Two years ago, Josh Harris (owner of the Philadelphia 76ers), Sam Hinkie (General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers), and Brett Brown (Head Coach of the Philadelphia 76ers) made a plan that they would stick by no matter what. And I mean no matter what. Like soldiers who were going to hold the fort down, no matter how strenuous the situation got, the triad made a plan that they refused to deviate from no matter how stressful, angering, or pressurized the situation got.
The plan? Tank. Tank like the NBA has never seen before. And not just for one year, but for multiple years.
In the 2012-2013 season, the Philadelphia 76ers finished with a record of 34-48. The Eastern Conference is a weak conference, but even 34 wins was not good enough to make the playoffs in the Leastern Conference. It was close however. So, after the 2012-2013 season, the Sixers had two choices, they could either hover around the 9th or 10th seed year after year and make a hard push to get the 8th seed or they could drop from the 9th seed to the worst team in the league and place themselves in a terrific position to get the number one pick.
Based upon the evidence from last year and this year, it is obvious what the Sixers chose. They were going to tank, and tank on historical levels. So, the first thing they did was make sure that Doug Collins resigned (fired) because old school coaches like him would never buy into the concept of tanking, and they hired a rookie head coach that was a better fit for the modern game named Brett Brown. Brown was an assistant for the San Antonio Spurs from 2002-2013, where he won multiple championships with the Spurs, and was groomed by head coach Gregg Popovich.
In many ways, you can say that the reason why the Spurs have been so successful for the past 25 years is because they tanked a couple of seasons and landed the number one draft picks where they drafted David Robinson in 1987 and Tim Duncan in 1997. So, Brown knew first hand how a couple of number one draft picks could change an entire franchise for decades. And he also knew that they could have never gotten that pick without being awful the previous year.
Last season, the Sixers had a record of 19-63 with a winning percentage of .232. They finished second to last in the NBA, only behind the Milwaukee Bucks who had a record of 15-67. This year, the Sixers don’t want to finish second to last, but they want to finish dead last. And as of right now, they have placed themselves in a great position to accomplish this feat. The Sixers currently have the worst record in the league with a record of 2-19, which is a winning percentage of .095. They are at the bottom of the NBA and if they have it their way, the plan is to remain there the entire season if it's the last thing that they do.
But here is why the Sixers plan to tank is a major gamble. Even after finishing last season with the second worst record in the league (19-63), the Sixers highest pick was 3rd. Even with the odds incredibly in their favor to land the #1 or #2 pick, they didn't get it. Evidence shows that tanking does not always lead to the number one or number two pick. In fact, the highest odds that any team one team has of landing the number one pick is between 20% to 25%. From a gambling perspective, those odds are terrible.
Fortunately, the Sixers were able to draft Joel Embiid with the #3 pick. Embiid would have been the consensus #1 pick had he not sustained an injury that has kept him out this entire season so far. Unfortunately, the fact that his injury deterred the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks from selecting him means that he could just as easily end up being another Greg Oden. However, had Embiid been selected with the number one pick, the Sixers would have been left with Jabari Parker or Andrew Wiggins. Now, Wiggins or Parker will eventually become good players, but so far, this draft has been all hype, and no substance.
As of right now, there isn’t one rookie averaging more than 13.0 points per game. Jabari Parker, the number two pick who was supposed to be the most NBA ready, has gotten off to a rough start and is only averaging 12.5 points per game. Andrew Wiggins who was selected with the number one pick is only averaging 12.4 points per game. The increasing trend with younger players is that they need a lot of time to develop, in order to become future All-Stars. And one thing is obvious, Parker and Wiggins are still at least three to four years away from being an All-Star, and by then, their rookie contracts will be up, and you risk the possibility of losing them. Does anyone honestly think that Michael Carter Williams is going to tolerate 3 to 4 consecutive losing seasons in a row, and still remain with the Sixers after his rookie contract is up?
Tanking works if your lucky enough to land the number one pick and you happen to be tanking during the year that a once a decade type of player like Kevin Durant happens to be coming out. But those are all big if’s. In reality, tanking doesn’t guarantee you anything, except for a losing season, a lost fan base, and a ton of ugly basketball.
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