The Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 152-79 on Thursday night, Dec. 3. The 73-point margin of victory is the largest in NBA history. There isn’t much to say about the game beyond that. The lopsided score definitely caught the attention of other NBA players.
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said the historic margin of victory should trigger a fine.
73 points?!?! That’s a fine
— Draymond Green (@Money23Green) December 3, 2021
Atlanta Hawks’ guard Trae Young was shocked.
DAMN. 😳 https://t.co/BOUa2kRPgZ
— Trae Young (@TheTraeYoung) December 3, 2021
Thunder player Mike Muscala said their team didn’t fight.
“I think there was some slippage defensively and I think before you know it, teams are in a rhythm and the game is out of hand,” Oklahoma City’s MIKE MUSCALA SAID. “We didn’t fight, obviously. You’d rather go out fighting. You would rather go out putting your best foot forward and playing together.”
The Thunder’s best player, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was out, as he’s in the concussion safety protocol.
More than that, the players didn’t fight. Seventy-three points is a lot to lose by, and while the Grizzlies are ranked fifth in adjusted offensive rating, they have the worst adjusted defensive rating in the league. The Thunder should have been able to muster more than 79 points in four quarters.
This brings up a touchy point when looking at rosters. Even without Ja Morant the Grizzlies’ roster is significantly better than the Thunder’s. But how is that possible?
Aside from SGA and Derrick Favors, there isn’t a player on the Thunder roster making more than $5 million per year.
Thunder general manager Sam Presti is lauded by a certain segment of NBA media for his “savvy” team construction and his accumulation of “assets.” But let’s call a spade a spade. The Thunder are tanking. It’s so obvious.
What remains interesting is the way the Thunder are viewed and the way Sam Hinkie’s “Trust the Process” 76ers were viewed. Philadelphia then and Oklahoma City did the same exact thing. Willfully putting out a poor product to save a billionaire owner some money, under the guise of long-term team building.
To be fair, a market like Oklahoma City doesn’t have the built-in advantages of Atlanta or Chicago. Forget New York, Los Angeles and Miami.
But drafting well and building from within is possible. These same Thunder in three consecutive years drafted Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, and James Harden.
Fielding a team that has no ability to win consistently is bad for the league. But Presti and the Thunder avoided the criticism that the 76ers received. The biggest reasons are Presti hasn’t put a name to it like Hinkie did and Presti doesn’t do media.
He operates in the quiet plains of Oklahoma City as far away from the spotlight as possible. But what he’s doing is no less egregious than Hinkie’s 76ers.
NBA reporter Wes Goldberg points out that “selling hope” while tanking is a great way for Presti to keep his job.
This is the part no one wants to talk about. OKC is spending $30k less on its roster than the second-cheapest team. Selling the idea of tanking as hope while keeping costs down is a great way to keep your job. https://t.co/CKo4Fml71F
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) December 3, 2021
Fans and media alike succumb to this silly notion that small-market teams have no chance and can’t compete. The Grizzlies play in Memphis, hardly a major market, and had success in the grit-and-grind era and look like they have the building blocks for another period of success.
Success might not end in a title, which is a 1-30 lottery chance.
But fielding a solid team that makes the playoffs consistently and in that magical period enough things break right and they compete for and maybe win a title is not impossible.
Look at the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks.
Just study how a recent small-market champion was built. Milwaukee: Good drafting in the lottery, good scouting, smart FA acquisitions at the right time, pushing its player with star potential to keep getting better by getting him playoff experience. https://t.co/roS5LvZIS2
— Wes Goldberg (@wcgoldberg) December 3, 2021
Why does the NBA allow teams to do this and then complain about the unfair advantage of larger markets? This doesn’t help sell the game or bolster sagging television ratings.
The NBA has teams in cities that are not desirable for rich young men. It is what it is. So those teams have to do a little more to overcome their circumstances. Tanking shouldn’t be the solution.
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