How to stop the tankathon

NoXInNixon

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The best regular season team in history signs at top-5 player in the league as a free agent, and yet people think tanking is the league's biggest structural problem? To me, parity is a way way bigger issue.
Well, to be fair, Durant to the Warriors only happened because of a highly unusual confluence of events.
 

cheech13

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You'll never be able to "fix" the draft and lottery because basketball is too dependent on star talent. Changing the rules of the draft would only shift the inflection point of when tanking becomes feasible. The most sensible idea would be to implement a hard cap, eliminate max deals and scrap the draft altogether but even that carries its own potential unintended consequences.
 

mcpickl

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I'd like to see Mike Zarren's wheel.

Failing that, I'd like to see a cap on the number of lottery ball combinations a team can have in a span of X years, to get rid of the perrential bottom feeders.
I hate the wheel idea.

Would stop tanking, but would also crush trading.

Almost every trade in the NBA happens because the acquiring team is dreaming the pick they're getting will be the 5th pick in the draft, while the seller thinks it'll be the 25th. If both teams know it'll be 15th, it'll be much tougher to make a deal.

I'd definitely take a few teams tanking every year over making trading even harder.
 

Devizier

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I hate the wheel idea.

Would stop tanking, but would also crush trading.

Almost every trade in the NBA happens because the acquiring team is dreaming the pick they're getting will be the 5th pick in the draft, while the seller thinks it'll be the 25th. If both teams know it'll be 15th, it'll be much tougher to make a deal.

I'd definitely take a few teams tanking every year over making trading even harder.
I think the wheel is convoluted and should fail on that merit alone. But your point is a salient one. Trading is one of the things that makes the NBA interesting.

I'll stick with my financial incentive plan. If the NBA seriously thinks tanking is a problem, then they hit the owners in the pocketbook for fielding a bad team.
 

moly99

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Molly's suggestion of eliminating max contracts solves so many problems. If Lebron made $45m then it would be nearly impossible to also pay Kyrie and Kevin Love their worth. Talent would shuffle as elite players moved to a team that could pay them their fair value.
For example look at the Timberwolves teams with Kevin Garnett's mega contract.
 

bowiac

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The "simplest" idea I can think of is just to change the weights, and make the lottery even flatter. Each team gets one lottery ball per loss. It doesn't remove tanking, but it does remove the "cliffs", where teams like the Lakers really have big gains from each additional loss. The cliffs are really what create ridiculous stretches of the season.
 

snowmanny

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I agree with Bowiac, because, really, all the teams in the lottery are a great distance from a championship.
It's not as if the Pistons and Mavs are five times closer to winning a title than are the Magic and the Lakers so why shouldn't they have pretty close to the same chance at a high pick?
 

wade boggs chicken dinner

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The NFL, NHL and MLB don't even have a lottery and they don't have a problem with tanking.
Wait a minute. What were the Astros doing a few years ago? The Phillies? What are the Browns doing now?

Even in the MLB, where one player doesn't make a huge difference (compared to the impact in the NBA) every GM knows that you are more likely to get an All-Star player at the top of the first round than anywhere else and so teams still shoot for a top pick if it is within reach.

As long as there are tangible benefits in ending up with the worst record, teams that want to leverage that benefit are going to not try to win.
 

Marbleheader

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Tanking exists in all leagues. Have we forgotten 'Suck for Luck' ? The NHL does have a draft lottery and teams were tanking for McDavid.

What I don't like are the teams that perennially tank. In the NBA, I'd just make it a rule that a team that picked in the top 3 using their own pick the previous year are ineligible for the top 3 with their own pick the following year.

It protects teams like the Celtics because the Nets aren't tanking for their own benefit, but teams like the Lakers and 76ers wouldn't be in the running this year because they picked 1-2 last year.
 

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Didn't someone on this board point out the contradiction in tanking for the players? As a player, if I am part of the tanking, my own stock goes down, future earnings are potential reduced, and I increase the likelihood that the team drafts my replacement.
A lot similar can be said re: coaches. (Just ask ML Carr)
I think that some of the perception about tanking is simple confirmation bias around the fact that a team does simply suck and thus would be expected to lose.
 

Devizier

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Didn't someone on this board point out the contradiction in tanking for the players? As a player, if I am part of the tanking, my own stock goes down, future earnings are potential reduced, and I increase the likelihood that the team drafts my replacement.

A lot similar can be said re: coaches. (Just ask ML Carr)
It's really as simple as benching your best guys or having them come up with hellenic flu. See: Celtics, 2007.
 

smastroyin

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I agree with Bowiac, because, really, all the teams in the lottery are a great distance from a championship.
It's not as if the Pistons and Mavs are five times closer to winning a title than are the Magic and the Lakers so why shouldn't they have pretty close to the same chance at a high pick?
This would then add a much larger incentive to teams on the bubble to stay out of the playoffs. Why should the Bulls or Pacers or hell the Bucks being playing to win right now? Wouldn't each of them benefit greatly from adding a rookie star? Much more than the Lakers or Suns or Magic? If you did this you'd probably have to add some significant cash incentive for teams that make the playoffs.

I'm not even one to think the top pick is a guaranteed star, or that much more valuable than the 2 pick. But in aggregate leaving everything to chance seems a bit too much. However, maybe something like the bottom 5 get any order 1-5 drawn randomly, and 6-14 get any order 6-14, and then some system where teams can't perennially get a top 5 pick. Like you can only get 2 every 5 years or something, even if you trade them away.

I'm all for the idea of just making amateurs all FA, btw. But the players would want that money restricted pretty heavily so that vets aren't losing money to prospects, and once you do that, it starts becoming a situation where top teams can entice top amateur talent because there aren't huge salary differences available. So it's complicated. That's why I think getting rid of the max or implementing a hard cap would have to go along with this idea.
 

Infield Infidel

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The "simplest" idea I can think of is just to change the weights, and make the lottery even flatter. Each team gets one lottery ball per loss. It doesn't remove tanking, but it does remove the "cliffs", where teams like the Lakers really have big gains from each additional loss. The cliffs are really what create ridiculous stretches of the season.
I think something like this would be most realistically possible, but IIRC don't they use number combinations instead of designated balls per team? If teams in the lottery average 55 losses, that's 770 balls, do they make lottery machines that big?. A regular lottery has fewer than 100. They could skew the number combos more gradually.

Rhetorically though, it would be funny. "Another loss, and another lottery ball for the Nets"
 
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Eddie Jurak

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I hate the wheel idea.

Would stop tanking, but would also crush trading.

Almost every trade in the NBA happens because the acquiring team is dreaming the pick they're getting will be the 5th pick in the draft, while the seller thinks it'll be the 25th. If both teams know it'll be 15th, it'll be much tougher to make a deal.

I'd definitely take a few teams tanking every year over making trading even harder.
I definitely disagree. I think half the reason why the Celtics weren't able to make a deal this year is the huge difference in value between #1 and #4 draft picks.
 

GreenMonster49

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I think something like this would be most realistically possible, but IIRC don't they use number combinations instead of designated balls per team? If teams in the lottery average 55 losses, that's 770 balls, do they make lottery machines that big?.
The current lottery uses 14 balls, with 4 balls picked without replacement, so there are (14 × 13 × 12 × 11) / (4 × 3 × 2 × 1) = 1001 possible combinations. They throw one (14-13-12-11) out if it ever comes up and assign the teams numbers of combinations according to their standing. If they needed 770, the simplest way would be to have 40 balls, pick two without replacement, and toss out the result if it is one of 10 of the 780 possible combinations. (There are straightforward methods for combinations of 680, 703, 715, 741, 780, 792, and 816.)
 

nighthob

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I definitely disagree. I think half the reason why the Celtics weren't able to make a deal this year is the huge difference in value between #1 and #4 draft picks.
I think the reason they didn't make a deal this year is that they didn't want to trade their '17 pick. But the draft wheel is terrible because if you end up on the shit end of the stick, like the 2011 Cavs, and you're not close to a top spot on the wheel, your team could conceivably suck for an NBA generation.

And what happens when you finally reach a top 3 spot only to find yourself in a crappy draft pool? And, of course, the top players that don't want to play for you could just conceivably delay NBA entry a year, thus further reducing the value of the pick.

The best solution would be to just let all amateur players enter the league as free agents and give the non-playoff teams a cap cushion to add talent. However the NBAPA wouldn't go for it, so the best solution is out.
 

sezwho

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Really enjoyed this thread and there have a been several great suggestions. After trying to evaluate which are realistic, I think there are a couple actual winners:

1) Eliminate teams from back to back top 3 picks (simple and shouldn't raise objections from either side).
2) Reweigh ping pong balls such that one loss = a lottery ball (simple and minimizes the reward for really bottoming out).

Removing the contract max is cool from an idealogical perspective but won't happen. Dumping the draft altogether and making them FA is also attractive but very unlikely. From my perspective the wheel is a mess on numerous levels.
 

tims4wins

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The one loss = one ball is a pretty great idea. In that situation the worst team wouldn't even have a 10% chance of the first pick. And 10 extra losses would increase your chances by like 1%, basically negligible. I love it.
 

reggiecleveland

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The fix I would like is probably not going to happen. Pay NCAA players a portion of the billion they bring in. Then draft guys after sophomore or better yet junior year. You can go play in Europe, for coin too.

The hope for this is for some of Trumps pals in Russia to offer the top high school recruits 7-8 million to play a year over there.
 

NoXInNixon

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The one loss = one ball is a pretty great idea. In that situation the worst team wouldn't even have a 10% chance of the first pick. And 10 extra losses would increase your chances by like 1%, basically negligible. I love it.
I think the formula should be something like Losses - 35 = balls. If you give the # 9 teams in each conference any realistic chance of getting lucky and sneaking into the top 3, teams will start tanking to avoid making the playoffs as the #7 or #8 seed.

Edit: After doing some quick calculations using this season's projected final standings, the formula that keeps each additional loss worth one ball/combo but most closely resembles the current formula is to give the non-playoff team with the best record one ball, then give every team one extra ball for each loss more than that team.

The Heat with 42 projected losses get 1 ball out of 131, or a 0.8% chance of getting the #1 pick. The current method would give them 0.5% chance. The Celtics with 21 combos would have a 16% percent chance at #1 instead of the 25% chance they have now.

If you went with the one loss = one ball method, the Heat would have a 6% chance at the #1 pick, and an 18% chance at top 3. That's way too high, as an 18% chance at Fultz, Jackson or Ball is worth way more than the right to get stomped on by Cleveland in the first round.
 
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moly99

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Wait a minute. What were the Astros doing a few years ago? The Phillies? What are the Browns doing now?
There is a clear distinction to be made between 1) rebuilding around younger players and accepting losing games as a downside, and 2) intentionally constructing a shitty roster because you want to lose.

The Celtics themselves are a good example of this. We had a bad season after trading away the Big 3. But the goal of the Brooklyn trade was not to tank. The goal was to get fresh blood for a rebuild and see which of the young guys on the roster could help the team out in the future: namely Avery Bradley and Kelly Olynyk.

I will admit that the Colts probably tanked to get Andrew Luck. But that is the exception that proves the rule. A franchise QB is the only position comparable to a superstar in the NBA, so the incentive to tank for a QB strong enough to potentially lure a team to do it.
 

BuellMiller

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This would then add a much larger incentive to teams on the bubble to stay out of the playoffs. Why should the Bulls or Pacers or hell the Bucks being playing to win right now? Wouldn't each of them benefit greatly from adding a rookie star? Much more than the Lakers or Suns or Magic? If you did this you'd probably have to add some significant cash incentive for teams that make the playoffs.

I'm not even one to think the top pick is a guaranteed star, or that much more valuable than the 2 pick. But in aggregate leaving everything to chance seems a bit too much. However, maybe something like the bottom 5 get any order 1-5 drawn randomly, and 6-14 get any order 6-14, and then some system where teams can't perennially get a top 5 pick. Like you can only get 2 every 5 years or something, even if you trade them away.

I'm all for the idea of just making amateurs all FA, btw. But the players would want that money restricted pretty heavily so that vets aren't losing money to prospects, and once you do that, it starts becoming a situation where top teams can entice top amateur talent because there aren't huge salary differences available. So it's complicated. That's why I think getting rid of the max or implementing a hard cap would have to go along with this idea.
I'm with you. How about this for an idea (borrowed from fantasy sports, hopefully it's not too much of a crackpot idea...because I'm sure Adam Silver is reading this thread)...instead of a draft, make it an auction. Teams get a set amount of dollars (either everyone gets the same, or it's based on # of Losses), and then they auction the players. Each team goes down the line and picks a player. After a team wins the bid on the player, they get a contract either based on a sliding scale of where they were picked, or just based on how many "dollars" were bid on them, proportional to the overall pool of "dollars" spent.
Teams could also try to trade players for "dollars" to be able to afford the player they want. I guess you could also trade future "dollars", but I'm guessing some kind of Stepien rule would have to be implemented as well.
 

mcpickl

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I definitely disagree. I think half the reason why the Celtics weren't able to make a deal this year is the huge difference in value between #1 and #4 draft picks.
I'd agree that it probably did in this case. Though maybe if it was a wheel and they knew it was #1 Boston wouldn't deal it and if they knew it was #4 the acquiring team wouldn't think it's good enough. I'd also argue it's a kinda rare case in that they would've been dealing a pick that wasn't their own, and that it was already clearly going to be in that 1-4 range where a spot either way is a massive swing in value.
 

allstonite

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I'm with you. How about this for an idea (borrowed from fantasy sports, hopefully it's not too much of a crackpot idea...because I'm sure Adam Silver is reading this thread)...instead of a draft, make it an auction. Teams get a set amount of dollars (either everyone gets the same, or it's based on # of Losses), and then they auction the players. Each team goes down the line and picks a player. After a team wins the bid on the player, they get a contract either based on a sliding scale of where they were picked, or just based on how many "dollars" were bid on them, proportional to the overall pool of "dollars" spent.
Teams could also try to trade players for "dollars" to be able to afford the player they want. I guess you could also trade future "dollars", but I'm guessing some kind of Stepien rule would have to be implemented as well.
If they all get the same amount, how would ties be settled? If it's based on losses wouldn't teams lost to get more $?

Also I don't think auctioning off mostly young black men to a bunch of rich white dudes is the best optics for the league
 

DrewDawg

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Also I don't think auctioning off mostly young black men to a bunch of rich white dudes is the best optics for the league
Come on man, you're creating an equivalency between slavery and preparing to offer guys millions of dollars.

The actual problem with this is there's like 2-4 top level players in each draft--most teams would bid every single $ they have on one of them. If teams don't have the same amount of money based on some formula, then whoever has the most would bid all of it on, say last year, Ben Simmons. The #2 team would do the same, not get the guy, then bid all their cash on the #2 guy, etc.
 
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jhp64

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It would make it harder to tank if the odds were based not on a single season, but on (say) the last three seasons. This would also make it harder for a team to get a good lottery draw because of injuries leading to a single bad season (cough Tim Duncan cough).
 

JakeRae

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It would make it harder to tank if the odds were based not on a single season, but on (say) the last three seasons. This would also make it harder for a team to get a good lottery draw because of injuries leading to a single bad season (cough Tim Duncan cough).
It would also make it so that bad team that just drafted the next generational talent would get a few more years of top picks more or less guaranteed.
 

RetractableRoof

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There really isn't any way to stop tanking unless you change the product. As others have mentioned it is a star driven league, and if stars are playing 40 minutes a game you can't win without them. In my eyes though the Jordan rules are amplifying the star effect. When you don't call that foul on the star du jour, his effect is lengthened in that game. If Lebron was called for every foul he committed his impact might be limited to 38 minutes or on a lesser night maybe 35. The 6-7-8 players in his place create the margin for other teams to compete. If all the players are called tighter then maybe rotations get deeper to the 9th guys and the potential for a deeper team to upset a top heavy team is better.

This isn't meant to be anti-Lebron, rather anti "Jordan's rules". Lebron would still be Lebron, he would just lose the protection of the league/refs to artificially dominate the game because 'ratings'.

Just my two cents.
 

Joe Sixpack

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So the league should call more fouls so that worse players get more minutes and stars have to sit. That sure sounds like a way to improve the product!
 

RetractableRoof

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So the league should call more fouls so that worse players get more minutes and stars have to sit. That sure sounds like a way to improve the product!
De-emphasize stars to increase competitive balance and reduce the need to tank. Yes.

And one method is to eliminate the star treatment around fouls - though not a stand on its own solution.
 

RetractableRoof

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How do you think the networks and sponsors would feel about that?
First: I'm only talking about making the stars play by the same rules as the rest of the players. Screw the networks and sponsors if they demand that stars are treated differently.

Second: the networks and sponsors seem fairly happy with March Madness and all that it entails as a game without a star system of preferential treatment. This would include upsets, disappointments, favorites, and an occasional cinderella within the framework of basketball. It seems go work as a product.

Third: This was how to get away from tanking and the collection of garbage handed to fans by the tanking teams. My thought is based on returning to an equitable intepretation of the rules, and competitive basketball. There will always be teams that suck or are mismanagemed - that's different than teams building losers to increase their chances for a star.

In an NBA environment where only stars matter - teams will do whatever is necessary to get one (or more). Until the star system is de-emphasized tanking will exist. It's not that complicated a tbought. Maybe calling/reffing the game fairly isn't the way to solve it - but it won't hurt the product either.
 

sezwho

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I've always been bugged by the star call effect but assumed it was inevitable due to league pressure to keep the stars eligible. How about eliminating fouling out? Call them like you see them, and the stars only come out when they are tired. Is there some obvious problem with letting someone get a 6th or even 7th foul? I don't see how this would goon the game up, in fact it would get called closer because the refs could call the game clean.
 

bosox79

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I've always been bugged by the star call effect but assumed it was inevitable due to league pressure to keep the stars eligible. How about eliminating fouling out? Call them like you see them, and the stars only come out when they are tired. Is there some obvious problem with letting someone get a 6th or even 7th foul? I don't see how this would goon the game up, in fact it would get called closer because the refs could call the game clean.
There would be more FT's which could slow the game down. There's a foul on every single possession, it would ruin the flow of the game.
 
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The fix I would like is probably not going to happen. Pay NCAA players a portion of the billion they bring in. Then draft guys after sophomore or better yet junior year. You can go play in Europe, for coin too.
My idea for this problem is this: when you draft a player, their rookie contract lasts through the year of the player's 25th birthday... for a fixed dollar amount. Players thereby have somewhat more motivation to stay in college and improve their draft stock, unless they are already very high picks -- aka more NBA ready.
 

DrewDawg

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Tanking? What're you guys talking about??? Celtics won 50+ AND got the best shot at the #1 pick!
 

reggiecleveland

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My idea for this problem is this: when you draft a player, their rookie contract lasts through the year of the player's 25th birthday... for a fixed dollar amount. Players thereby have somewhat more motivation to stay in college and improve their draft stock, unless they are already very high picks -- aka more NBA ready.
This would help, but I doubt it could be sold to players. This would be good if ncaa started paying players too. Perhaps expand draft allow guys to play in college after being drafted, similar to baseball.
 

wilked

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The ideas I like so far:

Limit repeat high drafters - if you drafted Top 3 last year, you cannot draft Top 3 this year
Lock the draft order earlier in the season (don't use year-end results). Maybe the 2/3rds point or something. While it may still lead to some tanking for those games, it at least limits it, and then the last 1/3 of the season teams (from the owners to the players) truly have no motivation to lose
 

RetractableRoof

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There is another more radical approach... do it like some of the European soccer leagues do it. Add more teams and create two tiers. If you suck as a team, you are relegated to the lower tier. Life in the lower tier isn't as pretty so you want to stay in the upper tier. I haven't thought through it (clearly!?!), but there would be easy ways to create incentives for teams to want to be in the upper tier, not to mention the monetary incentives that would naturally develop with sponsors being more interested in the upper tier teams.

It is radical... and I'm sure there are good reasons pro and con (and I don't know enough about the inner workings of the soccer leagues that implement tiers to know what these pros/cons would be). I do know that it would have to absolutely suck to be a 76ers fan over the last 5 years, even more than in Boston during the ML Carr watch.
 

JakeRae

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For those who think this is a problem, can you explain to me why trading away veterans and calling up prospects in baseball is called "player development" when doing the same thing in basketball is called "tanking"?
 

bosox79

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I'm of the belief that the only real way to stop tanking is to get rid of the max contract. Since players will never agree to getting rid of the max, I'm not sure anything can be done about tanking. Lebron getting paid what he deserves means Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love is playing for some other team. Durant and Curry getting paid what they deserve means Green and Thompson are probably playing else where. This would allow teams without a superstar to compete with teams that do. Call it the Pistons approach. A team that choses to build a lineup with average to above average starters at every position could potentially beat a Lebron/Irving/fodder/fodder/fodder team.
 

DrewDawg

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For those who think this is a problem, can you explain to me why trading away veterans and calling up prospects in baseball is called "player development" when doing the same thing in basketball is called "tanking"?
Because in baseball they're not doing it solely for a draft pick.
 

NoXInNixon

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For those who think this is a problem, can you explain to me why trading away veterans and calling up prospects in baseball is called "player development" when doing the same thing in basketball is called "tanking"?
Baseball teams that stink might make their teams worse in the short term to get prospects that will help in the long term. But basketball teams that stink intentionally try to lose games.
 

bosox79

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Baseball teams that stink might make their teams worse in the short term to get prospects that will help in the long term. But basketball teams that stink intentionally try to lose games.
That doesn't answer his question. And those basketball teams stinking in the short term are doing so to get better in the long term with a better pick.
 

DrewDawg

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That doesn't answer his question. And those basketball teams stinking in the short term are doing so to get better in the long term with a better pick.
Baseball teams are not tanking to get a better draft pick. They are playing younger kids to see what they have. The Lakers, most definitively, are not.

But then again, I don't have a problem with tanking. In the abstract.
 

moondog80

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That doesn't answer his question. And those basketball teams stinking in the short term are doing so to get better in the long term with a better pick.
What happens in baseball is a matter of asset management. The White Sox decide they are unlikely to win in the near future so they trade 3 years of Chris Sale for 6 years of Yoan Moncada and 6 years of Michael Kopech. That the White Sox end up losing more games this year is a by product. In basketball, losing is often the goal itself.