Ever since Stan Van Gundy called the Philadelphia 76ers “embarrassing” for the team they’re putting on the floor, major media markets have become obsessed with the ideals of tanking. So, the proposed change is the NBA Draft Wheel (via Grantland).
The wheel has a predetermined order and cycles every year with a specific team (that knows) receiving a pick in a specific first-round draft slot once every 30 years. A team that gets the first overall pick would respond with getting the 30th, 19th, 18th, seventh and sixth picks in subsequent drafts. This supposed wheels upsets the balance of power in the NBA. The bad teams should be rewarded with high draft picks–imagine if a powerhouse team like Miami or San Antonio was slated to have a No. 1-5 pick on the wheel in this year’s NBA draft. That’s putting someone like Wiggins, Parker, Randle or Exum with LeBron James and company–instead of putting them on a team that needs them such as Milwaukee or Philadelphia.
While the proposed idea of the wheel will be discussed, tanking teams are still scrambling to lose games as quickly as possible with about 20 games left in the season. It’s the home stretch for teams trying to secure that top pick that have been marveling at the play of Kansas teammates Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins all season long.
Even though these teams aren’t winning games, they are still putting a team on the floor every night that competes and attempts to win games. One thing should be clear: players and coaches do not tank and will never tank. These players on this list have taken advantage of being on a terrible team by putting up great numbers that they never had the chance to do before. While everyone wants to discuss the negative aspects of tanking, for these ten players, tanking has been the best thing that has ever happened to them.
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10. Kent Bazemore
Kent Bazemore’s rookie season in the league was interesting–he didn’t play much to start off, but he was well known. He was known for “Bazemoring” more than anything he did on the floor; he only played 267 minutes on a guard-heavy Warriors squad his rookie season. His second season in the NBA looked like it would be the same as his rookie season, filled with a bunch of sideline celebrations after Andre Iguodala hammer dunks and Steph Curry threes from outer-space. This all changed when Bazemore was shipped to the Los Angeles Lakers, and Bazemore becoming the one causing people to celebrate from the bench. There’s no Kobe Bryant in L.A., no Nick Young–so naturally Bazemore slid right in and proved he’s in the NBA for a reason.
He’s only played ten games with the Lakers, but he’s already benefiting from his 29.8 minutes per game. Just remember, Bazemore has already played 298 minutes for the Lakers in ten games, which is more than he played his whole rookie season. In these 10 games, Bazemore is averaging 14.6 points, 2.9 assists and 3.7 rebounds on 46 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent from deep. Putting on Lakers purple and gold has opened up an opportunity that Bazemore never would have gained sitting on the bench in Golden State. The Lakers are the worst team in the Western Conference and with a rash of injuries, have plenty of minutes to throw to players like Bazemore to prove they’re worth it in the NBA.
Most players would be disgruntled if they were traded from the playoff-bound Warriors to the bottom-of-the-pit Lakers, but for a hungry Kent Bazemore, this provided the perfect opportunity to start “Bazemoring” on the court, instead of off it.
9. Alec Burks
For his first two seasons with the Utah Jazz, Alec Burks was having a problem cracking the rotation. I know, it’s hard to imagine someone having trouble getting minutes in Utah with the current state of their franchise. It took three seasons for Burks to start getting consistent minutes and his play this season is leaving people to question why it took so long. During his first two seasons in the NBA, Burks averaged 16.9 minutes per game, scoring 7.1 PPG on 6.1 field goals per game. However, in his third season, Burks is receiving consistent minutes on a quite terrible Utah Jazz squad. No matter how bad the Jazz are, Alec Burks might be the light at the end of the tunnel.
His minutes are up, his scoring is up, his shooting percentages are up–literally every statistical category has increased since Burks has received extended minutes this season. Burks is playing 27.8 minutes per game this season, scoring 13.9 points on 45 percent shooting. Burks has marketed himself as a lethal shooter, hitting 37 percent of his shots from downtown–but there’s more than that. Per Synergy, Burks is shooting 46.4 percent on spot-up three-pointers this season. Burks is also shooting 47.1 percent on all spot-up opportunities, which accounts for 19.3 percent of his offense. Burks is also scoring 1.15 PPP coming off screens, converting on 51.2 percent of these attempts.
The advanced statistics have been kind to Alec Burks this season–he’s proving his worth as a spot-up shooter. A dismal situation in Utah has opened up the door for Alec Burks and finally given him a chance to show that he can ball.