Laying out the Debate: Tanking

Posted: April 30, 2012 in Bunker

Laying Out the Debate: Tanking

In the NFL and NBA, one star player has the potential to completely change the direction of your franchise. Nobody wants to be caught in the purgatory that is finishing just outside of playoff position. Sometimes it’s even beneficial to hometown team to not fall out of the playoff race to place themselves in a better draft position. Late last season it was suggested that the Indianapolis Colts should have tanked their last two games to ensure they received the number #1 pick and the rights to draft Andrew Luck, who is seen as the best Quarterback prospect since John Elway. The Charlotte Bobcat faithful (and Michael Jordan’s 9 figure investment)  are praying for the ping balls to bounce in their favor for the rights to draft Anthony Davis. Winning isn’t everything for some teams especially at the end of the season. Even playoff teams that clinch a spot, try to maneuver themselves into the best matchup possible.

Arguments Supporting Tanking

            Organizations that agree to “tank” [by playing their less skilled players or placing their best players on bench] would argue that losing in the short term could open doors to the possibility of getting a once in a lifetime player. Being the 9th best team in your conference (in the NBA) or finishing in the middle of pack (in the NFL) won’t land you the great franchise-changing draft pick an organization looks to turn their fortunes around. Instead of winning meaningless games and sliding down the draft board, or missing out on those valuable ping pong balls, increase your chances of getting a top five pick by losing. Fans will suffer in the short term, but after sound scouting and a great draft, the organization can sell fans on the hope of a great young nucleus.

Examples of Tanking:


Cleveland Cavaliers 2003 – With LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony as potential first and second picks of the upcoming draft, Cleveland wasn’t close to competitive in their 82 game “season” sporting a sweet 17-65 tying the Denver Nuggets for the worst record in the league. Denver was acknowledged as just a poor team. Cleveland traded away all of their veteran players for seemingly nothing on their way to an awful season. Even former coach John Lucas and former Guard Ricky Davis suggested that the Cavaliers brass put the team in an impossible position to succeed.

Houston Rockets 1984 You can thank this team for the implementation of the NBA Draft Lottery. They have admitted over the years with the prospect of drafting Sam Bowie, Michael Jordan or hometown dominant center, Akeem Olajuwan, the Rockets tanked most of their games.

Indianapolis Colts 2011 – With Peyton Manning injured and no real Quarterback to lead them. They seemed to put themselves in position to get Andrew Luck with the first pick overall.

Arguments Against Tanking

The fans suffer greatly when your teams tank. The fans that spend an inordinate amount of money for seasons tickets, all of a sudden are left with tickets without much value. There also seems to be a suggestion that this ruins competitive balances in the league. This was the reason the lottery was implemented to prevent teams from just tanking by making sure it wasn’t guaranteed that the worst team received the top draft pick. Especially in a sport like the NBA where one player can change the fortunes of a franchise.

Solutions to Stop Tanking

1. Implementing a playoff for the 4 worst teams to battle for the number 1 seed.

2. Fining teams

3. Contracting teams who are useless (see Charlotte Bobcats and Jacksonville Jaguars).


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