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Wells

Tanking - A Historical Perspective, rather than Hysterical

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So, I had some free time tonight, and decided to do some investigation  into just how successful  previous Tank movements have been in getting high level players into franchises that really needed a turnaround.  My personal hind-brain memories are that it hasn’t really worked, but memory is subjective, so better to actually look at the history rather than just rely on gut feeling.

 

The NBA Draft Lottery in its current form has only been around since 1994, with the worst team having  25% of the possible combinations, the second worst having 19.9%, the third with 15.6%, all the way down to the last lottery team only having 0.5%. This upcoming Draft will be the last lottery with this format, as the 2019 draft will have the three worst teams all having 14% of the combinations.

 

This means there have been 24 lotteries conducted under the current format.  Seventy-two teams have had the three worst records in that time, so how many of those teams have been lottery winners, receiving a top three pick? Surprisingly, only once (in 2016) has every lottery pick fallen in record order. Only four times has the team with the truly worst record won the number one pick, and three of those have occurred in the last three years (Minnesota, Philadelphia & Brooklyn). The other time was Orlando in 2004 when they drafted Dwight Howard.

 

So, here’s a glimpse of how tanking has done since 1994:

 

1994: Worst teams – Dallas (worst), Detroit & Milwaukee (tied)

1994: Top three picks - Milwaukee (Glenn Robinson), Dallas (Jason Kidd), Detroit (Grant Hill)

 

1995: Worst teams - Clippers (worst), Washington & Minnesota (tied)

1995: Top three picks – Golden State (Joe Smith), Clippers (Antonio McDyess), Philadelphia (Jerry Stackhouse)

 

1996: Worst teams – Vancouver, Philadelphia, Toronto

1996: Top three picks – Philadelphia (Allen Iverson), Toronto (Marcus Camby), Vancouver (Shareef Abdul Rahim)

 

Toronto actually won the lottery in 1996, but because of an agreement they and Vancouver made with the League as expansion teams in 1995, both teams agreed to forfeit the number one pick in the 1996, 1997 and 1998 Drafts if they should win the lottery, and take the number two pick instead.

 

1997: Worst teams – Vancouver, Boston, San Antonio

1997: Top three picks – San Antonio (Tim Duncan), Philadelphia (Keith van Horn), Boston (Chauncey Billups)

 

1998: Worst teams – Denver, Toronto, Clippers

1998: Top three picks – Clippers (Michael Olowokandi), Vancouver (Mike Bibby), Denver (Raef LaFrentz)

 

Vancouver actually won the 1998 lottery, but had to forfeit and pick second due to their expansion agreement.

 

1999: Worst teams – Vancouver, Clippers, Chicago

1999: Top three picks – Chicago (Elton Brand), Vancouver (Steve Francis), Charlotte (Baron Davis)

 

2000: Worst teams – Clippers, Chicago, Golden State

2000: Top three picks – New Jersey (Kenyon Martin), Vancouver (Stromile Swift), Clippers (Darius Miles)

 

2001: Worst teams – Chicago, Golden State, Washington

2001: Top three picks – Washington (Kwame Brown), Clippers (Tyson Chandler), Atlanta (Pau Gasol)

 

2002: Worst teams – Chicago & Golden State (tied), Memphis

2002: Top Three Picks – Houston (Yao Ming), Chicago (Jay Williams), Golden State (Mike Dunleavy)

 

2003: Worst teams – Cleveland & Denver (tied), Toronto

2003: Top three picks – Cleveland (LeBron James), Detroit (Darko Milicic), Denver (Carmelo Anthony)

 

The Detroit pick actually belonged to Memphis, but had been traded in 1997 for Otis Thorpe.

 

2004: Worst teams – Orlando, Chicago, Washington

2004: Top three picks –Orlando (Dwight Howard), Charlotte (Emeka Okafor), Chicago (Ben Gordon)

 

The second pick was won by the Clippers, but had been traded to Charlotte three weeks before the draft, in a deal where the Bobcats agreed to draft Clipper player Predrag Drobnjak in the Expansion draft.

 

2005: Worst teams – Atlanta, Charlotte, New Orleans

2005: Top three picks – Milwaukee (Andrew Bogut), Atlanta (Marvin Williams), Utah (Deron Williams)

 

Portland originally won the third pick, but traded it for the sixth and 27th picks a few hours before the draft.

 

2006: Worst teams – Portland, New York, Atlanta

2006: Top three picks – Toronto (Andrea Bargnani), Portland (LaMarcus Aldridge), Charlotte (Adam Morrison)

 

New York originally won the second pick, but traded it to Chicago, who then traded it to Portland.

 

2007: Worst teams – Memphis, Boston, Milwaukee

2007: Top three picks – Portland (Greg Oden), Seattle (Kevin Durant), Atlanta (Al Horford)

 

2008: Worst teams – Miami, Seattle, Minnesota

2008: Top three picks – Chicago (Derrick Rose), Miami (Michael Beasley), Minnesota (O. J. Mayo)

 

2009: Worst teams – Sacramento, Washington, Oklahoma City

2009: Top three picks – Clippers (Blake Griffin), Memphis (Hasheem Thabeet), Oklahoma City (James Harden)

 

2010: Worst teams – New Jersey, Minnesota, Sacramento

2010: Top three picks – Washington (John Wall), Philadephia (Evan Turner), New Jersey (Derrick Favors)

 

2011: Worst teams – Minnesota, Cleveland, Toronto

2011: Top three picks – Cleveland (Kyrie Irving), Minnesota (Derrick Williams), Utah (Enes Kanter)

 

Ironically, the Cleveland pick was not their own.  The Clippers won the first pick, but had traded it in February along with Baron Davis for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon. Cleveland’s own pick was fourth for Tristan Thompson. The third pick was originally won by New Jersey, but was traded to Utah for Deron Williams.

 

2012: Worst teams – Charlotte, Cleveland & New Orleans (tied)

2012: Top three picks – New Orleans (Anthony Davis), Charlotte (Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), Washington (Bradley Beal)

 

2013: Worst teams – Orlando, Charlotte, Cleveland

2013: Top three picks – Cleveland (Anthony Bennett), Orlando (Victor Oladipo), Washington (Otto Porter)

 

2014: Worst teams – Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Orlando

2014: Top three picks – Cleveland (Andrew Wiggins), Milwaukee (Jabari Parker), Philadelphia (Joel Embiid)

 

2015: Worst teams – Minnesota, New York, Philadelphia

2015: Top three picks – Minnesota (Karl-Anthony Towns), Lakers (D’Angelo Russell), Philadelphia (Jahlil Okafor)

 

2016: Worst teams - Philadelphia, Lakers, Brooklyn

2016: Top three picks – Philadelphia (Ben Simmons), Lakers (Brandon Ingram), Boston (Jaylen Brown)

 

Brooklyn won the third pick, but had traded it to Boston in 2013.

 

2017: Worst teams – Brooklyn, Phoenix, Lakers

2017: Top three picks – Philadelphia (Markelle Fultz), Lakers (Lonzo Ball), Boston (Jayson Tatum)

 

The original number one pick was won by Brooklyn, who had traded it to Boston in 2013. Boston traded the pick to Philadelphia for the third pick. Philadelphia had gotten the third pick from Sacramento, due to a trade in 2015.

 

So, what does all this history tell us? 42 of the 72 teams would have gotten a top three pick (58.3%), so long as they had not traded it to someone else. There has only been one year where a top three pick has not gone to at least one team with one of the three worst records (95.8%). Having the worst record gets you a top three pick in 19 out of 24 cases (79.2%), provided you haven’t traded the pick away previously.

 

Statistically, it looks sound.  The only problem I see is how often teams that fall into the worst three teams tend to remain in that group for extended years. Getting a high draft pick does not mean that your team automatically turns around.  Most of the top draft picks in this 24 year retrospective have not been “once in a generation” players, contrary to the hype they had entering the draft.

 

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4 hours ago, VikingWarrior said:

Great post wells.. the other takeaway that is quite depressing is how many of the top 3 picks never really panned out...

That's why it's amazing how many tank bandwagon fans are delusional if they think getting rid of all the talent on the team (Marc, Mike, Reke and before that, Zbo), stacking it with scrubs, picking ONE guy, and think voila instant turnaround. 

And as Wells said:

"The only problem I see is how often teams that fall into the worst three teams tend to remain in that group for extended years."

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9 minutes ago, BigHunkALove said:

That's why it's amazing how many tank bandwagon fans are delusional if they think getting rid of all the talent on the team (Marc, Mike, Reke and before that, Zbo), stacking it with scrubs, picking ONE guy, and think voila instant turnaround. 

And as Wells said:

"The only problem I see is how often teams that fall into the worst three teams tend to remain in that group for extended years."

Who has ever said that?  Nobody.  Just a strawman...

People have been saying trade Marc/Mike/ZBo when they had value to accelerate the rebuild.  See the reason why rebuilds usually take so long is because organizations wait until the roster is bare and try to build by using SOLELY their draft picks.  So like instead of having 2 lottery picks this year, we will have one because people think keeping Marc/Mike is going to lead us somewhere.  It will be followed by a lack luster year in which we likely lose our 1st round pick and then Mike/Marc will have ZERO value.  So now we are looking at Miles Bridges and a bunch of 2nd round picks with whatever is left of Mike Conley...and so begins the EXTENDED rebuild.

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15 minutes ago, BigHunkALove said:

And as Wells said:

"The only problem I see is how often teams that fall into the worst three teams tend to remain in that group for extended years."

Just one comment, that's correlation, not causation. Teams that fall into the worst three tend to be terrible teams that couldn't turn around in a year if they picked Michael Jordan.

What you want to do is choose what talent you want to keep for the future (not necessarily long term), restrict its minutes, get rid of the rest and try to get a good pick in your one shot at the high lottery.

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1 hour ago, fanboyslim said:

Just one comment, that's correlation, not causation. Teams that fall into the worst three tend to be terrible teams that couldn't turn around in a year if they picked Michael Jordan.

What you want to do is choose what talent you want to keep for the future (not necessarily long term), restrict its minutes, get rid of the rest and try to get a good pick in your one shot at the high lottery.

I think as I said in my other thread that part of this has to do with the superstar mentality teams have, chasing after the next big thing rather than forming a long term commitment to the talent they already have.

In certain circumstances, some players are just busts. But more often than not, the team itself doesn't take a long enough view of a player or a group of players to actually be good. They spend years looking for that verifiable superstar.

First, have a plan. 1) This is the team I want. 2) this is a player with a skill i can use.

It's my opinion that if you take 5 guys of various talents and you commit to them to play a style that suits them and you don't give up on them, that team is going to win. You see it in college all of the time. Rarely does a team with a superstar actually win it all. It's usually a team that has been together a win that goes all the way.

You see it in international play.

Spain owed most teams for years because they developed teams over time.

Take five guys and develop an identity with them. I believe that we have a core of 3 to 4 guys already that we could do this with.

Harrison, Brooks, Rabb and to a lesser extend: martin and selden. My opinion is that the one thing missing from this team is a big center next to Rabb. Bamba. And a top flight sg.

If the team would just listen to me: harrison, brooks, Rabb and Bamba would be a top 10 team if you give them time.    

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Ridiculous discussion.

A 10% chance at getting a great talent that the Grizzlies clearly need is better than the almost no chance the Grizzlies have any other way (trade, free agency). 

A guaranteed top 4 pick in THIS DRAFT is something to look forward too. So looking at years where Derrick Williams or Anthony Bennett or Stromile Swift were in the top 3 as evidence that it doesnt work is also silly.

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29 minutes ago, Dwash said:

Ridiculous discussion.

A 10% chance at getting a great talent that the Grizzlies clearly need is better than the almost no chance the Grizzlies have any other way (trade, free agency). 

A guaranteed top 4 pick in THIS DRAFT is something to look forward too. So looking at years where Derrick Williams or Anthony Bennett or Stromile Swift were in the top 3 as evidence that it doesnt work is also silly.

His premise is wrong, mainly because while a superstar player can turn your team around instantly (which was all that he was looking at), since those players don't come around often, it could lead to assumptions that the draft doesn't matter that much.

But in reality it has a lot more to do with a lot more other things, namely development: a vision for the team, just plain bad luck. The thing is that teams are just searching for players blindly a lot of times with the only mandate to find a superstar, and even if they find a good player, they don't have a system in place to make it work.

The idea is that chemistry and development matter more than just raw talent and that players, who are otherwise good, often just get thrown out for something better.

My opinion is that Rabb could be as good or better than bagley, but it requires a long term view. 

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16 minutes ago, Kevin B Moses said:

His premise is wrong, mainly because while a superstar player can turn your team around instantly (which was all that he was looking at), since those players don't come around often, it could lead to assumptions that the draft doesn't matter that much.

But in reality it has a lot more to do with a lot more other things, namely development: a vision for the team, just plain bad luck. The thing is that teams are just searching for players blindly a lot of times with the only mandate to find a superstar, and even if they find a good player, they don't have a system in place to make it work.

The idea is that chemistry and development matter more than just raw talent and that players, who are otherwise good, often just get thrown out for something better.

My opinion is that Rabb could be as good or better than bagley, but it requires a long term view. 

Yeah I can agree that you dont have to always go with a home run pick. A guy that can be versatile enough to fit into different schemes/styles and preferably play both sides of the ball. But Im not interested in trying to build a team lacking a top 5 talent.

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2 hours ago, Dwash said:

Ridiculous discussion.

A 10% chance at getting a great talent that the Grizzlies clearly need is better than the almost no chance the Grizzlies have any other way (trade, free agency). 

A guaranteed top 4 pick in THIS DRAFT is something to look forward too. So looking at years where Derrick Williams or Anthony Bennett or Stromile Swift were in the top 3 as evidence that it doesnt work is also silly.

You are misreading my intent in this work. Going into this last night when I did this, my thought was that tanking did not work because being one of the three worst teams did not result in getting a top three pick in the majority of cases. My research shows that it does, but not overwhelmingly. If you get a top pick, it is still incumbent on the team to pick the right player.

Btw,  under the current setup, the fifth worst team has a 10% chance at a top 3 pick, so if 10% is good enough for you, then don't bemoan an occasional win.

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1 hour ago, Wells said:

You are misreading my intent in this work. Going into this last night when I did this, my thought was that tanking did not work because being one of the three worst teams did not result in getting a top three pick in the majority of cases. My research shows that it does, but not overwhelmingly. If you get a top pick, it is still incumbent on the team to pick the right player.

Btw,  under the current setup, the fifth worst team has a 10% chance at a top 3 pick, so if 10% is good enough for you, then don't bemoan an occasional win.

10% is better than 0. But I prefer the 79.2% chance that your research shows. An occassional win is a problem when the gap between 1 and 7 is only 2 games. And only another game to 8, with the 8 team Bulls just trading their leading scorer. An the 9th team Knicks just suffering an injury to their franchise star. A 9th place team has virtually no chance at a top 3 pick.

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IMO

 

There are three types of tank:

1. All out tank - Philly 

2. Stockpile - Boston

3. Injury induced - San Antonio 

 

Most people  (and the FO) are hoping that method three is able to land a Tim Duncan-esque player to pair with the Grizz version of David Robinson and Avery Johnson. 

The more aggressive proponents probably favor how Danny Anige was able to fleece Brooklyn for picks. As well as to move on from aging All Star players while their values were still high but obviously declining.  There have been a few insufferable years but it did not take Boston too long to get back into the playoffs and now be posed as a possible title contender. 

I think everybody fears going the Philly route. This market could not endure a 5-10 year process.

Personally,  I favor a combination of 2 and 3. It is obvious the team is not going anywhere so get the best pick you can. At the same time, realize that there are only a hand full of assets on this team. In that vein, do what you got to do to get another 1st in this draft. And if like Boston you can get additional future picks, then make it so!

You get the benefit to help develop the young guys and better evaluate who could be part of a contender in the near future or become a valuable trade asset. There is the plus of freeing up capspace to become more proactive in the FA market in 2020 and beyond. After that, it is just the practically that this market cannot survive prolonged ineptitude that result when organizations do not plan better for the inevitable decline of aging star players. We can't keep everybody so keep 1 and get what you can for the other guy.

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1 hour ago, Dwash said:

10% is better than 0. But I prefer the 79.2% chance that your research shows. An occassional win is a problem when the gap between 1 and 7 is only 2 games. And only another game to 8, with the 8 team Bulls just trading their leading scorer. An the 9th team Knicks just suffering an injury to their franchise star. A 9th place team has virtually no chance at a top 3 pick.

The 9th place team has about a 1 in 50 chance of a top three pick. Oddly enough,  9th has bucked the odds twice in 24 years and snagged the first pick: Chicago for Derrick Rose, and the Cavs for Andrew Wiggins. 

It's below 9th where things get bad.

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14 minutes ago, PutARingOnIt#GrizzFan said:

and only 4 have won rings with the team that drafted them

Well, if we are being honest, only ten of the 72 have won rings at all (~14%).

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My interpretation is that the Grizz need to sign Reke to a contract extension, dump Parsons, and re-build around a core of Gasol, Conley, and Reke.  Top role players would be Brooks, Selden, Green, Martin, Davis, Harrison.  (maybe Rabb if he can get physically more imposing)

That's ten guys plus a couple of draft picks (if good enough) makes 12.  That leaves some room to shop for free agents like a backup big now that we know Wright was wrong and is gone and won't be back.  

 

Cost effective free agents-to-be:

Montrezl Harrell

Marreese Speights

Tarik Black

Jarrett Jack (in place of Chalmers as the emergency veteran backup PG)

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21 minutes ago, bhoyal said:

My interpretation is that the Grizz need to sign Reke to a contract extension, dump Parsons, and re-build around a core of Gasol, Conley, and Reke.  Top role players would be Brooks, Selden, Green, Martin, Davis, Harrison.  (maybe Rabb if he can get physically more imposing)

That's ten guys plus a couple of draft picks (if good enough) makes 12.  That leaves some room to shop for free agents like a backup big now that we know Wright was wrong and is gone and won't be back.  

 

Cost effective free agents-to-be:

Montrezl Harrell

Marreese Speights

Tarik Black

Jarrett Jack (in place of Chalmers as the emergency veteran backup PG)

Just curious but how would they dump Parsons and his monstrosity of a contract?

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How to get rid of Parsons (unless he shows dramatic improvement)?

Send him to the G so he can play in front of 300 people a night and ride a bus to the next town/game.  He'll retire if you do that.

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9 minutes ago, bhoyal said:

How to get rid of Parson (unless he shows dramatic improvement)?

Send him to the G so he can play in front of 300 people a night a ride a bus to the next town/game.  He'll retire if you do that.

You are nuts if you think he would leave 48 million dollars on the table because you bust him down and make him ride a bus.

 

Hell he could buy his own tricked out bus to ride to the next town/game.

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18 minutes ago, trayhezy said:

You are nuts if you think he would leave 48 million dollars on the table because you bust him down and make him ride a bus.

 

Hell he could buy his own tricked out bus to ride to the next town/game.

Or he could read up the actual rules for NBA assignments to the G-League and laugh in the face of whoever proposed that idea.

http://www.cbafaq.com/salarycap.htm#Q81

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10 hours ago, Gradey said:

Whew a lot of turds in the top threes.  Some great players too but ....yikes.

 

Coming out of college, most of 90's top three were being billed much like this year's crop of potential draft stars. Everybody was can't miss, until they became can'ts.

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