Make no mistake about it, it’s the year of the ‘tank’ for the NBA and it ain’t pretty. Watching many teams putting themselves in the position to lose is not fun at all especially for the fans. So before we move on to the topic, let us first define ‘tanking’.
What is tanking?
For those who don’t know, (and yes that’s you my football purist friends and ladies who might have accidentally read my blog) “Tanking” is the colloquial term for intentionally losing games in order to get some advantage in next seasons NBA draft. Since the next draft class is the strongest in recent years, many NBA teams have resorted to tanking this season to have a bigger chance at the first three draft picks.
The Eastern Tankers
Much of the tanking in the NBA now happens in the Eastern Conference where the teams purposely tank or are just too weak to compete. Lets name the teams shall we? First in the line would be the Philadelphia 76ers, who traded Al Horford & Spencer Hawes this season to be the number one tanking team in the League. Yes the Milwaukee Bucks are the worst team right now but Philly deserves full credit as it traded their franchise players for nothing early this season. Milwaukee on the distaff, has already been weak since with no effort for the Management to sign stronger players. I even doubt that the eastern playoff contenders would actually want to reach the playoffs with a higher win ratio.
The Western Powers
The West is the exact opposite of the East where you can see the Spurs, OKC, Clips, and the Rockets dominate the NBA scene. If you compare the east and west standings, the number 3 eastern team is only as good as the West’s 10th seed. That’s how far the competition is on both ends of the United States. I do not need to expound on how strong this conference is but all potential playoff matchups would be a hit.
So how does it affect the finals?
The disparity is the will mean that, on paper, it will be easier for the eastern powerhouses, Miami and Indiana, to reach the eastern finals unless something catastrophic occurs. This will be good for both teams as they will be able to rest their key players ahead of their crucial matches. If its a cakewalk in the east, it will be a gladiator battle in the West. Bad news for the ageing teams like the San Antonio Spurs. I expect that almost all the series in the West to reach a 6th game, which is good for the fans but bad for the players’ championship ambitions.
In the final itself, a battle-tested west champ will be up against a slightly tested east champion. The advantage will slightly be on the west champ because only the strongest and deepest teams will win the West. The only way the easties will win is if they extend the series to seven games and will push the fatigued westies to exhaustion. This is where the tanking difference would come in.