The NBA does not have a tanking problem, and OKC is not the poster child

Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Commissioner of the NBA, Adam Silver (Photo by Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) /

Tanking has always been a word thrown around among NBA fans on social media, there have been books written about the tanking strategy, and the NBA has even stepped in and flatted NBA Draft lottery odds and added a play-in tournament to attempt to prevent teams from “tanking.”

The most aggressive form of tanking was the Philadelphia 76ers who went on a four-year run of trying to bottom out, going for 19 wins, 18 wins, 10 wins, and 28 wins during that span. All of that added up to the core of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but it put them in a position to have a dynasty-level core had they made smarter draft choices like Jayson Tatum over Markelle Fultz.

The NBA does not have a tanking problem, and the Oklahoma City Thunder certainly are not the face of tanking

When the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Paul George and Russell Westbrook in the summer of 2019, the NBA world assumed they would begin to tank. Instead, Chris Paul helped lead the team to a top 5 seed in the Western Conference, and before the NBA world came to a stop on March 11th, 2020, the team was about to tip off a fight for home-court advantage.

Many around the NBA still correlate that 2019 summer with the start of this full-blown rebuild, but in reality, the Thunder had to trade up to gain the right to pick at 17th and grade their prized project prospect in Aleksej Pokusevski.

In the fall of 2020, the Thunder traded Steven Adams, Chris Paul, Dennis Shroder, and Danilo Gallinari, and even parted ways with Nerlens Noel. They entered a full rebuild, a season delayed and were set to build around Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

The Thunder won 22 games and ended up with Josh Giddey with the 6th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, and began another rebuilding season that limited the Thunder to just 24 wins (still at two win improvement) due to injuries to Giddey, and Gilgeous-Alexander. OKC then leaped to the 2nd overall pick thanks to the NBA Draft Lottery and selected Chet Holmgren.

With the 12th pick, acquired via the Clippers, the team walked away with Jalen Williams, and Oklahoma City with their “stingy General Manager who only cares about first-round picks and not players or winning” according to the national media, sent three future first-round picks to New York for the 11th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft to nab Ousmane Dieng.

Chet Holmgren suffered a season-ending foot injury live on the NBA app going up against LeBron James which of course will hurt the OKC Thunder win total this year to some degree, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has missed a game with a hip contusion, and Josh Giddey will miss his second with an ankle sprain, oh yeah, and 12th overall pick Jalen Williams had his eye swollen shut with an elbow to the face in the first game which required surgery.

The injury bug has already bitten Oklahoma City, but there are no grand conspiracies despite what the National Media wants you to believe, or may joke about for cheap social media interaction.

When NBA commissioner Adam Silver addressed tanking to a group of Suns employees and brought up the idea of relegation, NBA fans around the world jumped at the chance to brand this the “Oklahoma City” rule.

The Thunder have not finished with a bottom-three record in the NBA since moving to Bricktown. That includes the past two seasons of “egregious tanking” and being a “black eye” of the league.

The NBA will never go for relegation or any other tanking consequences, and it certainly would not be due to the team in OKC.

Tanking in the NBA is not a problem, the only reason it is viewed as such is that it is the best and only pathway for small market teams to capture global superstars. With all the cards stacked in favor of the large markets, this is the only area in which small market teams can find an advantage in the margins.

The word Tanking should not be muttered under your breath out of fear or be viewed as a dirty little word, or one of the seven you can not say on television. Tanking is a broad term for a team amid a rebuild that happens to not win a lot of games and is hardly ever done in a way that needs a slap on the wrist.

Best, Worst, and Most Likely case scenario for OKC Thunder this season. dark. Next