Should the Nets Start Tanking Games Now?

by March 31, 2010

by Marcel Mutoni / @marcel_mutoni

The question above actually applies to all of the teams in the NBA’s bottom tier, squads that will be looking for a savior in the Draft this summer. For the New Jersey Nets and others, winning meaningless games at this point in the season may end up costing them in the long-run.

While most of the hoops world’s focus is on the battle for homecourt advantage throughout the Playoffs, it’s important not to forget about another exciting finish: the race to the bottom.

New Jersey and Minnesota need to set themselves up to snag John Wall with the first pick this summer. The Star Ledger explores how losing factors into all of this:

Even as they endure the final weeks of what Devin Harris calls “an abomination for a season,” the 10-64 Nets are suddenly only four games behind Minnesota — and the equally abominable Timberwolves (14-60) don’t appear very eager to win many more games this season, having lost 16 straight.

So for all the Nets have been through this season, they actually have guys who are still interested in winning — just for kicks, if not for pride — and with winnable games still on the schedule, they could easily blow the pole position for the NBA Draft Lottery.

“The way we’re playing, I think there’s a chance we can catch Minnesota,” said Brook Lopez, who might have had the best week of his career in leading the Nets to a 3-1 record. “You’ve got to look to achieve something.” In the complicated lottery system, the team with the worst record gets a 250-in-1000 chance of getting the top pick. The team with the second-worst record has a 178-in-1,000 chance of winning it. If the two teams finished tied, they would essentially have an equal opportunity. But the difference between 250 and 178 is huge when the services of Kentucky’s John Wall is at stake.

Draft lottery positioning is a total crap-shoot in some ways, but rebuilding franchises would be doing themselves a disservice by not setting themselves up to acquire the top spot (especially with a game-changer like Wall within sight.)

Nets players and management smartly refuse to acknowledge the possibility of tanking games, but the reality is that their fans will be — or should be, anyway — rooting for losses.

Besides, it’s not like there are any more memorable victories left for New Jersey this season.