Woj: 76ers' Tanking 'Spooked the League'; Helped Lead to NBA Play-In Tournament

Mike Chiari@@mikechiariFeatured Columnist IVMay 18, 2021

Dribbling exercises are demonstrate on the newly designed Philadelphia 76ers basketball court for the upcoming 2009-10 season, during the Summer Hoops Tour basketball clinic, in Philadelphia, Monday, Aug. 10, 2009.  The logo was last used in the 1996-97 season. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
AP Photo/Matt Rourke

The Philadelphia 76ers' blatant tanking from 2014 to '17 reportedly may have played a role in the NBA instituting a postseason play-in tournament.

On Tuesday's edition of The Woj Pod (beginning at the 1:03:10 mark), ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski said the Sixers' tank "spooked the league" and resulted in the NBA taking steps to prevent tanking in the future.

While the NBA's lowest-level teams will likely continue to tank in the future, Wojnarowski noted that the play-in tournament was meant to "curb some tanking" by keeping more teams in the hunt for a playoff spot.

Philly's tank was famously dubbed "The Process" by then-Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie. While it led to some embarrassing seasons that saw the 76ers field non-competitive teams, it also helped get them to where they are now: the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers won fewer than 20 games in three consecutive seasons from 2013-14 through 2015-16. During that stretch, Philadelphia went a combined 47-199. They then improved to 28-54 in 2016-17 before reaching the playoffs in each of the next four seasons.

Among the benefits to the tank were the selections of center Joel Embiid (No. 3 overall in 2014) and guard Ben Simmons (No. 1 overall in 2016).

Tanking is and likely always will be part of professional sports leagues in which the worst teams have the best chances at landing the first overall pick in the draft.

Several squads appeared to be tanking down the stretch in the NBA this season, especially the Detroit Pistons, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets, who sat players in the name of rest or because of minor injuries.

The play-in tournament was effective in keeping more teams in the hunt, though, as 10 in each conference advanced past the regular season.

Also, the Chicago Bulls finished within two games of 10th in the Eastern Conference, and two teams finished within two games of 10th in the West.

The squads that finished inside or within striking distance of the top 10 seemingly put forth maximum effort and had their best lineups on the floor, which was undoubtedly the NBA's goal.

Eliminating tanking probably won't happen unless the NBA overhauls the draft-lottery system, but the play-in tournament is a step in the right direction and kept things interesting late in the season.