Why the Bucks Can't Tank


Source: bizjournals.com

 

Let's face it.  The Milwaukee Bucks still suck.  

It's hard and easy to accept.  It's easy because the team had a miracle playoff run last season yet got utterly destroyed in true Bucks fashion.  It's hard because I love this team, as do many others, and want them to succeed.  I want the Bucks to win by any means necessary, with the exception of two means: cheating, and the focus of this piece, tanking.

Tanking is when a team deliberately performs poorly in the season in order to increase their chances at getting a high draft pick.  Of course, the risk is that there is no guarantee you can get the #1 overall pick.  The team with the highest chance at that pick this year, the Philadelphia 76ers, have a 25.0% chance at getting it.  The next team, the Los Angeles Lakers, have a 19.9% chance, and teams further down have less of a chance in the lottery.

This is the first problem with tanking.  You're basing the future of a team off the less than 30% chance you get the #1 pick, and if it doesn't work out, you better have 13 other plans to go on.  

Another issue is shown by the Sixers and Lakers: tanking takes a long time.  In a league of trades and free agent signings and retirements, you can't count on a lot of players staying on one team for an extended period of time.  Let's look at the Lakers:

Dwight Howard joined the Lakers in 2012 and left in 2013.  Now, he didn't get along great with Kobe Bryant, but that messed up everything for LA.  They had a plan that was coming together.  They were able to land a top center and put him next to one of the all time greats.  The two could have cooperated and been great leaders for the young guys, but they didn't get along and Dwight left for Houston, a playoff team at the time.  A few years ago, the Lakers were looking to 3-peat as NBA champions, now they are a walking MTV show, that only knows one direction: down.

In regards to the Sixers, they haven't been to the playoffs since the 2011-12 season.  They haven't even been above .500 since that same year, and now they're on their way to securing the 2nd worst record thought 82 games in NBA history.  They will miss the playoffs for the 4th straight year, and with the team on a decline since 2013, we can expect their dry stream to continue.  

The final problem I want to explore in this is, in my opinion, the worst problem that can come from tanking, and it's the indoctrination of "it's okay to lose" to a very young Bucks team.  

The Milwaukee Bucks this season are tied for the youngest team in the NBA, with an average age of 24.1 years.  In this league, young players have the most potential, but it goes both ways.  Giannis Anteokounmpo could become a top 5 NBA player in a couple years.  Michael Carter-Williams could become one of the worst scoring point guards (assuming we don't trade him).  Potential is based on so many things, including the environment.  When you create an environment of losing, even if it's some "meaningless games at the end of the season", you are telling the players "You know what?  It's only a few games, let's not play with 100% effort so we can maybe get a small chance at getting a #1 pick."  

That attitude could work in San Antonio considering that team will never struggle again, but in Milwaukee?  I'm sorry, but that will cause disaster and ruin the player's minds.  If you were a player, would you want to stay on a team that condones losing any game?  I would be out of there immediately.  The players are there to win games and win titles, not to bend to the will of the stat-watchers in the front office who, this season, has proven that they are incompetent and disconnected when it comes to making the best moves for this team.  The last good move was getting Greg Monroe, but this I'll explore in a later piece.  

Tanking can work for some teams.  The Minnesota Timberwolves have acquired 2 very good players in Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.  Tanking can't work for some teams, such as the 76ers or Lakers, two teams who will decline for years to come.  I think of tanking like this:

"It's okay to not try to win games for the less than 30% chance that we might possibly get a #1 pick coming out of college who hasn't set foot on an NBA court and who could either be a great player or an absolute bust."

In the past few years, tanking has given us few, if any, success stories.  It has, however, produced the current 76ers and Lakers, two of the worst teams the NBA has ever seen.

 

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