Grantland vs. tanking

On Grantland, Jay Caspain Kang dives headfirst (PG-13 for language) into the sewers of the NBA for Grantland’s series on tanking, titled “Tankonia."

His first post examines the worst eight teams in the league for signs of tanking by evaluating whether there’s anything fishy going on with the roster (are good players being benched for suspicious reasons?) and whether or not the players and coaches appear dedicated to winning each night.

Kang reserves some of his most entertaining thoughts for the tanktastic Warriors, a team that has shut down or shipped out every above-average player on the roster, going 4-16 during the last month evidently in a bid to hold onto a draft pick that is owed to the Jazz unless the Warriors get the seventh pick or higher.

I promise this will be my last Warriors-related rant of the season, but what does it say when your franchise's most dramatic storyline revolves around its ability to out-lose the Kings, Pistons, and Raptors? There's a way to spin pretty much everything that happens on a basketball team into something resembling reason -- especially in this era of the uninformed armchair GM and his circular gospel of efficiency -- but it's embarrassing, both to your fans and your franchise, to tank so hard when all that's at stake is the seventh pick in a two-player draft.

NBA basketball is a long game and sometimes it's necessary to sacrifice a season for the future. But there's no way to defend how the Warriors are tanking this year. By sitting Stephen Curry, by trading away Monta Ellis for an injured Andrew Bogut, by sitting David Lee, by openly pining for the return of their first-round pick, Golden State set a new standard for no-shame tanking.

Kang raises an interesting point. What’s more shameless? What the Warriors did by shutting down their season with a third of it left, or what the Bobcats did by intentionally crafting a team that has no chance of winning this season?

Both examples get at one of the most important issues in the tanking discussion, one that Jeff Van Gundy has also noted: how tanking negatively impacts the credibility and integrity of the game. Kang laments the lost opportunity to see competitive, entertaining hoops:

I promised not to whinge about tanking, but here goes: Unless you're getting Anthony Davis, you might as well play with a modicum of competitive spirit. There's no real difference between, say, the fourth pick and the ninth pick in this year's draft. Is it really worth throwing away games and pissing off ticket holders to slightly improve your odds of bringing Thomas Robinson to town?

It's frigging basketball. It's supposed to be entertainment. Let's stop talking about the construction of sports teams like we're building an army to go invade China, or that tanking is a necessary sacrifice along the lines of what Jesus gave up for our sins. Nobody knows if Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is going to be Marvin Williams of if he's going to be a super version of Luol Deng. Why defile the competitive nature of the sport for such uncertainty?