One week down, three more to go.
I had a fairly long post drafted last night for Day 6, but decided to scrap it.
It was about tanking. “Riggin’ for Wiggins,” as the concept was (ironically, in hindsight) referred to, for most of the past year.
The post mentioned the report that the league plans to address tanking by balancing out the lottery odds. It argued that tanking is a serious problem for the NBA, but also that the league is right to regulate parity to the high degree which it does, compared to other professional sports leagues. The post referenced an English Premier League club, Southampton, that is apparently losing all of its good players during this offseason (I say “apparently,” because I don’t really follow soccer, but a good friend does and explained this to me.) because its (comparatively) poor owners prefer the cash to be made in sales to, you know, having a good team. It must be frustrating times for Southampton fans.
The post was going to maybe compare the NBA with Major League Baseball, and point to the fact that the Yankees have been able to *purchase* title contention for the better part of the past 25 years. If I wanted to look farther than Minnesota’s own Twins for a counterexample of a team that has long been sellers rather than buyers of elite talent, I might have done some Google searching for “Montreal Expos talent exodus.”
Okay, I just Googled that, and quickly found this article from the mid-90s. You get the idea.
The basic point of my post was:
Tanking is a problem that the league needs to address, but the league is right to regulate talent distribution to a high degree, like it does. Intentional losing is terrible for basketball, but so is a free-market sports system that removes hope for smaller-market fans by allowing rich teams to buy all of the best players.
To quote the great netw3rk, “Hope is the most basic unit of the sports social contract.” I cannot imagine following a sports league in which only a few clubs out of many have a legitimate chance to win.
I scrapped the post because none of it seemed original.
Anyway, I just summarized it in pretty good length right here, so you get the idea, but in fewer words.
The potential for a small bit of originality lies in the reported details of the lottery reform, and how they might actually lead to more luck for the Timberwolves, beyond the huge amount they are experiencing with this Wiggins-available-because-LeBron-went-to-Cleveland phenomenon.
As Brian Windhorst reported, the reform is, “an attempt to squeeze the lottery odds at either extreme toward a more balanced system in which all 14 teams have a relatively similar chance at the no. 1 pick.” The idea is to remove the incentive for non-playoff teams to get REALLY bad, and thus get the best chance at a top draft pick. It sounds like the new rules — if implemented above the objection of the Philadelphia 76ers — would make it so teams with records of, say, 30-52, might have a similar chance of winning the lottery as teams that win half that many games while putting out a dumpster-fire basketball product; teams like last year’s Bucks and Sixers, and like the Timberwolves of the Kurt Rambis Era.
This could be lucky for the Wolves, next year, because they seem well positioned — assuming a Love trade happens — to be one of those “30ish” win ball clubs. As Britt Robson titled his post, yesterday, “It’s entirely possible the Timberwolves won’t be terrible this season.”
After the Mo Williams signing, the Wolves are poised to roll with a playing rotation that includes some legitimate talent (Ricky Rubio, Nikola Pekovic), a slew of capable veterans (Kevin Martin, Mo Williams, Chase Budinger, Corey Brewer), and some intriguing young prospects, like Wiggins and Bennett, as well as Gorgui Dieng, Shabazz Muhammad, and Zach LaVine.
It would take some serious Flip Saunders magic to turn this into the playoff team that he reportedly desires. But that team should not be terrible. Not as long as Rubio and Pek play healthy and up to their reputations as better-than-average starting players.
So if the Wolves do go out and win 32 games while losing 50, don’t be so sure that they’re locking them selves into that “Basketball Purgatory” of recent NBA past; that zone where teams struggle to improve without top draft picks.
If Adam Silver gets his way, the Wolves can play at that level and still have a chance at a Number 1 pick; their third one running after Bennett and Wiggins. (!)