In 1985 the NBA implemented a lottery draft system. The system worked by assigning teams odds on receiving the first overall pick in the draft, with the worst teams being given the best percentages. This was all put into place to prevent another Houston Rockets debacle, a team who in the 1983-1984 season purposefully lost games in order to obtain perennial hall of fame center Hakeem Olajuwon with the first overall pick in a process called tanking.
In basketball, tanking refers to a team losing games on purpose in order to get a better draft pick. Prior to 1984, this strategy was used more often because the incentive to lose guaranteed a high draft pick. Nowadays, because of the NBA lottery system, teams are less apt to tank due to the insecurity of actually getting a great pick. However, the lottery doesn't deter all teams from attempting this process. A prime example being the 2014-2015 New York Knicks.
Being a Knicks fan, I believe I speak on behalf of Knicks fans everywhere when I say that I hope they invent a brain-washer in the future so that I can forget the 2014-2015 season. But also being a basketball fan, I was willing to take solace in the fact that I knew early on that the Knicks were at least going to try tanking this season. The key word being try. A recap of last season, as painful as that is, shows that the Knicks not only tanked, but they also tanked the tank. By generating a belief that the team would be decent in the off-season, making their tank extremely obvious and then only getting the 4th overall pick in the draft, the Knicks really couldn't do anything right last season.
There was hope!
At the beginning of the season many NBA analysts had the Knicks making a return to the playoffs. The legendary Phil Jackson was hired to bolster the basketball IQ of the franchise towards the end of 2013-2014, and Knicks fans, myself included, came into this last year somewhat optimistic that the team could at the very least get themselves back into playoff contention.
And then it faded.
The atrocity that ensued was a 17-65 record and countless appearances on the ESPN's Not Top 10 plays. To this day it is still unsure whether the organization believed that the team was going to tank before the season started, but the fans most definitely weren't aware. If you're going to be bad, at least be as courteous enough as the 76ers to tell your fan base that you're going to be awful so that there are limited expectations.
And then tanking began.
Once it became clear that tanking was underway, it absolutely spiraled out of control, with the low point being a 16 game losing streak. A steak, to put into perspective for UConn college students, that lasted the entire winter break. Meaning that the Knicks did not win one time over the the entire winter break. Not once.
During that infamous streak the Knicks made a trade that really got the tanking underway. On January 7th, combo guards JR Smith and Iman Shumpert were traded in a three team trade to the Cavaliers in exchange for Alex Kirk, Lou Amundson, and Lance Thomas. The distribution of JR Smith wasn't an awful move, as he was upset with the team and wanted out of New York. However, getting rid of the young and developing Shumpert was a move that infuriated some fans. What's worse is that in return, the Knicks acquired three no name players, with Alex Kirk not even playing a single minute for the team. Tack on that JR has been shooting the lights out throughout the playoffs, and that Shumpert is starting alongside another former Knick in Timofey Mozgov for the Cavaliers in the NBA finals, and the sting of that trade is tough to shake. Sadly, this trade was not the most obvious tanking move made this season.
The Carmelo fiasco.
If there was anything to muster out of the season, fans thought it could be the NBA all-star weekend. Since it was taking place at both MSG and the Brooklyn Nets' Barclays Center, the weekend could provide local New York fans some solid NBA basketball, and stiffen the blow of the tumultuous losing streak(s). But before fans could even enjoy this one singular event, the Knicks pulled a move that took tanking to a different level.
Before the all-star game was even played, the Knicks told the media that after the all-star weekend Carmelo Anthony was going to sit out the rest of the season because of a plethora of different injuries. At first this didn't seem like the worst move. As a fan you had to see this as a move that almost had to be done to save the franchise for years to come. I was even on board with Carmelo playing a little bit in the all-star game to give us fans something to cheer about. When this move became a travesty however was after the game. With the franchise claiming "multiple injuries" Carmelo still played the second most minutes and took the third most shots, followed immediately by being sidelined for the rest of the season. This move solidifed the Knicks' tanking strategy, as if the Melo was really that hurt would he have played that many minutes in a seemingly meaningless basketball game? The team's superstar playing over 30 minutes in an all-star game, and then the franchise sitting him out for the rest of the season because of injuries was another clear slap in the face to the fans in a season that had already been an endless slap.
They decided to win at the absolute worst time.
Coming down the homestretch, the Knicks seemed locked to have the best odds to win the NBA draft lottery and have a shot at selecting one of the coveted freshman big men. All the Knicks had to do was lose the rest of their remaining three games, and the title for worst record in the league would be theirs. The losing, the trade, even the Carmelo incident would all seem irrelevant when the Knicks were most likely selecting a franchise player on draft night. However, the Knicks picked the absolute worst time to "get hot" and won two of their last three games, beating the number one seeded Atlanta Hawks and squeaking out a putrid 80-79 victory over the Orlando Magic. Instead of having a 15-67 record, which would've been one win less than the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Knicks finished 17-65, and lowered their percentage points by more than 5 percent at obtaining the first pick. Had the Knicks just rolled over the last three games, and the odds played out like they did at the lottery this year, New York would've been selecting a number one overall. Instead, the team is drafting 4th.
Not to say that there aren't great players to pick at number four, with either guard D'Angelo Russell, Emmanuel Mudiay or even Duke forward Justise Winslow being available with this pick, but it just hurts as a fan to witness a horrendous year and not be rewarded in this sick and twisted tanking system that exists.
The 2014-2015 season and its remnants will finally end when the draft is held on June 25. In every way possible, this season was awful. As a fan of basketball, it hurt. As a fan of the team directly, it hurt even more. But a decent draft pick, the return of a hopefully healthy Carmelo, and a decent amount of cap room make this off-season an intriguing one. I can take not making the playoffs this year. I can take being patient as a fan and waiting for the right time to spend money on players and for the newly and recently drafted young players to develop. What I can't take is another failed attempt at a tank that left a fan base upset and hurt.
https://www.theodysseyonline.com/tankin ... ork-knicks
This article was emailed to me and, after reading, I figured it'd be a good read for the forum. Even though we might've dodged a bullet via drafting Jahlil Okafor with the top pick [yes, we would've missed out on Towns and Porzingis], it's really comical that New York couldn't even Tank correctly. Like, how does that even happen?
Also, Carmelo Anthony recently made comments about anti-tanking yet he rode alongside Phil Jackson in the Tank.
Lastly, I'd no idea that Houston tanked their way to Hakeem Olajuwon and became competitive for years ultimately two NBA championships as the face of the franchise. Would they had signed whatever free agents [role players that contributed to those championships] if Hakeem hadn't been drafted and brought respectability to the franchise? I doubt it.