thing? For starters, it would be boring to see every team do it, but in terms of a more pressing problem, it exploits the system of the NBA and professional sport as a whole. It's horrible for the league, basketball and sport in general. If this becomes the norm, what is the point of everything else in the NBA, if every team is just going to do this?
If it doesn't work, it kills of the fan base. No matter how passionate some fans are, it is unbearable to see a team lose season after season, especially when you know that the team you love is trying to lose every single game. Even when you know that the team is looking at bigger things, it has to feel bad and must lose a lot of the fan base.
Not only does it screw up the team and the fan base, but it ends up destroying careers and therefore lives. By treating players as disposable pawns, it means that players move around from place to place, never finding a home, or a place to settle down. Also, by having no veterans on the team, nobody is there to teach the youngsters the ways. Nobody is there to be like a big brother, to teach them how to dress, how to talk in press conferences and more importantly, how to behave and play. This clearly isn't the case in Philly, where they are slowly ruining young players' careers. Take for instance, Jahlil Okafor. The guy was caught speeding at 108 in a 45 zone. He gets easily antagonized and has already been involved in 2 fights with the public. This is a guy
I hope I have convinced you that this is a problem, so now I am going to tell you, Adam Silver, how you can end this.
I want you to think back to 1985. The Lakers and the Celtics were dominating the NBA, the rest of the league was basically useless. The Lakers and Celtics were so dominant that they had won 5 of the last 6 titles. The pair of teams would go on to win 8 championships in the space of the 80s, only falling to the 76ers and Bad Boy Pistons. The NBA was lacking some more contenders and especially some dominant big market teams. At the time, in fact seemingly always, the New York Knicks sucked. Basketball interest in New York City was suffering as a result and although the NBA was becoming popular due to the rivalry of L.A. and Boston, the NBA needed a good New York team to keep the interest high.
The problem was, the NBA just introduced an NBA lottery system, where the bottom 7 teams would be drawn out to decide the top 7 picks in the draft. Although the Knicks had the third worst record, they had no advantage in terms of odds. This meant that the Knicks had a 1 in 7 chance at saving basketball in New York.
The prize of this draft was clear: Patrick Ewing. The Georgetown product was a national champion, an Olympic gold medalist and a national player of the year after his storied years at Georgetown. He was one of the most hyped prospects ever and would've been drafted first no matter what team owned the pick. This leads us to the 1985 NBA draft lottery, easily the biggest conspiracy in NBA history. The Knicks ended up with the first pick. Due to a number of suspicious happenings during the lottery, many believed the lottery was fixed. The conspiracies included Stern owning infrared glasses, the envelope being frozen or heated up or the envelope being damaged on the way down into the lottery turning machine. If you want to watch a great video on this, click here.
If the draft lottery was fixed, it would obviously be awful for the NBA's image. The commissioner interfering with matters that should be left up to chance is never great. This isn't how sport should be played out. But, you can't blame David Stern, because without Ewing on the Knicks, it saved them, their fan base, basketball in the big apple and created huge interest. It accomplished its job, no one can argue with that.
Now, what I'm about to suggest isn't morally correct. I know that it wouldn't serve well on many of your consciences, but for the good of the NBA, for the good of basketball, for the good of the Philadelphia 76ers, their players and the future of professional sport, I need you to thoroughly think about this for just a minute. The NBA should rig the 2016 draft lottery.
Don't ask me how, because the NBA draft lottery system is extremely complex and would require some serious meddling with the lottery system. It would be far more difficult than rigging a lottery that contained 7 envelopes going into a glass ball. But, if there is someone out there that has a way of doing this, contact Adam Silver right now because he needs to hear this.
Here is why you do it by the way:
- It completely stops Philly from obtaining their Patrick Ewing type superstar, in Ben Simmons. Someone who could truly shape their franchise.
- Would probably halt Sam Hinkie's plan and possibly get him fired.
- Stop this plan from ever happening again, as it would have failed.
- Possibly end tanking as a whole.
Wow! That's a solution!
In fact, I already have the perfect guy to rig it: Roger Goodell. I say that we hire him as a secret lottery rigger and get him to somehow figure out a way to fix it, while screwing it up at the same time.
Now, I don't care who gets the number one pick. Hell, it could even go to my arch-nemesis, Los Angeles Lakers for all I care, I just don't want Sam Hinkie's fingerprints on it. Not now, not ever.