I am an extremely competitive person. The very thought of throwing in the towel for an entire season would have never been on my radar. The audacity to strategically bench players is one that my personal mindset has never been on board for. But alas, when my teams name is in the mix, I succumb to the “what ifs”.
If you look in the latest ESPN headlines, you will see that Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban openly threw out the option of the Oklahoma City Thunder benching injury ridden all stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook for the remainder of the season in order to enter the draft lottery at the end of the season, and have a high draft pick to build a Championship contending team in the near future.
This theme of tanking a season is in no way a new idea. In fact, Cuban refers to the 1996-97 San Antonio Spurs who benched All-Star David Robinson which lead to them drafting Tim Duncan. The rest is history.
If we look at teams such as the Clevland Cavilers, who after being gutted by the departing of LeBron James in 2010, tanked for a season. They went on to receive Kyrie Irving in the lottery draft, and have now built a showcase of talent, as they are now back in the mix of contending for a title.
When I consider the options of whether I am on board for this tanking season, I immediately think of the Los Angeles Lakers. Upon the loss of Kobe Bryant to injury in 2013, the Lakers, rather than tanking the season and seeking redemption in the lottery, chose to fight it out, made it to the playoffs and lost 4-0 to the Spurs in the first round. This past season, they tanked, but rather than doing it on purpose, they did it due to a pitiful season. Their lousy 27-55 record would have at least had a small portion of light at the end of the tunnel, except rather than committing to the tanking season, to increase lottery odds, they tried to win each night, playing the starters and having no regard toward resting key players. That record was a mere 12 games behind the number one lottery pick. 12 more losses would have increased their odds at a number one pick by 25%. Those are fantastic odds!
We look at the past. What if they had benched their starters? What if they had tanked the 2013 season, and would have had a top five pick in both the 2013 and 2014, which would have played perfectly into the fact that Kobe is on borrowed time in his NBA career. Now, they are coming off two terrible seasons with a mediocre draft pick, and on track (though early in the season) to have another sorry season. TANK!
This discussion gets heated when brought before a National debate. Should we be allowing teams to purposely tank their season? Are their circumstances that would make it ok, such as injury?
When it comes to me personally, I am torn for my Oklahoma City Thunder this season. Though the season is young, it is not looking too bright for the home team. With many players on the injury list, the Thunder are left scraping the bottom to put five guys on the floor. Do they tank it? Do they continue on for dignity sake? The thought of it is tempting.
The fact is that contracts are coming to an end. The buzz of KD leaving OKC for another team such as Washington once his contract ends at the end of next season has shot around the sporting world as of late. Westbrook has a little more time to consider his options, as he and Ibaka are both under contract until the end of the 2016-2017 season. Perkins and Collison are an unknown as this is their last contracted season. I expect the Thunder will offer Collison a two year deal to try and squeeze a few more seasons out of the legend (Yes, I said legend. Don’t debate it), and Perk will be shipped off to leave cap space in order to try and keep the big three (KD, Russ, and Serge).
As Bob Dylan once sang, the times… they are a changing. There are shifts that are about to take place, and the Thunder don’t want to be on the wrong side of things when they decide to settle. If (and it is a large IF) there were a time to tank a season, this would be the one. It sets you up on a position to get another young guy to drive this already young roster if things go south in the KD deal. It logically can be pieced together, yet I am not ready to jump ship just yet.
Sam Presti and Scott Brooks have masterfully drafted in recent years to keep this thriving team going on young talent. Steven Adams, Perry Jones, and Jeremy Lamb could be the next big three for OKC. Time under the belt of the current All-Star cast, concocts a beautiful scenario. I believe the Thunder don’t need to tank. Stay strong, let injuries heal, and post-All Star break is going to be a plentiful harvest. That’s right Thunder faithful, as The Five Stairsteps once sang “Oooh child things are going to get easier. Oooh child things’ll get brighter.”
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