Is Tanking Intentionally Worth It?

Last week the Chicago Blackhawks became the second Chicago team to get the top pick in this years draft. The difference, a draft lottery. Obviously, with no draft lottery in the NFL the Chicago Bears simply had to tank and end in last place to get the top pick.

As I write this we are getting ready for the 2023 NBA Draft Lottery announcement. Being a Chicago Bulls fan this got me thinking about the idea of tanking because of the Dallas Mavericks being fined for tanking by benching most of their starters against the Bulls at the end of the season. So, let’s look at why the draft lottery makes intentionally tanking to get the top top pick in the draft pointless.

Let’s start by looking at the Bulls playoff hopes this year. Their playoff hopes took a hit with every update on when Lonzo Ball would return. Then management made a last ditch effort to be in the playoffs by trading for Patrick Beverley at the deadline when it became official that Ball would not return until to 2023-24 season, if at all. At that point it was in the hand of the coaches and players to do what they needed to in order to get into the playoffs. They of course came up short last month against Miami in the second play-in game.

With the number one pick expected to be Victor Wembanyama who is a generational player one of my fellow writers here on Double Overtime was saying since at least January that the Bulls should tank to have a higher chance at the top pick. When we would have those conversations I always disagreed with him. However, the more I’ve thought about it the more I agree. You might be asking if he was saying they should intentionally tank. I do not believe he was… but if he was I would still disagree.

Here is the thing… In my eyes, intentionally tanking (draft lottery aside) means the team is making it obvious that they want to lose to get the number one pick and that is the root of the reason why I am only a bandwagon jumper with the Bears since there is no draft lottery in the NFL. At the end of the day, the Bears have had all of nine playoff appearances in my life including one Superbowl in 2006 which they lost and while they were not intentionally tanking this past season they still ended up with the first draft pick and then promptly traded down once they were able to following the Superbowl.

Intentionally tanking when the first pick goes to the team with the worst record and that is a known thing is okay with me. Intentionally tanking the way the Mavericks did against the Bulls back in April is not okay because there is a rigged draft lottery though. Teams should always do everything they can to make the playoffs when they have the chances to be in the playoffs the way the Mavericks and Bulls had this season.

Let’s look at why I say drafts are rigged using the Bulls as the example… they have an 8.5% chance of getting one of the top 4 picks and a 1.8% chance of becoming the third Chicago sports franchise to get the number one pick in this years draft. The last time the Bulls had the number one pick was 2008. They are especially rigged when there are generational players are entering the draft. As a result, had the Bulls tanked intentionally they would have been fined and probably still gotten the top pick.

So, did the Bulls tank? You bet they did but the did it without making it obvious and because the league wants generational players to be with the big market teams I believe the Bulls will end up with Victor unless they trade down like the Bears did.

In the 2007-2008 season they were not tanking intentionally they were simply horrible because of bad management and they had a 1.7% chance of getting hometown product and then generational player Derrick Rose. They got him but two seasons into his career he suffered a knee injury that essentially put a bullet in his chancing of helping bring at least one more ring to this city. As I write this he is at home watching with the same coach, Tom Thibodeau, he had here in Chicago.

This year the Bulls are the biggest market team in the lottery this season. In 2008 there were a few other big market teams in the lottery including the Miami Heat so there was nothing for the league to be rigging.

If you cannot play with them, root for them!

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