Get like Philly. Game on, Sixers. Or maybe I should say tank on. Call it what you want, but if the Philadelphia 76ers weren’t already miles ahead of the pack in Tankathon 2014, they just finished the marathon with the news that Nerlens Noel probably won’t play at all this season. Tanking is clearly the focus here, but Noel was one light at the end of the tunnel for Philadelphia fans. Any team that boasts Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner as its best players was bound to drive fans away (screaming in horror with their arms above their heads), but Noel was at least an interesting prospect who would still be sidelined enough to not derail the quest for historical awfulness.
Apparently, even half a season of Noel was enough to scare the Sixers into playing the “Oh Man This Sucks, This Totally Talented Prospect We’re Really Excited About Is Going To Sit The Whole Year While We Flirt With Double Digit Wins On The Season” Card. I mean, read the report again. Notice there are no mentions of a setback or that Noel’s injuries are worse than we previously thought. It’s either outright honesty (“The Philadelphia 76ers are now expecting to hold first-round draft pick Nerlens Noel out”) or blatant distortions of the truth (“It was not originally the Sixers’ plan to sit Noel”).
The Phoenix Suns are tanking like never before this year as well. New general manager Ryan McDonough has done an excellent job this offseason in starting the rebuilding process in Phoenix for what seems like the 20th time in the last three years. He got rid of non-essential pieces like Luis Scola, Caron Butler and Jared Dudley while bringing in young, athletic talent in the form of Eric Bledsoe, Archie Goodwin and Alex Len (OK, maybe Len’s not athletic, but he’s young). Unfortunately, Philadelphia’s Sam Hinkie is just on another level of tanking. He’s the Eric Cartman to McDonough’s Scott Tenorman.
But in all seriousness, nobody is out-tanking the Philadelphia 76ers this year. NOOOOOOBODY. Philly will be trotting out a starting lineup of Michael-Carter Williams, James Anderson, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes. And they’ve got Kwame Brown on the roster still! It’s not even fair. I’d be nervous about that group being my favorite team’s bench, let alone their starting five!
How did Hinkie do it? Who knows. It involves a shrewd/blatant disrespect for staying competitive, but it started with a draft-day trade with the New Orleans Pelicans that brought in Noel and a 2014 draft pick in exchange for the now-overrated Jrue Holiday. Poor Pellies. They could’ve had the new version of the Twin Towers between Anthony Davis and Noel for the next few years, but instead they brought in a solid point guard to somehow mesh with Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon. Which means that if the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs, the Sixers could potentially have three lottery picks on their hands.
Barring an act of
David Stern God, the Philadelphia 76ers will “earn” the No. 1 pick in the loaded 2014 NBA Draft. The only way that doesn’t happen is if Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe sustain season-ending injuries or if the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers are somehow in the mix for the worst record in the league (which I don’t anticipate happening). Philly should have much higher odds of winning the rights to that No. 1 pick with the Suns, Sacramento Kings, Utah Jazz and Orlando Magic all looking in from the outside.
The Charlotte Bobcats have had crappy luck in the lottery the past few seasons despite being undoubtedly the worst team in the league, but for those who cry that Riggin’ for Wiggins could in fact be rigged by our dear commissioner, don’t forget that the 76ers are a semi-storied franchise with championship banners and tons of former stars. Even if he could rig the lottery, there’s no way Stern would choose any of those tanking contenders over the Sixers. Even if the possibility of Nerlens Noel’s “Gerald from Hey Arnold!” hair cut teaming up with the return of Spencer Hawes’ mullet is frightening.
So what’s the message from all this for the Phoenix Suns? There are two main points you can draw from the Sixers’ descent into basketball hell. 1) There’s little chance of the Suns out-tanking the Sixers now and 2) Maybe things in Phoenix aren’t so bad after all. Obviously Suns fans would love a shot at drafting Andrew Wiggins, but finishing with a top-three pick (which Phoenix should be able to manage) is not the end of the world. The 2014 NBA Draft has dozens of players projected to be All-Stars and multiple players that have already been deemed as franchise-altering. It’s not Wiggins or bust.
A cardboard cutout of Andrew Wiggins. RT @tomhaberstroh: Fun game: 76ers’ starting shooting guard on opening night will be ______________.
— Sean Highkin (@highkin) August 14, 2013
So relax, Suns fans. This season is going to be bad, but picture how awful it’ll be for already testy Philly fans. Can you imagine watching your team win a championship just a few decades ago and now it’s been reduced to Evan Turner? The highlight of this season could be Allen Iverson‘s retirement ceremony! That’s brutal and although I’m somewhat displeased with Philly’s outright forfeit of the 2013-14 season, they are undoubtedly the worst team in basketball. The Suns will be bad, but they won’t be that bad. Today, tanking is a habit in the NBA. But with McDonough piling up draft picks and young new talent, it might not be as bad of a habit for the Suns as it could be in Philly for the next few years.