To Tank or Not to Tank, That is the Question

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Talk about weird timing. The Nets’ first 3-game winning streak of the season has come in a time when they should be trying to tank to get a top 3 pick in this year’s draft. The team is playing better now than they have all season long, beating a solid playoff team in Indiana at home, and then flying all the way across the country to beat Golden State and Sacramento on the road. Even though neither of those teams are very good, they are teams that the Nets rarely beat on the road.

So the question that I am wondering is, why are the Nets playing so well now after starting the season 16-35? I’ve thought about it and can’t really come up with an answer. One possibility is the play of Deron Williams, who has 35 assists in his last two games. This is even more puzzling because he hasn’t even had his “starting” (without Brook Lopez) center in Shelden Williams. Johan Petro has had to fill in and hasn’t done too badly, but still. With the pieces around Deron, I think it’s incredible whenever he has more than 10 assists in a game just because of the lack of talent around him. The Nets big men have never finished around the rim the whole season, and the most we can usually hope for is a bail-out foul, which doesn’t give Deron an assist.

Another reason the Nets are playing well now is the play of Gerald Wallace. In his first few games with the Nets, the team looked as lost as ever, suffering 3 terrible home losses to New Orleans, Cleveland, and Washington. But since then, Crash has started to click with the rest of the team and is actually fitting in very well right now. His hustle and heart are contagious and he has the Nets playing with more urgency in this lost season. He also refuses to give up, and convinces those around him to share the same attitude. There is no doubt in my mind that the Nets would have lost the Golden State game by 20 or more points without Wallace pushing them forward. Even though Gerald is too little, too late this season, it is nice to see a Nets player playing with some passion.

A third, more unlikely reason is Johan Petro. I really do think it is a coincidence that the Nets have played better since Petro has been forced to start, but it is something that we have to consider. He somehow outplayed DeMarcus Cousins last night and has played worlds better than he had earlier on in the season. He is still really disgusting to watch and I would rather see Shelden or J-Will in the lineup, but Petro has definitely helped, and not hurt, the Nets in the past 3 games.

The problem with this winning streak is how it effects the NBA draft lottery. Before the winning streak, the Nets had the 4th worst record in the NBA with an outside chance of catching New Orleans or Washington for a top 3 position. Now, they have the 7th worst record, and are closing in on Detroit for 8th. They have virtually no chance of catching Washington or New Orleans now, who they are 6 and 5 games “behind” respectively. If they did tank the rest of the season, they could probably finish with the 4th worst record, but is that really worth it? At this point, I don’t think so. I will tell you why.

Let’s say the Nets tank and are able to finish with the 4th worst record in the NBA. They still don’t have a great shot at getting a top 3 pick, and, especially with their luck the last couple of seasons, I doubt they would get it. Also, even though I don’t think it would effect this too much, it might influence Deron Williams’s decision to resign with the team in the offseason. It would be embarrassing for him to finish with such a bad record and he may just want to bolt out of New Jersey as quickly as possible if they tank. On the other hand, if the Nets finish strong, he may have some amount of hope and decide to stick around for Brooklyn. The momentum of the Nets at the end of the season may effect Deron’s decision.

My next reason for why the Nets shouldn’t tank is very simple: it is nice to see them win. Nets fans haven’t witnessed a winning team since ’07 and we are hungry for a winner. Even though there won’t be any playoff games in New Jersey this year (or until the end of time, for that matter), it is more fun for your team to win. I will admit that over the last 3 games, I have been rooting against the Nets due to the outside chance of getting a top 3 pick. Those games are over and done with, and I didn’t like rooting against them. I want my team to win, whether it could hurt them in the long term or not.

The last reason that they should continue winning is that no matter what happens for the rest of the season, they will still have a chance to land the top 3 pick because of the draft lottery. It would absolutely shock me to see them finish with the 10th worst record in the NBA and get a top 3 pick, but anything is possible. In 2008, the Chicago Bulls finished with the 9th worst record in the NBA, and landed the top pick, which turned into Derrick Rose. They had less than a 2% chance at getting the pick, but it happened. Also, some claim that the draft lottery is fixed and that David Stern has a lottery because he wants to decide which teams get which picks. If this is true, I think the Nets would have to be on the top of Stern’s list for the top pick in the draft. Think about it: the Nets are moving to a new city and a new arena next year. The NBA wants them to have fans and keep Deron Williams around to build the next great NBA fan base. If the Nets were handed Anthony Davis, this would be much easier to do. If the Bobcats got Davis, I still don’t think anybody would care about them and he would probably be out of Charlotte when his contract expires.

When the Nets take the court against the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night, I will be rooting for them 100%. They will have a tall task going up against Kobe, Bynum, and Gasol, but I hope that they will be up for the test and extend their winning streak to 4 games. What do our readers think? Will you be rooting for the Nets the rest of the season? Do you want them to tank? Do you think they will beat the Lakers on Tuesday? Post your answers in the comments section below.