The Mavericks and the Bobcats both tanked this year. That’s by nearly any definition. Each could have been better, possibly significantly better and chose not to be for the same reasons—long-term improvement. For the Bobcats, that entailed trading Stephen Jackson for the 7th pick and nothing, then trading Gerald Wallace for nothing and two draft picks.
For the Mavericks that meant not picking up the tab on a franchise center who, while an injury risk, may after two healthy seasons be no more so than the next guy, and who could have made the Dallas D respectable for the next half decade.
The results, of course, were markedly different. The Mavericks still had two hall-of-famers, though one has aged to the point that even your old college roommate might think twice about whether it passed the sniff test. The Bobcats had a relatively thin college team and lost more games than you lost beer pong games to your old college roommate.
But you know what the thing about tanking is? You have to decide what you want. If you, like a lot of people I know and LeBron James, think there is no point in even playing basketball unless you are definitely guaranteed a championship forever, you have no right to complain about tanking. Because there’s no other way to win a championship. You need the best players, and you don’t get them by being over cap, or, like the Houston Rockets, being just good enough to keep missing the playoffs.
If, like me, you’re pretty happy to get the chance to watch a good basketball team win most of its games and a playoff series or two (now, of course, that the Mavericks finally HAVE one, not really before), then I think you do have a right to expect that not just your ticket money but your passion is rewarded with a good faith effort to win basketball games.
But: superstars do get old, players do get hurt, cap space and draft picks are both valuable things and overall—overall—it can be pretty hard to separate tanking from good strategy, winning strategy, even in the immediate. Hell, if Lamar Odom had turned out, or Roddy Beaubois had developed, the Mavs might even have won a playoff series or two. And if Bismack Biyombo who, like all project centers always, will never amount to anything despite what Chad Ford and some over-geeky bloggers will tell you, were—oh, I don’t know, let’s say Kawhi Leonard or Iman Shumpert—odds are pretty decent that the Cats wouldn’t have been so bad either. Or, if they’d just been luckier last year and gotten Kyrie, say.
The other thing, of course, is that tanking, like all basketball strategies, is very risky. It's pretty hard to see the Bobcats plethora of draft picks turning into a championship caliber team, but it's worth noting that that's exactly how the Thunder ended up with their three-headed monster, and how the Wolves got Rubio and Love (with a really bad trade thrown in there, too). And the Mavericks, of course, didn't refuse Chandler entirely to get Deron and Dwight, but at least partially because there's no point in anchoring a defense for five years that doesn't have any productive players on it, and with the state of the rest of the team it seemed like that was a losing strategy.
I, of course, don't know. I do know that an under-reported problem with the Mavs' three-headed monster hopes is that Dirk, at this stage of his career, makes more money than LeBron and Bosh at this stage in their careers. So, James' "taking a little bit less" resulted in him making 16 mil, while Dirk's resulted him making 19 mil, and it's pretty hard to get three guys with that number looming.
So, but. I don’t really have a problem with tanking. I have a problem with flopping. Flopping is the worst.
And it completely astounds me that more isn’t done about it. Because there are some super simple rules that would make all the difference. In fact, I am going to suggest just two right now that are totally going to blow your mind-hole AND change the game forever. Ready?
1) A player cannot draw a charge if he is more than 4 inches taller than the offending player. As much as we all love the charges that LeBron James draws on, say, Jason Terry, my guess is The King could have stayed on his feet if he really wanted to. The same for all those diving centers out there.
2) A player can only draw a charge if he is in a defensive position that makes any kind of sense for the play that is going on.
I mean why the hell is it even a foul for a guy to get his feet down in time to be touched by another person on a basketball court? Why should Chris Paul be able to draw a foul by dribbling in front of you and stopping? Surely—surely—the only reason a charge is a foul is to keep people from just going through other people on the way to the basket. So why call it in literally any situation where that hasn’t happened?
I have all kinds of complaints, obviously—and obviously, the prominence of officiating is the worst part of being a basketball fan. I hate Kevin Durant’s rip move which, despite the league’s protestations, is still 100% in force. I hate how James Harden and LeBron James go down like someone shot them, and Dwyane Wade right behind them. But for me, flopping to draw charges is the silliest thing in the league, and the easiest to fix.
But hit me ‘up below! Tanking, Flopping. The "Velvet Sombrero". Let me know what you’re thinking about.