NBA: How To Tank The Season In Five Easy Steps

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The NBA draft lottery is set in such a way that the teams with the worst records get a better chance at getting the No. 1 pick in the subsequent draft. So what’s to stop a team that knows they can’t make the playoffs from trying to get the worst record and the best chance at that No. 1 pick? Nothing!

Since there are no rules against it and it actually makes a lot of business sense for a lot of teams, we’re going to go through five easy steps to tanking the season.

1. Shut Down Your Recovering Superstar For The Year

The Wolves aren’t exactly rushing Love back. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com

It hasn’t been made official yet, but the Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t exactly been pushing to bring Kevin Love back from his broken hand. They currently sit at 23-43, right in the middle of a logjam for the No. 3 draft spot. There’s just two games separating seven teams for the right to have the third-best opportunity at the No. 1 overall pick.

This is the blueprint for tanking. The Timberwolves have a lot of talent as it is and have just had horrible luck with injuries this year. Bringing everyone back healthy next year with a high draft pick is what every team wants.

There’s another situation going on in Chicago with Derrick Rose on the shelf. If the Bulls were out of playoff contention, you know they wouldn’t be burning Joakim Noah and Luol Deng‘s candles at both ends. Since they’re still in the playoffs, it’s not quite tank time.

2. Use Questionable Late Game Strategy

If your team is down seven with 45 seconds to go in the playoffs, you can be sure that the team is going to push the pace and do whatever they can to get back into the game. Stranger things have happened, right?

However, when you’re looking to tank, it’s of paramount importance that you lose all of the close games. If there’s one thing that a team can control, it’s their late game strategy. Want to tank (and make the sharps in Las Vegas happy)? Run out the clock.

3. Don’t Start With Much Talent In The First Place

Walker is a solid player, but not a star. Photo Credit: Keith Allison, Flickr.com

No offense to Mike Dunlap, my namesake and the coach of the Charlotte Bobcats, but he’s not going to be able to put together a playoff team without the proper talent.

The Bobcats are without one elite player and don’t even have a player that projects as elite at this point. They’re in a market that few want to go to, so their only real option is to build through the draft. They were the worst team in the history of the NBA in 2011-12, yet they lost out in the lottery and missed on Anthony Davis.

Still, they’re going to keep trying (to tank). They have a two-game “lead” for the worst record in basketball and I don’t see them changing that too much.

4. Make Nonsensical Trades

This one cuts awfully close to tanking the franchise. The Sacramento Kings traded Thomas Robinson, their 2012 first-round draft pick, after just 51 games. To be fair, they acquired Patrick Patterson in the deal and he’s performed well given his limited time.

The Wizards are another team that made a real head-scratcher of a trade. They unloaded Jordan Crawford, admittedly not a superstar, to the Boston Celtics for Leandro Barbosa and Jason Collins.

Let me remind you that Barbosa tore his ACL BEFORE the Wizards made this trade. They traded for a player who’s 30 years old who just tore his ACL. It must have been to get rid of a bad contract, right? Uh, no. Crawford is slated to make just $2.2 million in 2013-14.

5. Cut Minutes For Your Best Players

You want 40 minutes of Tyler Zeller? You got it! (Photo by Cavs History/Flickr.com)

There are two different situations where this ugly scenario pops up. The first one is when a team is trying to secure the worst record in the league and they simply don’t want to win. For a laugh, go look at NBA box scores in April and see who plays minutes down the stretch for bad teams. It’s laughable.

Take a look at this hilarious box score between the Brooklyn (then New Jersey) Nets and the Toronto Raptors, both teams who were “battling” for better draft position:

Basic Box Score Stats
StartersMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS+/-
Jordan Williams39:25513.385000055100012410-12
MarShon Brooks30:41417.23500111.000224120329-25
Gerald Green24:51413.30823.66701.0000552013210-13
Sundiata Gaines22:3915.20002.00058.625112220007-18
DeShawn Stevenson20:2804.00003.00000011110100-32
ReservesMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS+/-
Johan Petro39:1549.4440012.5003912200249-22
Armon Johnson33:44310.30013.333441.0001235401211-9
Anthony Morrow28:57412.33337.429000222003111-24
Team Totals2402583.301618.3331116.6881227391592151567

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/22/2013.

Basic Box Score Stats
StartersMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS+/-
Ben Uzoh46:14619.3160000471112412312+33
Alan Anderson45:11616.37559.556331.0001344003220+32
Ed Davis43:151015.6670045.80048122113324+25
James Johnson19:0347.57101.00000022200418+18
Jamaal Magloire5:23000000134000000+15
ReservesMPFGFGAFG%3P3PA3P%FTFTAFT%ORBDRBTRBASTSTLBLKTOVPFPTS+/-
Gary Forbes40:37821.38159.55624.5000663201223+18
Solomon Alabi40:17310.3000056.833514190030111+14
Team Totals2403788.4201019.5261418.7781543582375131298

Provided by Basketball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 3/22/2013.

The second scenario is when a team is in a desirable seed and wants to avoid playing a certain team in the first round. For example, do you think the Los Angeles Lakers would rather face the San Antonio Spurs or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the first round?