Detroit Pistons: Why the Heat and Nuggets never tank

Denver Nuggets heat coach Michael Malone Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Denver Nuggets heat coach Michael Malone Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /
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Detroit Pistons
Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra reacts during the first half against the Detroit Pistons Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports /

The Detroit Pistons just finished their fourth-straight season of tanking, and so far, the results have been mixed.

Yes, they did get the high-end talent in Cade Cunningham and Jaden Ivey to build around, cleared the worst contracts off their books and cleaned the slate for a fresh start.

It was understandable given that they had a mediocre and bloated roster that wasn’t going anywhere. On paper, tanking makes sense, as it allows teams like Detroit that aren’t free-agent destinations the chance to acquire superstars.

Whether tanking is good for the sport, or whether the Detroit Pistons should have been doing it as egregiously as they did this season are definitely arguments to be had.

Related Story. The Pistons' next head coach may still be in the playoffs. light

So as the Detroit Pistons try to go “The Process” 76ers route to build a sustainable winner, the Denver Nuggets and Miami Heat (probably) are headed to the NBA Finals after taking a much different route.

These two teams have shown that tanking is not the only way to build a team, and with smart moves and the right decisions, you can build a sustainably great team without losing on purpose to do it.

Here’s where the Nuggets and Heat have succeeded and why they are perpetually in the playoffs.

Detroit Pistons: Why the Heat and Nuggets never tank

Coaching and Culture

The Detroit Pistons have not won a playoff game since 2008, a streak of futility that is the worst in the NBA.

That also happens to be the year that Erik Spoelstra was named head coach of the Miami Heat. In that 15-year span, the Heat have only missed the playoffs three times, which is a run of sustained success that any organization would happily take.

Mike Malone has had a similar run of success since he was hired in 2015, as the Nuggets have only missed the playoffs three times under his watch.

Both of these teams have built a culture that starts with the head coach and permeates down. They didn’t panic when the team didn’t miss the playoffs, didn’t fire their head coach or blow up the team after one bad season.

Instead they continued to build, believed in the coach the hired and are rewarded with playoff appearances nearly every season.

The Detroit Pistons have had seven head coaches in that span and each and every one of them played lip service to a “culture” that has yet to materialize.

The Nuggets and Heat have shown the importance of finding the right coach and sticking with them long enough to build something. The Pistons tried with Dwane Casey, but were never ever to build that culture because they were tanking all but one season he was the coach.

With a constant rotating cast of young players and cast-off veterans, Casey had little chance to develop a sustainable culture and system.

So the Detroit Pistons are once again searching for the right coach for their “culture” while the Heat and Nuggets just keep chugging along with the same faces. Hopefully Detroit’s next hire will be someone they can stick with for the long haul.