Tank-a-thon 2017: Lakers are closing in on the Nets
After building what seemed to be an insurmountable lead in the race to the bottom of the NBA standings the Brooklyn Nets have opened the door for a LA Lakers nosedive to surpass them before the season is out:
Nets crush the Suns 126-98, now 5-5 in their last 10.— Sean Grande (@SeanGrandePBP) March 24, 2017
They've closed to within 5 games of the Lakers with 11 to play.#WorstRecordWatch
Obviously the Nets don't really have any motivation to tank, their pick will ultimately go the the Celtics in a pick-swap come draft time, so while the Lakers are in full blown lose at all costs mode Brooklyn is trying to win every night. The Lakers 2017 1st-rounder is going to the Philadelphia 76ers unless it lands in the top 3 draft spots in the lottery(it's top-3 protected for LA), so they are fully motivated to give themselves the most ping pong balls they can this summer in the hopes of hanging onto their pick for a draft that has some very intriguing prospects at the very top - and they achieve that by losing as many games as possible.
While the Lakers have lost 9 of their last 10, a much more motivated Nets team has split their last 10 (5-5) and has done even better more recently:
Actually Nets are 5-3 over last 8.— CelticsLife.com (@CelticsLife) March 24, 2017
The Nets still have 4 games against playoff teams in their final 11, including two with Atlanta, one with Washington, and a final matchup with the Celtics. They also play the Pistons and have two more matchups with the Bulls, two borderline playoff teams, so their end of the season isn't a cakewalk. If the Nets finish their season around .500 (likely their best case scenario) the Lakers will need to lose almost every game on their schedule to finish in dead last, but they very well might do just that.
The NBA thinks they have a problem with teams sitting stars? They've had a much bigger problem with teams putting inferior lineups on the floor every night to lose games for years now. You have an entire fanbase in Philadelphia embracing a "Trust the Process" slogan that supports their organizations tanking efforts that go back about a half decade now. The lottery is supposed to make sure that having the worst record doesn't guarantee you the (or a) top pick, something the Celtics know all to well, and an update to the lottery rules back in 2015 to skew the odds to dissuade teams from tanking was shot down by NBA team owners.
I'm not sure there's a great answer to fix tanking. Celtics GM Mike Zarren proposed The Wheel concept back in 2014, but it was met with a fair share of skepticism among league executives as to whether or not it was a viable option. I just know that teams throwing out garbage rosters and lineups for a better shot at the top of the draft sucks for both the players and the fans.
Photo Credit - SilverScreenAndRoll.com
Follow Mark on Twitter: @MarkAL401