The Detroit Pistons had the worst record in the league last season, not that it mattered, as they still slipped to the 5th spot in the 2023 NBA Draft.
But it wasn’t for lack of trying.
For the second year in a row, the veteran players on the Detroit Pistons came down with sudden and dubious injuries that kept them out of the lineup late in the season.
The more cynical among us would say that the Pistons held these players out in an intentional effort to lose games and increase their lottery odds.
Bojan Bogdanovic was held out for the final 20 games for no apparent reason and fellow sharpshooter Alec Burks missed the final 18. What a strange coincidence that both happened to get hurt at the same time, just before the final stretch of games.
This method of tanking has largely been ignored by the NBA, who have new rules about stars sitting out for load management but did nothing about tanking teams that hold out players with fake injuries to intentionally lose games.
Pistons news: Damian Lillard was held out to tank
Whether it is stars sitting out to stay healthy for the playoffs, or bad teams holding out veterans to lose games on purpose, the fans are the ones who lose, especially the ones who buy tickets to live games.
There are fans who may only get to attend one game a year and didn’t know they’d be seeing RJ Hampton and Eugene Omoruyi in the starting lineup when they purchased them. This is entertainment after all and fans are not always getting what they paid for.
But the Detroit Pistons certainly aren’t the only team that has been guilty of this. In a recent article about Damian Lillard’s messy exit from Portland, Bleacher Report’s Chris Haynes revealed that the Trail Blazers had Lillard sit out the final 10 games to try and improve their lottery odds:
"“According to sources, Portland had asked Lillard to sit out the final 10 games of the 2022-23 regular season to help the franchise improve its lottery odds. He was told the higher the draft pick, the better chance they had at using the pick to facilitate a trade for a proven veteran player. He reluctantly acquiesced to being shut down, citing a “calf injury.”Portland went 1-9 to finish the season and would go on to win the No. 3 pick and select Scoot Henderson, a promising young point guard the team planned to keep.”"
We all know teams are doing this, but to see it confirmed is another thing. In this case, it was even worse, as the fans in Portland knew there was a chance Lillard would be leaving and were denied the opportunity to see him play his final 10 games with the team.
Commissioner Adam Silver doesn’t think tanking is a problem, and it certainly isn’t league-wide in every season, but it is an issue with fans who are wasting money and can’t trust that players are actually injured when it seems to mysteriously happen late in the season for bad teams every year.
But it’s never going to stop as long as there is incentive to do it in the form of higher draft picks, even if the league has flattened out the odds for the top three teams. This is why I came up with an idea to get rid of the draft lottery and replace it with a tournament instead.
But the first step is admitting there is a problem and so far the NBA hasn’t even done that.