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Sport and Fitness

SportNBA: What does tanking mean?

Words by Nathan Irvine

What is "tanking" and why do so many NBA teams get involved in it? We try our best to explain the scourge of the sport.

OK, let’s start with the obvious: what does “tanking” in the NBA mean? In short, it means that teams simply stop trying. It’s not just on the court, it all starts within the front office of any pro team.

If the bigwigs decide that they’re not going to make the annual NBA Play-Offs in April, the franchise will find ways to make themselves less competitive. Trade away star players for lesser assets. Bench important ones. Remove financial backing. It all counts, and is usually “sold” to onlookers as rebuilding phase. It rarely is.

It’s a race to the bottom of the league. Why? Well, because the teams nearer rock bottom get a better shot at drafting the next top star out of college. In 2019, that top star is Duke phenom, Zion Williamson.

NBA: What does "tanking" mean? - Zion Williamson


Wikipedia Zion Williamson, the breakout star of college basketball

Bottoms up

You see, the NBA lottery draft is unlike anything in any other sport. The weakest teams always have the best chance at the best players. So the following season, a struggling team can suddenly become a championship contender.

To combat this, the NBA has switched things up slightly. The bottom team no longer has a 25 percent shot at the best player – it’s down to 14 percent. This effectively means the percentage is split more evenly to put franchise off completely crashing.

During the ongoing 2018/19 season, the New York Knicks plummeted to the ground floor of the league in tragic fashion. With one game to go in an 82-game season, they have won a measly 15 match-ups. The next worse are the Phoenix Suns and LeBron-less Cleveland Cavaliers on 19 wins.

The Knicks are in pole position grab Williamson. So bad are the Knickerbockers, that recently the Houston Rockets first team spent the fourth quarter sat in the changing rooms while the reserves demolished the team from NYC.


NBA: What does "tanking" mean?


Twitter @knicksmemes OK, this very good

Gallows humour

How this affects the fans is a 50/50 split. Part of them will post a funny gif involving a tank under every post-match tweet from the official Knicks Twitter account. Others will rightly bemoan the fact they’ve had to endure this “tanking” phase. Bear in mind, the lowest priced ticket to watch the Knicks get torched at their Madison Square Garden home is $125 (AED 460).

Of course, if Zion Williamson comes in and drags them to the play-offs next season, then the volume of these complaints will be turned down.

So can the NBA’s “tanking” phase be blown out of the water? We will have to see how the 2019 NBA draft lottery plays out. Because if Williamson ends up eleswhere, the Knicks’ catastrophic league record will have been for nought and sales of torches and pitchforks in Manhattan will be through the roof.

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