This should be an all-or-nothing kind of offseason for NBA squads looking to make a significant come-up. Dwight Howard is the marquee free agent this summer, but it only looks like three teams have a chance in landing the Lakers center.
Aside from D12, the major free agent names are Josh Smith, Andre Iguodola and Andrew Bynum. None of those guys are getting a team over the hump. Aside from Howard, no free agent signing this summer is going to turn a team into an immediate contender.
Tanking should be a serious option. Just ask the Philadelphia 76ers if trading Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel on draft night was about challenging the Heat, or if Philly is looking to be bad enough to plan for the future by possibly drafting Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1-overall selection in 2014. (Wait, do the Sixers even have a coach yet?)
If the Lakers, Rockets or Mavericks lose in the Dwight Howard sweepstakes, what’s the contingency plan? All of those franchises have seen success in the past 20 years, but none of them made a lot of noise this past season. Not signing Howard is going to be a step backward for two of these teams.
Why not accept the fate, charge 2013-14 to the game and look ahead?
The Rockets are no strangers to tanking, even if it did occur nearly 30 years ago. In the 1983-84 season, Houston was led by Ralph Sampson, Lewis Lloyd and Robert Reid, but still managed the seventh worst record in the league.
Conventional wisdom says the Rockets weren’t nearly as terrible that season as the numbers suggested. But they certainly weren’t on the Lakers’ level. It took drafting a young Hakeem Olajuwon out of the University of Houston’s Phi Slamma Jamma fraternity to make them serious.
Tim Duncan’s legacy in San Antonio started with a tank job, too. The Warriors have a promising young small forward in Harrison Barnes after shamelessly watching the 2011-12 season fizzle out.
Here’s the problem. The whole idea of tanking is taboo. It’s considered quitting or purposely being non-competitive. That’s the basic view on it. Nevermind if the team was going to toil in obscurity regardless.
Danny Ainge said, after sending Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Nets for deadweight, that it’s ridiculous to suggest that the Boston Celtics would consider tanking. Well, that kind of pride isn’t exactly going to keep them from sinking. They need players and that’s not up for debate.
Rookie Kelly Olynyk is going to be a nice contributor, but that’s not the future of the franchise. They also drafted Colton Iverson, not to be confused with the once-esteemed baller named Allen. They still have Rondo and Jeff Green, but the roster has little upside.
It’s clear that more than one star player is required to challenge the NBA juggernauts. If Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki are going to hang around for a while, they need a top-level young gun to keep their teams relevant.
Tanking is an option, unless pride steps in the way of reality. And, of course, pride typically comes before the fall.