First let me preface this by saying that I still believe in this team, but I believe the question must be asked..."As a Suns fan, would you object to your team tanking the season to get a high draft pick…?"
After the crime-scene in Chicago where the Suns looked like a pick-up team consisting of two NBA players and a bunch of YMCA hacks, I started thinking about where the season could possibly go from there. Mind you, I still think there is a chance this team could get it together and make a playoff run, but if the losses continue to mount, I sense more and more fans will believe this is a "lost" season. Invariably, management may start getting (if they don't already) the same idea as well and act accordingly (trades, salary dumps, extended playing time for youngsters, etc…).
The idea is not new---we have called it many things…giving up, blowing it up, re-building, and most recently we’ve heard the term "sucking for Luck (Andrew that is…). I prefer the old fashion term "tanking" so I’ll just stick with that. The very subject of tanking brings up a host of emotions within fans, as can easily be seen by the comments on any fan-post or game thread. All fans want to see their team win. However, getting to the winning part is the journey fans will sometimes disagree with (How, why, when, what, and where…). Without prejudicing myself one way or another, it’s pretty easy to see there are several schools of thought concerning tanking:
1. You never embrace tanking – This is based off the premise that high draft picks are just as often mediocre as they are successes. This is even if the ping-pong balls fall in your favor and you get the pick you want. Another fact to consider is that losing can become an organizational culture…in other words "habit-forming." Once you start down this path, it’s hard to break contact--almost becoming a curse on the franchise (See LA Clippers). Bottom line: It takes a lot to win in the NBA and no single rookie player should be worth the physical, emotional, and organizational turmoil that a "tanked" season entails.
2. Situational wise tanking - This is based off the premise that if management and the fanbase truly didn't think a team had a chance and/or there was a game-changing, no-doubt stud (ala Lebron or Dwight Howard) …why not? These players only come along a few times a decade and as extremely low-risk high reward types. Conversely, some fans would be pissed for a team to tank just to go after a debatable numero uno type such as Bargnani in the 2006 NBA Draft. In this regard, a careful balance would have to be struck between expectation management and fanbase retention. This type of tanking is probably most appropriate if a team is beset by injuries or has no chance of effectively competing or even if the pieces are coming together and one player will make that difference.
3. Tanking as part of a longer term plan – This is based off of a carefully calculated strategic plan by team management for a long-range determination of where a team wants to be in a few years. Once again a balance has to be struck between "prepping the chessboard" and perpetual suckitude. If done properly, a team can strategically turn two or three years of putridness into a viable NBA contender. If done wrong, it can set a franchise into the Dark Ages for a decade…It takes a management team with vision, smarts, and most of all patience to ride out the storm to get to their intended endstate. The vision has to be made clearly so the fanbase gets what the FO is trying to accomplish and doesn’t wilt along the way. Tanking as part of a long range plan is probably the most difficult to bear because it encompasses so long of a timespan and many available variables make it tempting to deviate from.
There you have it. Of course there are hundreds of tanking variables that I didn’t touch on...as I don’t want to make the article drone on and on. What I want people to ask themselves is are they willing to go through tanking and all that accompanies it? Consider the changes in personnel. Consider the changes in coaching. Consider changing philosophies. Consider the losing (yeah, that's part of it..). Consider the dwindling fanbase and accompanying resources. Consider the anxiety if a draft pick is going to pan out. Consider the ridicule. Consider that I can go on ad nauseum. Are potential stars Barnes, Gilchrest, or Drummond worth the cost? You tell me.
"What man buildeth a house without first sitting down and counting up the cost…?
Hebrew Bible Proverb