Kings Rewarded for Tanking Correctly

Amidst the blatant tanking happening in the NBA, one team lost the right way, and they were rewarded for it.

We are living in the Golden Age of Tanking in the NBA. Coaches are resting veteran starters in February. Owners are getting fined for using the word “tank”. Nine teams finished the ’17-’18 season with fewer than 30 wins, the most six years. Things have gotten so out of hand that the NBA is reforming the lottery rules next year in order to give less of a reward, in this case, ping pong balls, to teams that intentionally lose basketball games. Commissioner Adam Silver wants the system to reward teams that are legitimately bad, and it looks like he started a year early by giving the Sacramento Kings the second pick in Tuesday’s lottery.

The Kings absolutely deserved the #2 pick. Not only did they deserve it as redemption for being the most unlucky lottery team of all time, they deserved it for losing the “correct” way in February and March.

The Kings were bad, but not as much as they were inexperienced. Sacramento had six first and second-year players in their regular rotation and struggled against teams early in games. In back-to-back contests early in the season, the Kings surrendered 1st quarter leads of 21-4 to the Wizards and 17-4 to the Pacers. They began the season by losing eight of their first nine games, digging themselves an early hole and setting themselves up for the inevitable tank.

However, the young Kings developed a valuable trait that would seemingly keep them out of contention for a top-3 pick: Resilience. Sacramento was one of the more clutch teams in the league this year, led by unlikely candidates in rookies De’Aaron Fox and Bogdan Bogdanovic. They were 3-0 in overtime games and had enough comebacks and game-winning shots to fill a YouTube highlight reel.

November saw the Kings lose to the Atlanta Hawks by 46 points, sandwiched between victories over the 76ers, Blazers, Thunder, and Warriors. In December the Kings traveled to New Orleans and beat the Pelicans, completed the season sweep of the 76ers, and defeated the Cavaliers by 14.

From January 23rd until the end of the season, which is prime tank time, the Kings put up an almost-respectable mark of 14 wins and 22 losses and never lost more than five games in a row. Comparatively, the Grizzlies had a stretch where they lost 23 out of 24. The Hawks went 2-12 in March, and the Suns went 0-14.

The Kings simply lost in a way that pleased the NBA, and subsequently, had the biggest climb up the draft board of any team, which hardly seems coincidental. It was a way for the NBA to kill two birds with one stone: reward the team who lost the right way, and relieve some of the building frustration of a tortured fan base.

 

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