Posted February 05, 2013

Court Vision: The virtues of tanking

Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, DeMarcus Cousins, Michael Jordan, Orlando Magic, Sacramento Kings
J.J. Redick feels the defensive pressure

The Magic would be wise to build for the future — even if it requires stepping back in the present. (Elsa/Getty Images)

By Rob Mahoney

• Tanking has become an incredibly popular and controversial topic in NBA circles over the years, but when it’s broken down into the kinds of components that Noam Schiller describes in this Magic-centric piece on tanking, it reads to me as pure pragmatism:

The Magic are still in the first year of their rebuilding phase and, as such, lack the cap space that a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers can utilize to buy draft picks by taking on bad contracts.

Still, they have some limited monetary assets: only $6 million of Hedo Turkoglu’s massive deal is guaranteed next season and the final two years on Al Harrington’s deal are only 50 percent guaranteed as well. The value that each of these could net in a trade is limited, but it is material nonetheless.

Over the past few years, the going rate for a first round pick has been one terrible contract — the Warriors got Festus Ezeli for taking on Richard Jefferson, the Bobcats own a future first round pick from Detroit because they were cool with Ben Gordoning for a bit, the Cavs struck gold with Kyrie Irving after the Clippers surrendered an unprotected first round pick to get rid of Baron Davis, and so on.

These deals aren’t always available — don’t sit at home waiting for the Wizards to give you Bradley Beal just for paying Emeka Okafor next year — but they could be. By keeping their eye on the long-term benefits and not the short-term roster or books, the Magic could capitalize.

• There’s a difference between knowing that the Bulls are a good defensive team and really understanding why they’re a good defensive team. Lucky for you, all it takes to bridge that gap is a read of Zach Lowe’s latest, which delves deep into the strategic genius of Tom Thibodeau.

• Odds are that your favorite team relies on flex offense elements to create open looks as a part of its set plays. Jared Dubin examines three such sets over at HoopChalk, from the playbooks of Frank Vogel, Doug Collins and Vinny Del Negro.

• A solid, reasonable take on the prospects of Wizards big man Kevin Seraphin, who hasn’t shown a ton of improvement but has a few obvious and helpful NBA-level skills.

• Don’t look now, but the minority owners’ right of first refusal has the potential to be a significant barrier to the Maloofs’ intended sale of the Sacramento Kings and the intent of Chris Hansen and his Seattle-based group to buy and relocate the team. Good thing the NBA is a league run by lawyers.

• This graphic novel about Michael Jordan, set to drop in March of next year, is nothing if not interesting.

• Amin Elhassan cobbled together a list of the best value contracts signed last summer (ESPN Insider) – among them the bargain contract ($1,750,000) of Wizards sharpshooter Martell Webster:

His Synergy situational numbers have been nothing short of elite this season: 1.243 points per possessions in spot-ups and 1.174 points per possessions off screens. Additionally, he has been able to use his size to draw fouls and get to the free throw line (0.362 FTArate), where he has converted at a high level (career-high 87.0 percent).

Unlike the previous teams listed, the Wizards are not facing significant luxury tax implications. Rather, they are a team that is in a different stage of the life cycle, trying to build for the future and create an identity and culture. Adding a vet such as Webster — who can contribute not only on the court, but also off the court in helping the younger players — while still maintaining payroll flexibility is incredibly important, as it is difficult to justify to your owner the dissonance between payroll and win percentage by saying “he’s a great guy.”

• Chris Kaman on the NBA’s concussion policy: “It’s not cool, but it is cool, I guess.”

• Take in Seth Rosenthal’s latest power rankings over at SB Nation, which are full to the brim with bite-sized insights from around the league.

• The Mavericks are, in most regards, a well-run organization. But with the team moving in a new direction, their botched draft selections and traded picks are coming back to haunt them.

• DeMarcus Cousins did — and said – a pretty dumb thing.

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