Just for the record, I hate it when teams intentionally "tank". I don't like it because it foists a deliberately bad product on the fans and in turn the organization gets passive aggressively whiny with the public about not attending games. I think it violates the public trust to put something out there you know has no chance to compete for the benefit of trying your luck at the NBA draft lottery. I hate it and I think it is a slimy way of doing business ...
... that being said. You could make the argument, on a purely hypothetical level, that tanking is the prudent thing to do if you are stuck in the NBA's "good but not great" territory. The way the league has things set up, in order to get a "superstar" or game changing player you must be terrible for anywhere up to one-to-three years before becoming good again. It's just the way things are done. That's why teams tank in multiple drafts, because game changing players aren't always available in each draft (such as this year). This is unfortunate, yet true.
Since the departure of Masai Ujiri to the Toronto Raptors on May 31st, there has been much discussion about where the Nuggets will be heading. Two very large things hang over the Nuggets' heads going into the 2013-14 season. First of all the ACL injury to forward Danilo Gallinari (who is expected to have surgery next week in Vail) will leave him out nearly the entire season (maybe February of 2014?). Secondly, the contract limbo for Andre Iguodala hovers over the team like a rainy cloud. What will the defensive specialist/playmaker decide to do? Will he opt in or out? He has a player option for $16 million for the 2013-14 season. If he opts out, will he re-sign with the Nuggets? If not, will the Nuggets seek to entice him in a sign-and-trade? Will he opt-in, play out the year, and see the Nuggets trade him at the deadline as an expiring contract? What sort of value could that even bring back? (The Jazz were in that same situation with Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson and decided to hang onto both players at the trade deadline.)
It's not good that the Nuggets are sans a Vice President of Basketball Operations while all this is hovering over their heads. Add in the speculation about coach George Karl's future (he has one year left on his contract) with the team and you have a veritable Pandora's Box of issues. The lynch pin, and quite frankly the best indication of where the Nuggets see their future is what happens with Iguodala. Forget the upcoming draft, where the Nuggets only have one pick and it's at No. 27, so we aren't talking high stakes poker with the draft choice. That particular pick will be a red herring and explains why the Nuggets aren't exactly in a rush to hire a new Vice President of Basketball Operations right now. What happens with Iguodala will shape the future of this team in many different ways.
The Nuggets history with tanking isn't very pretty, as well as their luck in the draft lottery (never drafting higher than the third pick despite having the worst record in basketball three times in 12 years 1991, 1998, 2003 (tied with Cleveland) and horrible planning and drafting killed all rebuilds aside from the 2003 draft. It makes one gun shy, particularly as a long time Nuggets fan, when people start throwing around the word "tank". Sends shivers down my spine to think about returning to the depths of bad basketball and unfulfilled promises. Yet ... it doesn't have to always be that painful does it?
I have been told by people who understand these things that next season's draft (2014) is potentially akin to the 2003 draft in terms of depth of talent. That's a very interesting prospect. After being told over and over than you need a superstar to win in the NBA the possibility of securing a "game changer" in a draft is an enticing one. The only way the Nuggets can get to that point is to tank. In a (projected) draft like that, people aren't just going to give you their pick in a trade. The Nuggets would have to do what so many have done before them, and what they have done themselves in their past. That prospect is the most frightening to me.
I would never advocate tanking. I never will. I want to be crystal clear on that ... however with so much up in the air with this current team, it makes you wonder how the Nuggets will proceed going forward. There is an enticing element dangling out there with Andrew Wiggins, someone who was born the same year Bernie Bickerstaff pulled off the best trade of his Nuggets executive career and nabbed Antonio McDyess from the Clippers. There is and intriguing element to that prospect and it's hard to deny that the much hyped "game changer" would be a welcome addition to a team that needs a game changer.
Yet, we don't know. We won't know until Iguodala makes a decision on his own future. I believe this Nuggets team would have done much better in the playoffs than they did if Gallo wasn't injured. That was horrible luck for both the player and the team. The run of bad luck has continued with the departure of Ujiri. As Nuggets fans, we hope that clarity will come forth once everything settles down. We hope that everything will just be alright.
There's too much uncertainty for this humble writer. The Nuggets need a direction and we are just waiting to be pointed that way.
Could the way point to Tanksville?
Twitter: @jmorton78 https://twitter.com/#!/jmorton78