Tanking is one of the smartest, saddest, hopeless things in sports.
Teams decide their futures are so bleak, that the front office tries to create the poorest roster possible in order to secure a prized draft pick down the line. They damn near lose on purpose. And it's become more popular – evidenced by the lack of parity in the NFL and the NBA.
This is a strategy that can only be used in a professional league aka a huge conglomerate of a business. Young collegiate talent does not care where they are drafted, as long as there is a rookie contract on the other side.
I can remember old ESPN classic films where Isiah Thomas was literally begging in interviews to be drafted by his hometown Chicago Bulls. He wanted to win there so bad he said. After the Pistons drafted him, he was no doubt disappointed but his competitive drive pushed him to be the cornerstone of a semi-dynasty and beloved Hall of Fame player in Detroit.
The type of parity that resulted from Thomas's era is not really existent in today's NBA because there is such a thirst for a share of TV deals and big name draft picks that teams are willing to suffer their fans through almost intentional losing (and pretend it's not so to expect fans to buy tickets) for 4-5 seasons in HOPES that good draft fortune will give them the next Cleveland Cavaliers.
In today's NBA, tanking is in progress in Philadelphia (they might be on the tail end of their tanking journey because Joel Embid might be the diamond they were waiting for), in Los Angeles with the Lakers (also might be done soon) and possibly in Brooklyn, Phoenix, Miami, and Dallas. I mean there are just a lot of bad teams that are thinking “lose-now” in order to “win-later.” It's a gambling strategy.
And now fans and media alike are questioning whether the Detroit Pistons should take that pitiful route. The answer to this is super clear.
No. Effing. Way.
I know a lot of people outside of Detroit don't care or didn't notice but our young Pistons went head to head with the eventual-NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of last year's playoffs and played them damn tough. I remember me and a buddy feeling sideways about the fact we had to play the Cavs in the first round. If it would have been any other East playoff team, even Toronto, the Pistons would have competed for a series win.
That's how well they played the Cavs. And now you're telling me that less than a year later, we should be unloading talent for draft positions and tearing it all apart? This is the exact same team from a season ago, that Stan Van Gundy constructed quickly in just two seasons, including talented additions like Jon Leuer and Ish Smith. This shouldn't have to be said but I guess I'll be the one to say it.
The Pistons just need to get their season started already. They've been sleepwalking throughout the early part of this season and it's cost them a lot of games. But I'd be damned to believe that Stan Van Gundy will allow them to snore an entire season away. They will go on a run and get going enough to battle for something higher than an 8th seed in the playoffs.
As we speak the Pistons are five games back of the number FOUR seed in the Eastern conference playoff picture and just ravaged the four-seeded Atlanta Hawks to make it two wins in a row.
Calm down, folks. SVG will right the ship and there is still plenty of room to hope for that playoff run – thanks to a wide open and weak Eastern conference. Tanking can maybe help some teams push themselves through a rough time but the Detroit Pistons tanking days are way past over. Jon Kuester and Lawrence Frank aren't stirring this ship.
In the words of the great Mitch Albom – the Pistons need only to “accept who you are; and revel in it.”