An NBA general manager has finally admitted to tanking. Sort of. In a piece for ESPN The Magazine, an anonymous GM explained his strategy for punting this season in order to acquire a high draft pick. You already know the logic behind stripping down a roster, but you’ve likely never heard it honestly articulated by someone in the middle of that process:
Our team isn’t good enough to win and we know it. So this season we want to develop and evaluate our young players, let them learn from their mistakes —and get us in position to grab a great player. The best way for us to do that is to lose a lot of games. This draft is loaded. There are potential All-Stars at the top, maybe even franchise changers. Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing.
We’re not alone. Look at the 76ers. Since the draft in June, I don’t think they’ve signed a player or made a trade to add a legitimate player. A bunch of us realize that our teams aren’t good enough talentwise to do anything. You’re going to be bad. There’s no way around it. And even if you finish 0-82, there’s still a 75 percent chance you don’t get the No. 1 pick. We’re just going to take our lumps and hope our number gets called.
Who could the GM be? Clearly it’s not Sam Hinkie of the Philadelphia 76ers, It’s likely not Danny Ainge of the Boston Celtics, either, unless he’s completely backtracking on everything he’s been saying leading up to the season. It’s also probably not the Charlotte Bobcats’ Rich Cho, since for the first time in years Charlotte intentionally added experience when they signed Al Jefferson.
It could be Phoenix Suns general manager Ryan McDonough, who recently traded starting center Marcin Gortat to the Washington Wizards for a first round draft pick and an injured player (Emeka Okafor) who might never play a game for Phoenix. The anonymous GM mentions trading away veterans for picks and young players, and that’s exactly what McDonough has done with Gortat, Jared Dudley and Luis Scola. The Suns might wind up with four first round picks in the 2014 draft.
Another possibility is Orlando Magic general manager Rob Hennigan, though most of his moves came in the summer of 2012 and the multi-year deal given to Jameer Nelson that offseason doesn’t exactly fit with the plan that this anonymous GM is talking about.
It might also be Utah Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey, though he has publicly stated that tanking is not his intention. The Jazz declined to bring back veterans Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Randy Foye and Mo Williams this season, instead opting to see how ready their young guys are and clear up their salary cap situation.