The NBA season is two weeks old and there's already rampant talk of tanking for the loaded 2014 draft class.
It is ethical? No. It is practical? Maybe.
One anonymous NBA GM recently copped to having discussions with ownership about tanking. It's not just a fantasy. NBA teams are doing it.
And they're doing it, in large part, because of the transcendent freshman talent on display Tuesday night at the Champions Classic in Chicago.
Jabari Parker. Andrew Wiggins. Julius Randle. You know the names, and after last night, you saw the potential.
Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, always one to address underlying trends, said of the possibility of tanking:
“If that is happening, shame on whoever is doing it. … As an American I wouldn't like to think that an American team would [ever] want to lose or create situations where you would want to lose,” he said. “I can't even fathom -- I can't go there. I can't believe that that would happen. Maybe I'm naïve and going to read a fairytale after this.”
Coach K was speaking following his team's 94-83 loss to Kansas on Tuesday – a matchup that somehow managed to exceed expectations. His prized freshman recruit Jabari Parker displayed supreme athleticism, court vision, three-point range and every other intangible befitting of a No. 1 pick. On the flip side, Bill Self's potential No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins led the Jayhawks in the second half with 16 points and took over on the offensive end when it mattered most.
One would be naïve to think that of the dozens of NBA scouts and GMs at the United Center on Tuesday, none had the thought that tanking this season might yield a chance at one of the heralded freshmen. And that doesn't even include Julius Randle, Kentucky's star freshman forward, whose 27 points were the prelude to Tuesday's second game.
Self addressed the issue on Tuesday night as well but was more reserved than Krzyzewski. “I don't think anybody's tanking. I know that guys that like to play, compete and I guess you can make sure that you don't play certain guys, which I don't think has happened. But I think that those three all have a chance to be special.”
That last line is the kicker and is the primary reason NBA GMs won't go all-in on winning this season.