One of the bigger stories in the NBA right now is the idea of "tanking", which is the act of supposedly and inadvertently losing enough games to have a better chance of having a higher draft pick. In most American professional sports leagues, the collegiate draft order is one based off of how badly a team needs talent, and that need is determined by team record during the regular season. The team with the worst record will have a 25 percent chance of winning the 1st overall pick in this year's NBA draft.
So sooner or later, teams began to digress into desperation mode. Organizations would trade or release all of their good players with the hopes of acquiring a great player through the draft. The Philadelphia 76ers have shown an extensive and very unorthodox blueprint on how tanking can benefit a franchise in the long run. They spent three seasons in the doldrums of the NBA standings, while collecting first round picks, and now they have two future superstars to show for it.
Unfortunately, the biggest losers out of situations like these are the fans who are watching these teams falter night after night. The team owner and the team General Manager constantly tell the fans that losing this much is for the future. That in the said future, they will finally get the next NBA superstar that will lead them to the promise land. These are huge risks though, and not every top pick will become a star. Plus, it would require that an organization is able to groom very young talent, particularly in 19 and 20 year olds.
So far, there are literally four teams that I can see that are looking towards the future of their franchise opposed to the present. All the way at the bottom is the Phoenix Suns, who have been collecting talent for the past couple of years now, but haven't figured out how to harness it into wins. The Orlando Magic made strides in the right direction at first, but blew up the roster again to try to get more superstar caliber players. Sacramento Kings always seem to have problems building a contending roster, and players have treated the organization like a revolving door.
The most depressing of the teams in disarray is the Atlanta Hawks. They transitioned from a top seeded team in the East that rivaled the Cleveland Cavaliers, into a disjointed group of average basketball players after they let all their stars walk away. Their process is going to take years to rebuild and it won't be pretty.
Tanking will not be an easy fix, because as of right now, tanking is seen as the solution to mediocrity in an NBA franchise. As long as the NBA draft lottery system is set up to increasingly benefit horrible teams, teams will adjust to it any way they can.
By Joshua Hamer - Contributing Sports Writer