The first rule of tanking is don’t admit you’re tanking. But that’s exactly what Mavs owner Mark Cuban did in May, admitting that Dallas “did everything we could to lose games” once they were eliminated from the playoffs. That helped them gain the No. 9 pick, which they used to draft Dennis Smith Jr., their point guard of the future.
For what it’s worth this early, there are some analysts who think Smith could grow into the best player in this year’s loaded draft class. If they’re right, those extra losses this season could have altered the future of the Mavs and the NBA in a major way.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver finally addressed Cuban’s tanking admission, and he’s understandably not pleased with it. Here’s what he said at the Board of Governors press conference on Wednesday, via NBC Sports:
“Yes, it’s not what you want to hear as commissioner. I will say that Mark has a long track record of being provocative, and it was something that we spoke to him directly about. I think he acknowledged it was a poor choice of words. When we looked at what was actually happening on the floor, which is most important to me, there was no indication whatsoever that his players were intentionally losing games. And so we were satisfied with that, and again, and we moved on.”
Tanking doesn’t have much to do with player effort. No matter how hard the 76ers 2015-16 starting lineup of Ish Smith, Isaiah Canaan, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant and Nerlens Noel played, that team was going to struggle to win more than a dozen games. But I’ll let Silver have that, as it gave him a chance to express that tanking is bad while a giving a reason not to discipline the Mavs in any public way. But let’s face it: Cuban gave up two starters, Deron Williams and Andrew Bogut, late in the season.
Of course, the Mavs are not the biggest villain of tanking (if you consider tanking a bad thing, that is). The 76ers and the Lakers manipulated the draft lottery much more to get multiple top picks in the last few drafts as opposed to just moving a few spots up in one season as Dallas did.