Why the Brooklyn Nets have no incentive to tank
In the NBA, tanking is always a hot debate topic. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, taking is essentially when professional teams do everything they can in order to lose games and obtain high draft picks in the process. We’ve seen it work in baseball, with the Chicago Cubs and Houston Astros tanking their way to World Series championships in 2016 and 2017, respectively. In the NBA, the Philadelphia 76ers tanked for five seasons and accumulated several high draft picks. It is beginning to pay off this year, with the Sixers looking like they will be making a return to the postseason.
Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined $600,000 by the NBA for making comments that insinuated the Mavericks should lose on purpose for the remainder of the season in order to better position themselves for the draft lottery. The 2018 NBA Draft class is loaded with young talent, but it was not a good look for an NBA owner to publicly state that his team was going to lose on purpose. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver fined Cuban a considerable amount of money, and he is also in hot water with Mavericks fans and season ticket holders who pay thousands of dollars for seats every year. They are not going to waste their hard-earned money to watching a losing product on the court.
So, what does all this have to do with the Brooklyn Nets? Everyone knows the Nets are not making the playoffs this season. They are one of the worst teams in the NBA and have been for the past three years. Wouldn’t it also be in their best interests to tank for picks and build their team through the draft? Judging by today’s NBA standards, that is exactly what they should be doing. However, the Nets have not had control of their own draft pick since 2013 due to their infamous trade with the Boston Celtics that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to Brooklyn. It would be crazy for the Nets to tank this year with the Cleveland Cavaliers owning their 2018 first-round pick as part of the Kyrie Irving trade that sent the All-Star point guard to Boston. The Nets have control of their own first-round pick in 2019, but I still think Sean Marks is too smart to lead the franchise down that road. Earning a high 2019 draft pick may happen organically, but Marks is doing everything he can to put his team in position to win basketball games in the present. The Nets have no incentive to tank.
Secondly, the fans in Brooklyn would not stand for it. Fans pay top dollar for tickets to see NBA games, and it would be unfair to them for the Nets to tank on purpose. The Nets have only been playing in the city for six years, and they are still looking to build a large fan base in Brooklyn. Trying to be as competitive as possible on a yearly basis would be the smart play here, especially with the Knicks struggling. If the Nets can rebuild their team before the Knicks do, it could help bring more attention to Brooklyn and open the door for more fans to openly root for the team.
The most important reason the Nets should not tank is because of the players. How do you tell professional athletes that they have to lose on purpose? The answer is, you can’t. It is not in an NBA player’s DNA to lose games on purpose. Most of them have been playing basketball since they learned how to walk. They won in AAU. They won in high school. Most of them even won in college. Winning in the NBA means a lot to the players. Tanking on purpose would anger the players and make the Nets a non-destination for potential future free agents. The Nets have done an admirable job developing players such as Spencer Dinwiddie, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, Joe Harris, Quincy Acy, Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen. Those guys want to win. They will not suffer through years of losing if there isn’t some sort of light at the end of the tunnel.
Team owners should do right by their players, coaches and fans and ditch the tanking philosophy. It may have worked for the Sixers, but the Nets would be smart to stay the course and attempt to win games with the group of players they currently have.