I’ve been pretty focused on keeping this site as entirely NFL-related, but today I have to switch to the NBA. See you next week if you don’t care, but there are some parallels in strategy to be found.
For some reason, most franchises in professional sports are seemingly loathe to “tank”. I discussed this last year after Nick Foles’ last second TD for the win. At that point, it was 100% clear that the optimal outcome for the Eagles would have been to lose the game. Had the team lost, it would have had the #3 overall draft pick, allowing them to take Dion Jordan (if they wanted him; there were rumors they did). We have no idea if that is the case, but the point is that the Eagles, during that game, did NOT make the optimal decision (i.e. losing).
There are a number of potential reasons for that. Players aren’t “wired” that way. It’s not fair to the fans. The object of the game is to win. Etc…
Those are all bullshit.
There’s a larger discussion to be had about what fans should really value in their favorite sports teams; consistent regular season entertainment or a “go-for-it” title-driven mentality. That’s a post for another day, but for now I’m operating under the assumption that the goal (from the fan’s perspective) in any professional sport is to win the title. If that’s the case, the Eagles screwed up last year, as many teams do.
For those of you watching the NBA draft last night, you can see where I’m headed. The Sixers, under new GM Sam Hinkie, made moves last night that CLEARLY define the near term strategy as follows: LOSE.
My timing yesterday was impeccable. I mentioned that Jrue Holiday was the only real reason to watch the Sixers. By far the team’s best player, he is an All-Star PG, just 23 years old, and has the potential to be among the best in the league at his position.
Last night the Sixers traded him.
For a player who might not play a single game next year.
The full return is a player named Nerlens Noel and a 1st round pick next year (1-5 protected). Noel is recovering from a torn ACL, but he’s
7 feet 6’11” tall, the most athletic player in this year’s draft, a day one defensive force (may lead the league in shot-blocking when he plays), and arguably the highest “upside” player in the draft. Franchise centers are incredibly difficult to find, making Noel extremely valuable, provided his ACL heals.
That’s almost irrelevant though. The real key here is the 2014 draft, which is projected to feature Andrew Wiggins and a host of other top-level talent. If things play out according to the odds, the Sixers will have a good shot at the #1 pick, as well as another 1st round pick (I’m guessing between 10-15).
Wiggins is a Kevin Durant-level prospect. He’s a day-one franchise changer, and the type of player NBA teams must have in order to compete for a title.
That’s why, for the Sixers, losing is the near-term optimal strategy. It’s borderline amazing that the team appears to have accepted this so transparently. Without Jrue Holiday, the Sixers will be a truly awful basketball team, and a Thad Young injury away from being historically bad.
In any case, Philadelphia sports fans are now presented with an incredibly rare opportunity:
You can and SHOULD be rooting for the Sixers to LOSE every game next year. The team’s GM, Sam Hinkie, is flying the “tank” bat-signal. That means you don’t even have to feel guilty about rooting against them!
Whereas the Eagles last year insisted upon “fighting the good fight”, to the detriment of the team’s future, the Sixers are fully embracing the Lose-to-Win philosophy.
The Sixers, one way or the other, will finally escape from the sports purgatory that is NBA mediocrity.
So steel yourselves, Sixers fans; we’re done with pretense. It’s time to climb down into the darkness. This coming season, down is up and up is down; the only way to win is to lose. In other words, your team is about to crawl to freedom through a river of shit.
Best pack your soap.