The issue of tanking has gotten a lot of press this season, thanks to teams like the 76ers, who at one point reeled off an impressive 26 losses in a row before finally getting their act together in time not to lose an historic 27th straight. And don’t even get me started on the Bucks, or Magic, or basically any team in the East that isn’t currently in the playoff picture.
There’s only one team that appears to be egregiously tanking this NBA season, however, and that’s the Atlanta Hawks.
The Hawks were almost surely in the playoffs with a 25-21 on Feb. 1. Since then, they’ve gone 7-21 (thanks to poor play and, yes, injuries), and with the Knicks win last night the Hawks are now technically the 9th seed in the East.
Bummer, right? Not really. The Hawks have nothing to gain by making the playoffs this year. They’re clearly not an elite team, or even a “good” team by most standards, and getting the 8th seed in the East just to lose in the first round to the Heat or Pacers doesn’t do anything for their rebuilding process. Missing the playoffs and getting into the deepest draft lottery in years? That’s something to work towards.
Hawks GM Danny Ferry admitted as much earlier this week (via USA Today):
“We’re not focused on trying to be the eighth seed in the playoffs because that’s not our goal. We’re trying to build something that’s good, sustainable, and the components are in place for us to do so.”
Meanwhile, the Knicks don’t have a draft pick in this year’s draft — they traded their pick for Carmelo Anthony. So they gain nothing from missing the playoffs this year.
So how will the rest of the season play out? The Knicks’ remaining schedule is all against teams over .500, while the Hawks play teams like the Cavs, Pistons, Celtics and Bucks. There’s no reason why the Hawks shouldn’t finish strong and snag the final playoff spot, except for the fact that it would ruin Danny Ferry’s plan, so it’s not going to happen.
The 76ers aren’t tanking, guys. They were supposed to be bad, and they’re simply playing to the best of their young, raw, terrible ability. Even without Al Horford, the Hawks should be decent, but they’re losing because it’s the best thing for them. That’s what tanking is, and that’s what Adam Silver will have to try to fix going forward.
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