thinking

To Tank, or Not to Tank…Not to Tank

So, as the game was coming to a close last night, someone made mention via Twitter, that we should have never signed Al Jefferson.  They said that now was not the time.  We have sucked for this long, so why not continue to suck for one more season knowing full well that the Summer of 2014 would be one of the biggest drafts in a long, LONG time.  Now, we all have our opinions of how this team SHOULD be run.  We’re all right, right?  Well, I’ve been in the arena during amazing wins and embarrassing losses.  I’ve had season tickets in the shortened season, which was the worst win % for an NBA team ever.  Perhaps my views are biased because I’m tired of losing, but here goes my explanation…

The Bobcats in this Jordan era has seen its own share of highs and lows.  There were good and bad draft picks, good and bad trades, and good and bad coaching decisions.  Again, these moves are good or bad in the eyes of the fans.  I believed Dunlap was the answer, but a short span into the season; I wanted his head on a platter.  I was pro-Biyombo.  I was also pro-Vucevic, pro-Thomas Robinson, pro-Andre Drummond…see where I’m going here?  I’m not always right, and I admit it.  I can’t read the organization’s mind as to whom they will draft, but that’s also why I run an independent blog site to educate the fans about the team and to give the team my undying support.

So what’s my point?  It’s a simple one.  Tankin’ ain’t easy.  Really, it isn’t.  It should be, but this season, in the East especially, it is far from easy.  Did you know that right this minute, at 7:30PM on 01/30/2014, there are exactly 5 teams that have win percentages over .500?  That means there are 10 teams that are sub-.500.  That also means that 3 sub-.500 teams will make playoffs.  Those 3 teams would be Washington, Brooklyn, and Charlotte.  The current worst record in the NBA is the Milwaukee Bucks with an 8 – 37 record, followed by Orlando with a 12-35 record.  Also worth mentioning is that in the West, there are only 4 teams with a sub .500 record.  I won’t bore you with more stats, but if you get a chance, just go look at the NBA standings by Conference.  The East is just an utter embarrassment.  Cleveland has had top picks for the last few years, and they are still sitting at the 5th worst team in the East.  We’d really have to stink up the second half of the season to stoop into the “Lottery Zone”.

Here’s my first issue with the whole tanking idea and the Al Jefferson comment:

Kemba is due to get a qualifying offer in the 2015-2016 season.  Have you seen the news today?  Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland.  Why?  They keep sucking, no matter what pieces they add.  What else can they do?  Kyrie and Tristan Thompson joined the team in 2011 on #1 and #4 picks.  In 2012, Dion Waiters joined the team in a #4 pick.  This year, Anthony Bennett was added with yet another #1 pick.  2 – #1 picks in a 2-year span and 2-#4 picks…and they still suck.  Why is the draft not working for them?  They have had 4 picks in the top 4 in the past 3 years.  Do we fully blame the “weak” draft years?  They had top picks.  What about trades and free agents?  Could they have moved one or 2 picks to add a vet presence?  Possibly.  I have this thought that is there is such a thing as too much youth.  All I know is that if we didn’t start winning, that could have become Kemba in the 2015-16 season, and could have been Gerald Henderson, Josh McRoberts, and others at the end of last season.  Instead Al Jefferson was drafted to show that we are serious about winning.  We had the worst record ever, and we still wound up with the #2 pick, which helped us to miss out on Anthony Davis, the last “sure thing” in a draft.

This brings me to my next point:

How many young guys do we need?  In our same short span of 3 years, we have added Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Jeffery Taylor, and Cody Zeller.  In that same span, we have posted records of: 7 – 59, 21 – 61, and currently 20 – 27.  We are getting better.  Over the course of rebuilding, we are actually getting better.  We aren’t doing it completely through the draft either.  Have we drafted poorly?  Hindsight is 20/20; so don’t judge the picks off of what we know now about other players in that same draft.  I could build a great team through the draft if I had a crystal ball and a time traveling car of some sort.  I believe that we have added youth, and added youth, and now we don’t need any more youth.  At some point, there has to be a veteran presence to steer the young guys in the right direction.  Al Jefferson is proving to be a great addition.  I was skeptical of the addition, but I’m not a GM, and now, with 21 straight games with 20+ points, and double double after double double, I get exactly why he’s here.  Even in last night’s game, the second game in a row where MKG fouled a 3-point shooter, creating the opportunity for a 4-point play, you immediately see Al going to the young guy, telling him what he has got to NOT do in those situations.  Al was a great mentor to Kanter and Milsap in Utah, and now he can be a great mentor to Biz and Zeller.

So we signed Al too soon.  In my mind, I sometimes wonder what this team would have looked like without adding him.  I could see no more Gerald Henderson.  I could have also seen Byron Mullens still being in Charlotte because our centers would have been Biz and Haywood, with Biz not being ready just yet and Haywood being injured up to the all-star break.  Could we have attracted another free agent SG?  Would we have grabbed a different Center?  Again, no crystal ball or time machine, so I can’t say what would have happened.  All I know is that sometimes lightning strikes or strikes twice and you get lucky in the draft.  It happened with the Charlotte Hornets version 1.0 when we drafted Larry Johnson, and then were able to draft Alonzo Mourning the next year.  I thought it was going to happen with Kyrie and Tristan in Cleveland, but I was wrong.  I can’t even say that they are 1 piece away from really running away with the East.  I can say that we are 1-2 pieces away from being really good.

Why can I say that about our team?  We are improving.  We hit rock bottom, and we are now battling our way out of the cellar.  This is the 3rd year of improved play and an improved roster.  We have seen bad contracts fall by the wayside, and a salary level that has us positioned to make more moves in signing needed pieces to continue to get better.  I get that this is supposed to be the biggest draft in a long time, but I also here where there are a few of those top guys who may just stay in college.  What if they do?  What if they decide that it would be better to stay another year in school, get even better and make themselves a lock for a higher pick position next year.  It could very well happen.  Imagine if Jeffery Taylor hadn’t ruptured his Achilles tendon.  He was really coming into his own.  He was improving so much, in fact, that I could have seen him taking the starting SG job from Henderson.  A versatile 6’7” SG/SF that could shoot the ball, slash to the basket, and play shutdown defense.  Instead, Taylor’s hurt and out for the season, Hendo gives us north of 20 points every 8th game, and aside from Big Al and Kemba, no one can score the basketball.  A healed Taylor next season will most likely be a key piece to make Gerald Henderson a 6th man on this team…or another team.

Rumors are out today that say that we will be “buyers” at the trade deadline.  That means that we will be looking to add more talent to make that playoff push.  Making the playoffs gives our pick this year to the Bulls, and we would only have the Portland pick late in the 1st round, and possibly Detroit’s.  I believe this is just the beginning of Charlotte Basketball becoming a legitimate player in the playoff race.

I guess this hasn’t been so much as a straight up list of reasons as to why not to tank so much as just what goes on in my mind when someone says we should tank.  I get that this draft is deep, but folks make it sound like a sure thing that if we tank, we’d get a top 3 player that will be a perennial superstar that will propel us into multiple championships.  They also act like it is a guarantee that all these “future stars” will definitely be in the draft.  Lastly, they act like this is the last time this will EVER happen.  We just are not in a spot to take on even more youth.  We need young vets that can score, and just need a shot to prove themselves on a new team.  I like the draft, but after missing out on Anthony Davis, I just don’t care about it anymore.  I think it is a secretive, unfair setup that can easily be manipulated behind closed doors so that the team the NBA wants to have the #1 pick can have the #1 pick.  Cleveland got it when LeBron left them.  New Orleans got it when the team was finally sold off of the NBA’s books, like a free gift for purchasing the team from them, and this past year, Cleveland got another #1 pick, like it was given another shot at getting a replacement for LeBron, to go with Kyrie.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I remember when the lotto balls were drawn on live TV.  I believed that the lottery was a true lottery, and the worst team had the best chance at winning.  When it went behind closed doors, I lost the faith.  Let me throw this one out there though…what if this is Charlotte’s year.  What if our reward for taking back the Hornets name is to be granted the glory of going from the projected #10 pick to getting the #1 pick.  Adam Silver did receive a “Bring Back the Buzz” sticker when he was in Charlotte.  Foreshadowing?  Who knows?  All it takes is for us to have been beaten by a team that has the same record as ours, but they beat us more than we beat them, and we’re back in the lottery again, then the closed doors can work their magic.

 

I would like to share some dialogue that went on earlier this evening by some avid Trade Street Post followers.  They shared their perspectives on our Facebook wall, and I’d like to share it here.  Hopefully this article, and their discussion will spark more discussion on tanking, the draft, the players, and everything else related to the NBA and the Charlotte Bobcats/Hornets:

From Facebook –

Trade Street Post:

There will be a game recap posted this evening…also…from some of the rants last night on twitter…again…I have an article brewing on the whole To Tank, or not to tank.
A few nerves were struck last night, and I can't let it go…so I will be sharing MY perspective.

Thomas Wiggins:

^ Damn it, that's what I've been working on! Maybe we should put our heads together…

Trade Street Post:

We can…I'll write mine and you write yours and I can turn it into a point/counterpoint…but it will most likely be a point/point article. I can make it work either way.

T.C. Brown:

I really don't get how the team could tank without killing themselves in the long run. We'd probably need to get rid of a good player to do it.

Trade Street Post:

I agree…there would be no way to tank without being blatantly being obvious…and so many think that it would be completely easy to do so. The East is just that bad…

Thomas Wiggins:

^ Agreed. However, if we make the playoffs we surrender our first round pick to Chicago. We aren't winning the East, so…. do we *really* want to make the playoffs?!

T.C. Brown: I think that's a losing mentality. I can't think of many teams that brush off the playoffs just because you have no chance of winning. Getting there is the first step. We will need to take our lumps one way or another.

Matt Williams:

And as long as that stupid lottery system exists, there are no guarantees of a good draft pick

T.C. Brown:

Exactly. I mean, all things considered, let's be real. We've made the tournament one time in our history. I think it's comical some are willing to tank super hard to avoid it like we are already stuck in that Hawks/Bucks phase of being there but never getting over the hump. No part of me believes that the benefits reaped from having our core experience the playoffs is outweighed by the impact another drafted player will bring us. Not unless it's a top 5 pick. And even with that, honestly the talent in this draft has been over hyped from day one. Not to mention that several guys near the top are still on the ropes on whether they should declare or not. We made our decision to win the day we signed Al Jefferson. No reason at all to go back on it now.

Austin L'Orange:

I can provide a counterpoint if you'd like

T.C. Brown:

Sure.

Thomas Wiggins:

Cho's plan was to build through the draft and free agency. Can we build through the draft with ZERO picks in what most are calling the deepest draft in history? And while getting to the playoffs is a GREAT moral victory for a young up-and-coming team, doesn't it hurt the team in the long run more than it helps?

Look, I'm not saying we should tank. I'm just playing devil's advocate here. In fact, I spent HOURS debating with 2 friends of mine here on FB on why we should NOT Tank and try to make the playoffs. There are plenty of good arguments on both sides, though…

T.C. Brown:

We have picks from Portland and possibly one from Detroit. We wont have 0 picks. We plucked a 20-10 big man from free agency that it will take years for anyone in the draft to reach if they ever are at all. I think having homegrown talent is overrated. We already have 5 players 25 and under whom we are counting on for the future. Constantly infusing the roster with more youth from high draft picks can end up hurting your cap too, especially with players like Kemba needing to be extended soon. We need to put a team of players together that fit rather than worrying about a "star" and building around them. That really guarantees you nothing in the end. Look at superstar Melo in New York. Superstar Kyrie in Cleveland. Sub par teams still. You don't mess with chemistry in the NBA. You don't need high picks to win, you need chemistry. Look at the Pacers. Contenders but not full of high picks. There are other ways of building rather than tanking.

Trade Street Post:

Hey guys…I wish I had this commentary on the website…and in a way, I will. I'm going to put this all into an article on the site and hope for more discussion there and here

Trade Street Post: I'm going to list all you guys as authors

T.C. Brown:

It's all good Lail.

Thomas Wiggins:

Both those picks (Portland and Detroit) are protected. Right now we would get Portland's but it would be at the back end of the draft and Detroit's remains to be seen as they are behind us. There pick is protected from the top 8, so as of right now we'd get it, but that doesn't mean anything. The advocates for tanking DO have a case. While I don't personally agree with them, a large chunk of the best teams in the league were built by drafting stars after terrible years. While I personally believe that Kemba and Jefferson, combined with this season's success and the re-brand buzz, will help attract bigger name free agents, it's hard to argue with someone who wants to see us draft Parker or Wiggins knowing full well it will take an act of God for us to make it past the first round of the playoffs. The reason it's such a good debate is that both sides have merit and both formulas have proven to work in the NBA. The problem with the logic TC and I seem to share is that more teams have risen to the top by sucking/tanking than have through long rebuilding projects.

Thomas Wiggins:

And I will gladly continue this debate on the site and invite Joshua Justin Leonard and Doug Cross to chime in since the three of us had a lively debate about it a month or so ago.

Brendan Ciganek:

I hate the Tank idea. It’s a deep draft. Great, lets get a good pick deep in the draft! Play to win! End of story. Do as much as you can with what you have, anything less does not deserve my fanaticism.

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