David Stern Drives the Tank

Well, the ends probably didn’t justify the means, but at least the ends finally ended. And at least “Chris Paul to Blake Griffin” makes for ends so substantial they might be transcendent.

The general consensus is that the NBAleans HornSterns got a better deal in their second go-round, and I won’t disagree. But I find the why quite fascinating here.

Much of the appeal in this Clippers-Hornets trade is derived from how it makes the Hornets immediately, well, bad. John Schuhmann’s NOH depth chart analysis reveals a squad so deep at bottom that home games might well be played before those hideous sea creatures whose eyes eventually fall off from lack of light. If the fish aren’t blind already, pupils will melt from watching Jarett Jack as starting point guard, or Al-Farouq Aminu as a misplaced power forward.

Obviously, Eric Gordon is a key get, but few observers believe he’ll take New Orleans to next year’s playoffs. And that’s the point. The Hornets will receive a high lottery selection to pair with Minnesota’s 2011 draft pick. A gutted team plus lotto hope makes for a more enticing situation than the playoff contention troika of Luis Scola, Lamar Odom, and Kevin Martin.

By shepherding this particular trade through, the commissioner is tacitly–maybe even overtly–singing a grand, bellowing ode to the glories of tanking. And he is quite correct, because ping pong balls determine so much.

Quoting Tom Haberstroh’s piece on drafting and parity:

“Dirk Nowitzki was drafted by the Mavericks (in a draft-day trade). Tim Duncan was drafted by the Spurs. Kobe Bryant was drafted by the Lakers (in a draft-day trade). Michael Jordan was drafted by the Bulls. Dwyane Wade and the Heat, Hakeem and the Rockets, so on and so forth.“

The Hornets could be the next so on and so forth, especially if they tank like Stalingrad. There is a massive incentive to stink on account of the NBA’s weighted lottery system. The league used to give every lotto team an equal shot, but overcorrected after the Magic won number one picks in consecutive years. From that point forward, putridity equalled a decent shot at excellence.

Oklahoma City has become a beaming advertisement for building from the rubble of lottery visits. Not only did OKC nab top talent this way, but the NBA ensures that players like Durant or Westbrook get wildly underpaid. Quoting Haberstroh, again:

“Thanks to the rookie scale that keeps salaries artificially depressed for several years, the Thunder paid Kevin Durant, the NBA’s leading scorer, about a third of what the Jazz paid for Andrei Kirilenko last season.”

Draft primacy might even increase over the coming years. The new CBA seeks to help teams “lock in” franchise players at an earlier juncture, by moving a 30% maximum salary bump from year seven to year five. Of this alteration, Larry Coon writes:

“Allowing franchise players such as these to sign for the higher maximum sooner reduces the temptation for these players to sign shorter contracts, delaying their eventual free agency.”

I often joke, “Superstars shouldn’t be deciding team fates like CP3 and LeBron did! That’s a ping pong ball’s sacred job!” My lame humor sense aside, pro basketball may be entering an era of ping pong dominance–if it’s not there already. A GM’s most important duty may be to properly orchestrate his team’s awfulness. If this is the case, then David Stern is already far beyond the squad-building talents of those fools who try to compete short-term.


Related posts:

  1. The Trial of David Stern
  2. David Stern did the right thing
  3. Stern in no rush to deal Chris Paul
  4. Does The Big Diesel Have Anything Left In The Tank?
  5. Even with a balky knee, can David take down Goliath?

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Ethan Sherwood-Strauss agrees the Hornets will be awful, and wonders if David Stern endorsed the notion of tanking by approving this trade over the original Lakers/Hornets/Rockets deal. • Alan Hahn is documenting [...]

  2. [...] maintain their core seemingly in the hopes that a postseason berth falls in their laps, even as David Stern essentially endorses a complete teardown as the most effective rebuilding strategy.The Jazz have long been a well-run organization with a [...]

  3. [...] maintain their core seemingly in the hopes that a postseason berth falls in their laps, even as David Stern essentially endorses a complete teardown as the most effective rebuilding [...]

  4. [...] maintain their core seemingly in the hopes that a postseason berth falls in their laps, even as David Stern essentially endorses a complete teardown as the most effective rebuilding [...]

  5. [...] mode, success presents serious problems. As Ethan Sherwood Strauss wrote last week at HoopSpeak, why pay to be competitive if you can tank for less? Much of the appeal in this Clippers-Hornets trade is derived from how it makes the Hornets [...]

  6. [...] New Orleans (Fair Weather Cumulus) The commissioner waived his magic sceptre, made his team highly tankable, highly promising. Eric Gordon looks great in a league of so few impact twos and New Orleans will likely get two [...]

  7. [...] that the principles–competitive coaches and players–are geared to do. But I think that after David Stern tacitly endorsed a tanking strategy with his revised Chris Paul trade, the unspoken option should be more socially [...]

  8. [...] built a horrid Bobcats roster, probably with the express intent of tanking for picks. Stern himself vetoed a trade toward playoff contention, possibly to ensure that New Orleans would hit lotto gold. Portland gutted their roster at the deadline in an obvious tank, er, “rebuilding” [...]

  9. [...] began at the beginning of the season, when the NBA for all intents and purposes endorsed the tactic by turning down a trade, acting as the New Orleans Hornets defacto owner, which would have made the team immediately [...]

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