The Detroit Pistons will have a top seven pick in the NBA Draft for three straight years, barring a trade, when the 2022 draft is held on June 23. What the club has gotten out of losing a ton of games can be debated, but it time to climb out of the Tank, and start playing to win.
The most famous ‘Tanking’ was by the Philadelphia 76ers from 2013-17 under general manager Sam Hinkie and ‘The Process’. The players they had were young, and not very good (with a few exceptions like Jerami Grant), and that was on purpose. The theory was, to win championships, you need star players, and the easiest way to get stars was to draft them.
Since future stars usually are high draft picks, just lose and, eventually, you will get some.
The problem was, drafting 19-year-olds is an inexact science (there were also plenty of busts in NBA history too, back when players had to finish four years of college to get drafted, just look at the Pistons draft history) and some years are stronger than others.
The Sixers during that time drafted Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and after Hinkie was fired), Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz. All were in the top three of the draft except Noel (who went sixth only because he tore his ACL, would have been No. 1 if healthy).
What has this brought the 76ers? Losing in the first or second round of the playoffs for the past five years.
Being a high draft pick is not a guarantee of netting a superstar. Noel is a career backup center, Okafor is barely hanging on in the league (including a brief stint with the Pistons), Fultz forgot how to shoot and Simmons never learned. Embiid is good, maybe should have been the MVP this year, but that is one star for four years of awful losing.
The problem is, if you keep losing, hoping to one year nail a superstar to lead you to the title, you will be like a mouse on a wheel. Spinning and spinning and going nowhere. Because there will always be some much-hyped player in college, prep school or Europe, to hang hopes on on.
And the NBA really did not like what Hinkie was doing. To discourage copycats in the future, they changed the percentages for the bottom teams. In Hinkie’s day, it was a 25-percent chance of getting the first pick in the draft, now it is 14% (ironically, the 76ers never got the No. 1 pick until after Hinkie left).
The ‘smoothing’ of the percentages has dampen some enthusiasm about a team doing its own ‘Process’, but not as much as one would think. When you are not a free agent destination like a Los Angeles or Miami and you do not have much talent to trade with, the draft can be seen as your best hope for a turnaround.