What does tanking look like?


  • Teams: Detroit Pistons (14-22) at Philadelphia 76ers (12-23)
  • Date: January 10, 2014
  • Time: 7:00 p.m.
  • Television: FSD

What to look for

There’s something to be said about where the Detroit Pistons stand today as a basketball club with the Philadelphia 76ers hosting them tonight.

Joe Dumars made a big splash during the offseason when he signed Josh Smith to a lucrative four-year $54 million deal and traded for the services of Brandon Jennings.

What’s more, the plan was for Smith to abandon the power forward spot — where he has flourished during his time with the Atlanta Hawks — to become Detroit’s starting small forward.

There were some concerns over whether the Pistons’ offense would have enough spacing to properly function with Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe consistently sharing the court together, and they were warranted.

Still, others felt that the passing ability of Smith and Monroe would make up for the lack of long-range shooting and allow the offense to operate fairly smoothly. Also, Detroit’s talent would carry them every now and then through a few rough patches. Well, the experiment has been a failure as the midway point of the regular season approaches.

Talks have begun that Smith should come off the bench in a support role and also, we are being told that Monroe’s name has not crept up in trade talks, but the fact his name keeps resurfacing is certainly a source of concern. The franchise is not in disarray yet, but the Pistons are at the red light contemplating whether to get on the overpass that leads to Disaster Freeway.

On the other hand, tonight’s opponent is heading in the same direction, but driving in a different lane.

The 76ers took another approach in the summer and decided to blow up the roster. They sent Jrue Holiday packing and acquired Nerlens Noel. Fearing for Noel’s health, Philadelphia quickly announced they were likely shutting him down for the season.

For all intents and purposes, Philly made the decision to tank. They are giving out minutes to young players this season and trying to figure out what they have. In the process, they quickly realized they had a gem in Michael Carter-Williams.

It’s possible that Philly now has its backcourt of the future with Evan Turner starting alongside Carter-Williams. Then again, Turner comes at a relatively hefty price tag (carries an $8.7 million qualifying offer amount for 2014-15) and could potentially get traded away for other assets.

Make no mistake about it though, the Philly franchise is currently going through a development stage. And yet, their record is incredibly similar to Detroit’s. What does it say about the Pistons’ postseason chances that they have almost as many losses as a team that has no interest in winning?

Consider this: The Sixers went out west and won consecutive road games against the Los Angeles Lakers, Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings and Portland Trail Blazers recently.

Meanwhile, the Pistons are stuck in a six-game losing streak. What’s more, they’ve been blown out four times during that stretch. When presented with that info, which team sounds like it’s tanking?

Luckily for Maurice Cheeks, his group defeated Philly earlier in the season by double digits and might have a shot at repeating the feat again tonight. Nonetheless, the Pistons are still at that red light and it’s about to change. The freeway awaits.

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