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The Art of NBA Tanking: The Philadelphia 76ers Have No Shame

Philadelphia76ers.JPG
Down the crapper on purpose?
Sports analytics is no longer the wave of the future. It is most assuredly here, however, as evidenced by the explosion in the growth and coverage of the annual Sloan Sports Analytics Conference at M.I.T. in Boston.

During the basketball analytics portion of the event, this weekend, former Toronto Raptors president and general manager Bryan Colangelo made a revelation that wasn't all that stunning (although the actual admission of it might have been to some) -- his team attempted to tank games for better draft position in 2011-2012.

I know, I know...GASP, right?

Colangelo's "revelation" was fun, but it was nothing compared with former Orlando Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy's thrashing of this season's Philadelphia 76ers (pipe bomb in BOLD):

Van Gundy tendered a perhaps more radical suggestion: eliminate the draft entirely, let all rookies enter the league as free agents going to the highest bidder. This, the coach argues, would get rid of the sort of teardown underway in Pennsylvania, where the Philadelphia 76ers have traded away virtually all of their viable veterans save for Thaddeus Young and, as a result, have lost 12 straight games, 15 of their last 16, and 22 of their last 25. Van Gundy called the ploy, undertaken by new general manager Sam Hinkie, who was in attendance at the session, "embarrassing."

"I don't care," Van Gundy said. "Adam Silver can say there's no tanking or what's going on, [but] if you're putting that roster on the floor, you're doing everything you can possibly do to try to lose."

Indeed, far less surprising than Colangelo's admission of "losing in an attempt to eventually win" was a Van Gundy taking direct aim at league policy and offensive tactics deployed by another team, especially with that team's general manager sitting a few yards away.

It's why we all love the Van Gundys, and if you don't, it must suck not being American.

The fact of the matter is that they should have had Hinkie conducting his own breakout session at the Sloan Conference on the art of extreme tanking, because Van Gundy is right -- the Sixers have taken overt intentional losing to a new level this season, specifically since January 31.

How historic is Philadelphia's burning desire to lose? Well, consider the following:

 

1. Since a four game winning streak in early January, the Sixers are 3-24 over their last 27 games, 1-17 over their last 18 games, and 0-14 over their last 14 games.

2. During this most recent losing streak, they've lost these 14 games by an average margin of 19 points, including...

3. ...back to back losses of over 40 points to the Clippers and Warriors on February 9 and 10, which was only the second time since 1963 (which is the frame of reference on basketball-reference.com) that's happened. The other time? The 1993-94 Philadelphia 76ers!

 

4. Before the season, Vegas set the Sixers' season win total at an ultra-pathetic 16.5 wins, and if you took the OVER, you were probably laughing when the Sixers started the season on a three game winning streak and 5-4 through nine games. Well, they've now been sitting on 15 wins since late January, and there is no chance they'll be remotely close to being favored in a game the remainder of the season. In fact, how about this....

5. ....last week, the Sixers had their best look at a couple potential wins with back to back home games against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Orlando Magic, the other two worst teams in the Eastern Conference not named "the Sixers." Well, not only did the Sixers lose both games by double digits, but it turns out they weren't even favored. They were three point underdogs to the Bucks and four point 'dogs to the Magic! Amazing, especially when you consider that the Bucks hadn't been a road favorite since last season, and the Magic hadn't been a road favorite since 2012. (Also, it's not a big surprise that Vegas isn't fooled by Hinkie's shenanigans.)

6. The Sixers "shrewd trade deadline moves" consisted of moving two of their starters, wingman Evan Turner and center Spencer Hawes, for a combined package of Danny Granger, Earl Clark, Henry Sims, and two second round draft picks. Naturally, upon arrival, they bought out Granger (the only item coming back in the Turner deal) and let him go for nothing.

7. One betting site actually had the Sixers as an 11 point underdog Saturday night to the Washington WNBA team, the Mystics....

That's either a great sense of humor or bullying, depending on how thin skinned you are.

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.


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