clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Five Out: The point of tanking, contrition, odd bets, trades and the thing itself

It’s still going...

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat
All the way up.
Photo by Eric Espada/Getty Images

Yes, it’s Five Out. You might have thought, “Thank God that’s over.” Wrong. Like a 1980s horror movie character, it’s back.

Why Tank?

There seems to be a strong thread of NBA thinking and commentary that seems to have this notion as its basis:

The point of NBA basketball is to assemble the best young talent possible, at the lowest possible price, and thus creating a secure and dominant position, in terms of a kind of roster virtue, or desirability, based forever upon a future expectation of greatness.

This may not be stated, but to me, it seems implicit in much thinking. The idea that there is a Platonic ideal of a roster, full of prospects, playing at a low price.

Anything that isn’t such a roster is in many respects, a failure. If there is a veteran team that is entertaining, and competitive, but on the fringes of the playoffs, such a team should be immediately destroyed, and a process of acquiring the Platonic ideal roster begun. Blow it up. Now. And forever. (Always Be Tanking, right McDuck?)

This is a theme I might develop further in a separate piece, but to me the goal is to try to win a title, and you can’t win a title if the team isn’t actually good, rather than potentially good. It happens that NBA titles are overwhelmingly NOT won by young (under roughly 26 years old for key players) teams. There are exceptions, but not many.

In between a competitive early through late career peak period for a team, its young players will tend to get expensive. It’s nearly impossible, unless an ownership group is willing to retain both veteran talent capable of winning a title, and a group of young, promising, players at a very high (luxury repeater tax) price.

That is to say, the team you’re building almost certainly won’t be the same as when it’s time to compete. Also consider that midway through last season, a significant number of Platonic ideal roster enthusiasts were advocating vastly changing, or blowing up, the Boston Celtics, who made the Finals, and might have won it all.


What does it mean to be contrite? Does it mean saying plausible things? Making a fulsome apology? Acting performatively virtuous when not in the situation of the bad behavior? Or does it involve changing behavior in a meaningful way?

I would argue that despite lot plausible behavior post many incidents, Draymond Green has at no point shown any meaningful contrition for: eye gouging, groin attacks, dangerous plays, stomping on a fractured skull, leading the league in technical fouls, and assaulting a teammate who wasn’t attacking him. Proof is in behavior, not words, and we have never seen changes in behavior. (If you think that’s unfair, name another broken face stepper, or serial eye-gouger. )

I suspect there’s no big new deal awaiting Draymond. Not from any morality on the part of Golden State, but more that he’s just not worth the trouble, or money, based on what he consistently delivers now.


If you wanted to place a strange bet, and I’m not saying you do, or should, you might consider everyone’s crush, Tari Eason, and +6000 to win rookie of the year. A $20 bet wins you $1,200. Now, you’re overwhelmingly likely to be throwing that money away, but remember, Scottie Barnes won the award last season.

Improbable Trades

I truly love listening to NBA podcasts while doing dishes, or out for a walk. Right now we’re in the “Team Win Predictions” stage of the Annual Cycle of Podcast Life.

One thing I wish the podcasters would do, though, is look at the assets a team actually has, instead of simply recommending moves. Sometimes a team in the cycle of contention is basically out of options. The team, with exceptions mostly on the fringes, is the team.

For example, the Milwaukee Bucks. This team is a perfectly reasonable title favorite. But I’ve heard people advocating adding new players, making moves. What players? What moves? This team is basically out of picks to send out, except in 2029. Who could be traded for value on the roster that isn’t already important to the roster? What tempts a trade partner?

It’s nice to say “Upgrade on Grayson Allen” (I suggest launching him into the sun is an upgrade for humanity). but how? With a 2029 pick? If it’s unprotected, perhaps. I don’t see much else that can be traded for anything worthwhile. Sometimes a team is simply out of moves, without paying an absurd price - look at where the Rockets are now.

Ding in Sich

I would like to propose that none of the NBA commentariat profess profound admiration for the style of any one team in the NBA without watching at least 15-20 of their games, start to finish.

Toronto sounds great. The concept is novel, it’s execution unique. Except. Watching the Raptors seems to be an experiment in basketball played by a team of the floppy inflatable balloon guys outside a used car lot. They swing their arms a lot, and get calls. They’re hard to play against. I suppose it’s impressive the floppy balloon guys can play basketball at all, but it’s not enjoyable to actually see it.

Memphis in the past would be another example. “Grit and Grind” was a great slogan, but generally unwatchable basketball. I’m suggesting most general NBA “G&G” proponents didn’t actually watch many Memphis games.

Yes, I get it, all these teams launching 3pt shots in much the same way IS dull. Novelty in itself, however, doesn’t justify praising something. Look where that got us with art.

Of course, I exempt myself from the reverse of my own rule - that I should watch that many games before making such a judgment. No way am I willingly watching 20 Raptors or Heat games outside the playoffs.


This Column

This poll is closed

  • 31%
    is odd.
    (30 votes)
  • 18%
    is the best.
    (18 votes)
  • 32%
    is yearning for the regular season.
    (31 votes)
  • 17%
    is going to rub noses into the Jalen Green’s, ah, ascension.
    (17 votes)
96 votes total Vote Now