Detroit Pistons: Does the NBA still have a tanking problem?

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) /
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Detroit Pistons, Killian Hayes
Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons have lost 16 of their last 17 games and may not win another one this season.

We knew this type of season was a possibility coming in, and losing Cade Cunningham early on ensured that the Pistons would once again be one of the teams fighting at the bottom of the league.

No team in the NBA tries to lose on purpose, as players have pride and want to compete at a high level, but the organization can put them in a position where winning is unlikely by playing a very young team and benching veterans at the end of the season with minor injuries that they might otherwise play through.

Tanking gets especially egregious when there is a consensus #1 pick like there is this season, as every lottery team is dreaming of Victor Wembanyama on their roster.

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The NBA tried to stifle this somewhat by giving the bottom three teams the same odds and lowering the incentive to be the worst, but as long as any amount of incentive is there, it is going to happen.

So is tanking a problem in the NBA? For some people, absolutely, but for the league itself? I’m not sure.

Detroit Pistons: Does the NBA still have a tanking problem?

Tanking is not a problem

There are only three teams that are really tanking this season, the Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs. They are going to be the worst three teams and have the best odds to land the #1 pick.

They’re all young teams, and weren’t likely to be good either way, so why not position yourself for the best possible odds?

Tanking sells hope to fans and allows teams to play younger players who wouldn’t necessarily be ready to play big minutes on a playoff team. Jaden Ivey has gotten to play an expanded role this season and learn the game in ways that he never would if the Detroit Pistons were trying to win.

Tanking also allows teams a chance at a clean slate by trading away veteran players for draft assets and resetting instead of being stuck in mediocrity, which has turned the trade deadline into one of the most exciting times of the season.

Many fans feel that the NBA did enough to address tanking with the changes to lottery odds, and that is a perfectly valid point of view. The game is very entertaining, the league is doing just fine and fans talking about the draft and free agency is the reason the NBA is an all-year sport when it comes to engagement.

Mock drafts, free-agent and trade speculation generate money and excitement around the NBA, so there is little motivation to change it. But there is another side.