We have come to the time in every NBA season where the extremes of performance leave teams vying for a better playoff position or for a better draft pick position. Both can lead to less than optimum performance on the court.
The biggest issue, in the eyes of the NBA, are the teams that tank trying to improve their chance of getting the number 1 pick in the draft. The NBA Commissioner is challenging teams to uphold the integrity of the game by always performing their best on the court and let the draft pick lottery determine their place in the top of the draft order. (Note: The NBA seems to be OK with playoff bound teams sitting starters to present their most healthy team at the start of the playoffs.)
I fully understand the stance the NBA is taking in this regard. However, I offer the following as alternate thought starting with the following question.
What is the requirement/job of each NBA team?
I would contest that the answer to that question is to do the best for the organization, the owners and the fans who spend hard-earned income to support the team. I would assume that not many would argue the previous statement.
How does a team that is not going to make the playoffs and is languishing at the bottom of the overall rankings perform to meet the requirement stated above? I would argue that they need to tank so as to improve their draft status and ability to find that one player or players, through the draft, that can put them in the playoff chase the following season.
I will concede that the way a team accomplishes this goal can be unethical which does not serve the best interests of the organization or the fans. I would never condone throwing games by intentionally not performing at their individual best. However, limiting starter’s minutes, testing various player combinations and implementing new and less practiced offensive sets are ways that the players still perform at their best but may not win the game.
I believe this protects the integrity of the game and still allows for each team to potentially improve both their draft position and their current player personnel.