With apologies to Charles Dickens, it’s been the best of times, it’s been the worst of times, NBA variety.
The good news is “the process” works. The bad news is “the process” works.
After several seasons of failing to put a competitive team on the court, giving rise to accusations of “tanking,” the Philadelphia 76ers are returning to the Playoffs for the first time in a half dozen seasons, led by Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. With Indiana’s loss to Miami on Sunday the 76ers officially clinched a Playoffs berth.
And at 42-30 the Sixers started this week having won six in row and seeded sixth in the East, a game and a half behind third seeded Cleveland. They are assured of only their second winning season in more than a dozen years.
That’s the good news about “the process.”
Now, the bad news.
Because the 76ers are showing it works, other teams are engaging in a similar process of tanking. And it’s not the players behind this – players almost always are trying their best to win. But ownership is not putting the team in the best position to win.
Teams including Chicago, Dallas, Memphis, Orlando and Sacramento are among those that appear to be tanking the balance of this season in order to improve their chances at a better draft choice, which several extra losses would bring when it comes to the percentages allocated to non-playoff teams in the draft lottery.
Perhaps changing the draft lottery rules such that all 14 teams that miss the Playoffs have an identical chance of getting the number one pick would end this practice going forward. Going back to the old format of placing the names of the non-playoff teams in a hat and just picking out teams one by one would discourage tanking. That would mean the team currently with the worst record in the NBA, 19-55 Phoenix, would have the same chance of getting the number one pick as would 40-33 Denver, the team currently closest to making the Playoffs.
At least it is worth considering and would take away the incentive to not try to win.
Here are thoughts on three weekend games.
New Orleans at Cleveland (Friday): The Cavs are getting healthy as the Playoffs approach and are worth considering for play until they wrap up the number 3 seed. CLEVELAND
Toronto at Boston (Saturday): Boston is in the more favorable scheduling as each will play on the road the night before their Wednesday rematch. The Celtics will play at Milwaukee before entering the Toronto rematch while sandwiched between the games against Boston is a game at Cleveland for the Raptors. BOSTON
Milwaukee at Denver (Sunday): The first home game following an extended road trip has long been challenging for the host. This being Easter Sunday adds other distractions and family obligations not often associated with this situation. While the game is important for both teams, the situation favors the Bucks. MILWAUKEE