The Biggest Tank Jobs in NBA History

Jesse DorseyFeatured ColumnistMarch 27, 2012

The Biggest Tank Jobs in NBA History

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    Every year, right around the trade deadline, you'll see a handful of NBA teams make a decision about their future as they'll take a long, hard look at the season at hand and decide whether or not there's anything left in it for them.

    From there, they can decide whether or not they'll be better off holding their team together through the year to see what improvements can be made in the offseason or if they'd be better off reshaping their franchise with a high draft pick.

    What the common man calls "tanking," NBA franchises call planning for the future—but how much is too much?

    When there are teams who seem to throw their fans out of the window every year for a slightly better shot at a No. 1 pick—which may or may not yield a player of high caliber—is when a problem arises.

    So which teams out there did a bit too little to get their wins at the end of certain seasons, and which ones became dead-set on a No. 1 pick to the point where they threw the rest of the season away? Well, there are a few that stick out more than others.

2006 Portland Trail Blazers

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    There is a downside to throwing all of your eggs out of the basket in hopes to refilling it in the offseason these days. Look no further than the 2006 Portland Trail Blazers for proof.

    The team was getting rid of its "bad-boy" image and with it losses piled up, to the tune of just three wins in the final two months of the season. Let's put it this way—at one point the Blazers were 18-32, bad but still not ungodly. The season ended 32 games later and the team was 21-61. 

    Of course, I'm not sure how many games a team expects to win when they routinely start the likes of Viktor Khryapa and Bassy Telfair while leaving Darius Miles to ride the pine.

1990 New Jersey Nets

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    You know what happens when a team tanks but doesn't have a player like LeBron James or Tim Duncan in their sights? They wind up with Derrick Coleman as the savior of their franchise.

    The first year that the draft lottery was weighted, and therefore incentive was given back to teams to lose games in order to have the best shot at the top pick, the New Jersey Nets did very little to make it seem like they were trying. 

    Despite the fact that the Nets were notoriously bad that season, the team did something that is too uncommon to ignore in winning just two of its final 22 games and winning just five games from mid-January on.

2003 Cleveland Cavaliers

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    You know how there seem to be more teams than ever with a shot at the title this year? Well, that's how it was back in 2003, only the exact opposite.

    The NBA sucked in 2003, with two teams finishing with just 17 wins and four more dipping south of 30, all of whom could have taken it upon themselves to lose more vigorously. No team did that as much as the '03 Cavs, however.

    Sure, the Cavs were destined for the bottom from the beginning, starting 2-2 and then losing 15 straight, but starting guys like Milt Palacio and cutting back on minutes for Zydrunas Ilgauskas and giving them to Chris Mihm shouts, "We're done with this season."

1997 San Antonio Spurs

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    This is one of the best examples of how difficult it is for a team to draw the line between tanking and not mortgaging its future over winning a few games, but it's also the most pointed-at example of tanking in the modern-day lottery era.

    The 1997 Spurs had been without cornerstone center David Robinson for most of the year. In fact, he only played six games in mid-January throughout the whole season.

    Ever since that year, there had been grumbles and shouts about the Spurs deciding to leave Robinson inactive after his second stint in a suit even though his fractured foot had healed, giving rise to the rumors that they tanked to get a better shot at Tim Duncan.

    Aside from the shady dealings going on around Robinson, the Spurs' record down the stretch doesn't exactly speak to a team trying to win games, as they won just three games in the month of March and went 6-16 from April until the end of the season—including a 2-10 final stretch.

1984 Houston Rockets

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    The team most often mentioned when it comes to tanking a season is the 1984 Houston Rockets, sitting peacefully and thankfully in the year prior to the start of the draft lottery.

    After grabbing the No. 1 pick in the previous year, the Rockets snagged Ralph Sampson with the top pick, but their team still wasn't a winning caliber—that doesn't mean they couldn't have done better, though.

    So what is fishy about this Rockets team? For starters, the boys in red went through the first half of the season at 20-26, a record that showed off all but nine of the wins they would have all season long, and through just 46 games. A record like that would expect to see a team win somewhere in the realm of 35 games.

    However, something happened to the Rockets right around that point, as a six-game losing streak came along with a month of April that featured guys like Elvin Hayes playing more minutes than they had all season and just five wins in a 22-game stretch.

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