Last week, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver was quoted as ‘putting teams on notice’ that they are seriously monitoring the issue of tanking. Specifically, this year in regards to the projected 1st overall pick Victor Wembayana who’s the most hyped prospect since LeBron James. Silver went as far as considering a proposal of promotion and relegation between the NBA and the G League mimicking the model we see in European soccer, the Premier League specifically. While this would certainly prevent tanking, it was deemed too radical for business model reasons. Personally, I’d absolutely love to see this model implemented, it would bring more relevance to the G league and keep teams from blatantly trying to lose.
Regardless of cryptic warnings and threats of relegation, whatever Silver did seems to be working. Teams aren’t tanking, we’re seeing some incredible basketball, and some supposed contenders are at the bottom of their conferences early on. So is tanking dead or is there another reason some supposed tankers are far from it, at least so far? Let’s take a look at three tanktenders and dig into why they are doing the exact opposite of what was expected.
The Utah Jazz
Safe to say I’m going to stop picking against these guys. Mere months are selling off franchise cornerstones Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert (not to mention key role player Bojan Bogdanovic too), the Jazz were expected to be at the bottom of the Western Conference. How have they started the year? Oh, only going 5-2 including wins against clear playoff contenders in the Nuggets, Pelicans, Timberwolves, and Grizzlies. Lauri Markennen is averaging 21-9, and five other players are averaging double-figure scoring. This ragtag crew of players who were essentially salary fillers for other teams to get big names are showing that names don’t always get it done. Who knows how long this will last, but for now the Jazz sit 3rd in the West and are far from tanking, even though they probably should be.
The San Antonio Spurs
Speaking of teams in 3rd place in the West, hello San Antonio! The Spurs, led by a breakout start to the year from Keldon Johnson, also sit at 5-2 in spite of a roster that, on paper, seemed to be surely heading for a tank for the Wembayana campaign. Well, it seems Pop still has some tricks up his sleeves after all these years. He has a young core of Johson, Devin Vassel, and Tre Jones competing night in and night out, and has somehow made Doug McDermott a relevant rotation player. The Spurs seem like a franchise too proud to tank and it sure seems like that hasn’t changed this year.
The Indiana Pacers
Unlike the Spurs and Jazz, the Pacers don’t sit at the top of their conference. They are only 3-4. Still, they are not tanking, and I needed an excuse to talk about the talent on this team. Tyrese Haliburton will be an all-star this year and Bennedict Mathurin, not Paolo Banchero, will win ROTY. This team has been consistently in the rumor mill for blowing it up and sending off Buddy Hield and Myles Turner for picks, but there might be too much talent to do that. Haliburton is averaging 23/10/4 on 50/46/94 shooting splits and Mathurin, a rookie, is averaging 21 on 45/45/87 splits. Jalen Smith and Turner make a great big-man duo, and these guys will compete night in and night out.
So, Is Tanking Dead?
Maybe? These three teams were expected to be in the battle for ping-pong balls almost solely based on the fact that there are no established stars on their rosters. Yet, each of these rosters is out here winning games or competing every single night. The point is, tanking might be off the table. Not because of an empty threat from Adam Silver, no, but because there’s just so much freakin’ talent in this league, and if you’re good enough to make the league, you aren’t mailing it in for a chance at drafting a talent who could replace your job. All of that being said, I’m sure we’ll start seeing some weird injuries and rest days crop up for bad teams’ good players as we get further into the season. Tanking probably isn’t dead, but one thing’s for sure, there’s a ton of talent in the league right now so load up League Pass and enjoy.
Week 2 Pick Recaps
Picks – Season (3-2)
Mavericks – L
Bucks – W
Survivor Season (2-2)
Survivor Traps (2-2)
Magic – L
Nets – W
I need to stop trusting the Mavs!
Week 3 Pools Picks
Sixers vs Wizards – The Sixers are figuring it out, Tyrese Maxey is a stud (MIP incoming?), and the Wizards are playing well but still pretty mid, take the Sixers with confidence.
Grizzlies vs Hornets – Another under-the-radar player who’s been a killer so far, Desmond Bane. He’s averaging an efficient 24 PPG and becoming the clear number 2 next to Ja, fire them up against the Hornets.
Hawks vs Pelicans – I love the Pelicans this year, but Trae Young is showing that he’s less the player we saw versus Miami in the playoffs and more the guy who led the league in total points and assists.
Heat over Kings – Yes, Miami has been struggling to start the season. Yes, they just lost to the Kings in Sacramento. Yes, this is the second leg of a back-to-back coming off a game against Golden State the night before. Still, they can’t lose to the Kings at home, right? ….right?
Bucks over Thunder – The Bucks are rolling, and the Thunder are probably in the midst of another tank, even though SGA is playing out of his mind. Lock this in.
Nuggets vs Spurs – As mentioned above, Pop has this young Spurs team rolling, even though the Nuggets are at home, stay away from this one.
Mavericks vs Jazz – Same deal here, the Jazz are rolling, stay away while they’re still hot.