The Lakers owe the Suns a 1st-round pick. It is top-5 protected this year. So the Lakers will have to finish in the bottom 5 of the league to keep it.
To get a handle on this, you have to understand the difference between:
- Strategic Tanking (ST)
- Tactical Tanking (TT)
- Plain-‘ol-Bad (PB)
Strategic Tanking is like first degree murder – it requires malice aforethought. You have to carefully plan to be bad, then ruthlessly execute your plan. Last year, there were an unprecedented six STs. This year, I only see two: Sixers and Celtics.
Tactical Tanking is what happens when teams take advantage of a slow start, and just give up. See the Warriors, 2nd-half of the 2011-12 season. This year, we can expect a few teams to become TTers. At some point, the Wolves, Pacers, and Magic will realize they aren’t contending for anything.
And then there are teams that are just bad. They look okay on paper, and they want to win. But they have mis-matched parts, and they over overmatched by 10 other teams in the own conference. I’m thinking specifically of the Kings, Pelicans, Jazz, Bucks, and Pistons.
So where do we place the Lakers? Before the opener tonight, I would have said PB leading to TT by January. But after tonight…
I think Mitch Kupchak is an evil genius. The ST is on!
Kupchak was tasked this summer with putting together a roster that would both:
- sell tickets, and
- lose regularly
Sell tickets: Kobe, Steve Nash, Carlos Boozer, Linsanity, Ed Davis, Swaggy P.
Lose regularly: Ronnie Price, Xavier Henry, Robert Sacre, Carlos Boozer,.
And so far, so good. The Rockets are a good-not-great team, and they just drubbed the Lakers by near 30. Byron Scott limited Kobe’s minutes, which means it’s entirely possible that he is in on the fix.
Julius Randle had the potential to swing some games, but broke his leg tonight.
Zach Lowe rates the Lakers as 4th worst. Actually, his worst ranking is:
Obviously, I disagree. The Kings are a PB team, and the Wolves will be a TT team starting in January. The Pacers will try really hard, and they are in the East. Meanwhile, the Celtics are ST-ing. And so are the Lakers! My ranking looks like this:
Nobody is worse than the Sixers. But the Lakers are so sneaky bad (and playing in the West) that I see them cruising to number 2. The Celtics will try to win, but they’ll be sabotaged at regular intervals by their GM. Flip Saunders will eventually embrace tanking, and the Wolves are in the West, so they will lose a lot. The Magic are also going to switch to TT-ing later, but they are in the East, so they’ll finish above the Wolves.