Tanking remains one of the most controversial concepts a team can choose to go through. Forming a team that is purposefully set up to lose games in hopes of future success seems like a recipe for disaster on paper. Trying to lose is not easy, and if it is done incorrectly, a team’s morale can go down the gutter.
The key to tanking is patience, and the issue with that is that most teams do not have patience. Head coaches, general managers, and players are all under constant pressure to succeed immediately. Without showing any sort of progress for an extended period of time, jobs can be lost.
The fear around the idea of tanking often results in consistent mediocrity, which if we’re being honest, is barely better than tanking. Constantly making the playoffs as an eight-seed brings fans no more excitement than a team that misses the playoffs with a young, promising roster.
Enter Sam Hinkie. His tenure as the Philadelphia 76ers general manager is one of the most highly controversial tenures at the position in recent history. Year after year he would trade players for picks, fill the roster with G-League (formerly D-League) level players, and then would tell the fans to “trust the process” whenever anyone questioned his moves.
His mindset was always to focus on the long-term effects of every move he made. Finding a legitimate superstar is not easy, and in order to do so, you usually need a top pick in the draft. This was Hinkie’s goal from the start of every season, and although he stepped down (we all know he was forced out) before he could see his vision come into fruition, the Sixers can thank him for obtaining Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.
Before Hinkie began the process in Philadelphia, the Sixers were stuck in constant mediocrity with no signs of future growth. Today, there are many teams in this same position that could benefit from hiring Hinkie to take command of their futures.
Ever since Dwight Howard left in free agency in 2012, the Magic have been experiencing an identity crisis. They have missed the playoffs every year since, and have not found one player to build around in an effort to bounce back.
The best finish to a season they had during that span was 11th place in the East. The worst part of that statistic is that they have legitimately been trying to make the playoffs each of those years. Tanking never even crossed their mind once.
In the post-Dwight era, they have accumulated quite a few nice pieces that could contribute to winning teams. Tobias Harris, Aaron Afflalo, Victor Oladipo, J.J. Redick, and Serge Ibaka have all become quality starters in this league, but none are players that teams can build around. None of those players are still on the Magic, and what is left on the roster is not pretty.
Elfrid Payton and Nikola Vucevic are the two current cornerstones of the team, and neither have shown any potential to blossom into future stars. Aaron Gordon has shown flashes throughout the year, but besides his flashy dunks he serves as nothing more than a role player to this team.
The Magic currently own the fifth best odds in the draft lottery, setting themselves up to hopefully draft a player with some star potential. If they can’t land a player at least as good as Jayson Tatum, they should highly consider blowing it all up and going the Hinkie route.
When discussing mediocrity in the NBA, the Hawks are almost always the fist team that come to mind. Since 2008, they have made the playoffs every year, but realistically they were never title contenders. Even in 2015 when they won 60 games and finished first in the East, no one gave them a shot to beat the Cavaliers. To no surprise, they went on to get swept by the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Sure, making the playoffs for nine straight years is impressive, but it can’t be very encouraging to the fans to know that when the playoffs start, the title will more than likely be going home with a different franchise.
During this stretch, they have had a few borderline stars leading the way such as Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Paul Millsap, and Josh Smith. Realistically, these players have always been sidekicks forced into star roles. None have the ability to lead a team to contender status, but year after year they served as leaders of the team. The franchise has not had a true number one option since Dominique Wilkens, and even he couldn’t bring home a title for the franchise.
This offseason, the team’s current star and leader Paul Millsap has a player option to opt out of his contract. Realistically he will probably test free agency and choose to move to a new team, leaving the Hawks with an aging, declining Dwight Howard and an up and coming point guard Dennis Schroder. The rest of the roster is not nearly talented enough to threaten in the playoffs, so it would probably be for the best to start from scratch.
Free agency has a few big names to choose from to replace Millsap, such as Blake Griffin and Gordon Hayward, but realistically those players will be looking to join a contender, and Atlanta just isn’t that.
This year’s draft is very top heavy, and the Hawks are picking no where near the top, so the future is looking very brim for the organization. With what they have, they could continue to battle for the eight seed, but long term that will get them no where towards the ultimate goal of winning a championship. Atlanta’s best option is to “trust the process.”
The Pacers went into this season with legitimate hopes at contending for a title. They had a legitimate superstar leading the way in Paul George, a young stud rim protector in Myles Turner, and plenty of established role players such as Jeff Teague, Al Jefferson, Thaddeus Young, Monta Ellis, and Rodney Stuckey.
Then the season started. Chemistry issues were apparent almost the entire year, which led to the team almost missing the playoffs altogether. They put together a five game win streak to end the season, and they finished 7th in the East, but went on to get swept by Lebron James and the Cavaliers.
Numerous post-game press conferences, such as the two shown below, featured Paul George seemingly blaming his teammates for team failures, displaying his frustration with the organization.
These are certainly not good signs if you’re a Pacer fan, and it is becoming increasingly likely George forces a trade this offseason. If he does this, it would probably be for the best to blow up the current roster in search of draft picks. Luckily, the Pacers have a young player with a lot of promise they can build around in Myles Turner, but besides him no one else on the team should be off the table in trade talks.
In addition to their chemistry issues and worries about Paul George’s future, they’re president of basketball operations Larry Bird recently stepped down from the position. The Pacers are in danger of experiencing a major identity crisis with no one in charge, which opens up a perfect opportunity for Sam Hinkie to step in and take control.
Knowing Hinkie’s prior success in winning trades, he could make a lot happen with the talent on the roster currently. Many, such as Thaddeus Young, Jeff Teague, and Monta Ellis, can still contribute to winning basketball, so it’s realistic to think teams would be willing to part ways with a pick or two for them.
From there, just sitting back and allowing Hinkie to work his magic is all that needs to be done, but everyone in the organization needs to have patience for it to work. “The process” could last up to five years, but by the time its finished, the franchise could have multiple cornerstones for a future dynasty, similar to having both Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.