The league has finally issued some serious warnings towards tanking and has even decided to modify the draft lottery odds in order to avoid teams constantly flushing their seasons down the drain in order to land a top-tier talent.
Tanking is really hurting the league’s competitiveness, as several teams are pretty obvious about it and decide to shut down or buyout their veterans in order to deliberately lose games and improve their chances to get a top 5 pick in the draft.
But, why on earth would anybody do that? Well, because over the course of NBA history, there has been a lot of successful examples of tanking teams that wind up getting franchise players via the draft and completely turned around their future. Today, we’re going to let you know about 10 of those examples.
10. Philadelphia 76ers: Ben Simmons (2016)
A couple of years after drafting Joel Embiid, Sam Hinkie was able to get Ben Simmons, yet another unproven prospect with All-Star potential that’s currently leading the Rookie of the Year race and looks like a lock to become one of the game’s biggest sensations.
The point forward is extremely agile and versatile and is a very dominant scorer despite not having a three-point shot, so fans have to be quite pleased with their team’s future after they had to go through a 10-72 campaign (worst in franchise history) to get him.
9. Philadelphia 76ers: Joel Embiid (2014)
When the Philadelphia 76ers first decided to get Joel Embiid with the third overall pick, people immediately starting pointing fingers, as even though the upside was clearly there, he looked like an injury prone unproven and immature big man that wasn’t even playing the sport a couple of years earlier.
Well, it’s pretty safe to say that JoJo has proved his doubters wrong, becoming an instant fan favorite and an All-Star starter in just his second season in the NBA, paying back fans for that patience after a 19-63 campaign. Trust the Process.
8. New York Knicks: Kristaps Porzingis (2015)
The New York Knicks have been stuck on a mediocrity spiral for years now, entering the season with high hopes but then just deciding to tank after reaching the All-Star break with a losing record, and that’s exactly how they wind up getting the Unicorn: Kristaps Porzingis.
Drafting Porzingis was looked as a very questionable decision by the Knicks, as he was pretty much an unknown prospect just a couple of weeks prior to the draft and wind up going as high as 4th. In order to land him, the Knicks went through a terrible 17-65 campaign, owning the 2nd worst record in the league, just one game over Minnesota.
7. Chicago Bulls: Derrick Rose (2008)
Not so long ago, there was a serious debate regarding whether if Derrick Rose was the best point guard in the world, taking the league for assault since day 1, winning the ROY and then a couple of years later leading the Bulls to the best season in the league and winning the MVP award.
Sadly, injuries made his career take a major downhill and he’s not even in the league anymore despite being just 29 years old, but he brought back hope to the Windy City as the 1st overall pick following a 33-49 campaign.
6. New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing (1985)
This one doesn’t come without a bit of controversy, as there’s been a major rumor for ages that the NBA actually rigged the Draft to get Ewing to a major market like the Knicks on a moment the league was losing a lot of popularity.
New York finished the 1994-95 campaign with a mediocre 24 and 58 record and wind up getting the guy that owns most records in the Madison Square Garden, an 11-time All-Star and their all-time franchise leading scorer.
5. Seattle Supersonics: Kevin Durant (2007)
The Sonics were mightily struggling prior to Durant’s arrival as the 2nd overall pick in the 2007 Draft and had already finished the 2005-06 campaign with a losing record before suffering throughout a horrid 31-51 campaign. Also, the team decided to deal with Rashard Lewis and Ray Allen in order to keep on the tanking and eventually got James Harden, Serge Ibaka and Russell Westbrook.
Gladly, they found a diamond in Durant after the Blazers went with Greg Oden, and KD became the face of the franchise throughout their move to Oklahoma City, leading them to a Finals trip, and winning 1 MVP award (as well as owning 19 franchise records) before heading to SF to play with the Warriors.
4. Houston Rockets: Hakeem Olajuwon (1984)
The Houston Rockets weren’t that competitive following the Moses Malone trade to Philadelphia, but they wind up getting back-to-back first overall picks with Ralph Sampson and then Hakeem Olajuwon, the unanimous greatest player in franchise history.
The Hall of Famer won back-to-back Championships at Houston in 1994 and 1995, won a couple of Defensive Player of the Year awards, became the league’s all-time leader in blocked shots, recorded a quadruple-double, led the league in blocks and boards in the same season and is the only player ever to win the MVP, DPOY and Finals MVP the very same campaign.
3. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James (2003)
The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the league’s perennial laughing stocks throughout the end of the 90’s and the early 2000’s, but after an embarrassing 17-65 campaign, they were able to get a grab on one of the best players in the history of the game: LeBron James.
Cleveland took the Akron native 1st overall and he immediately made an impact in both ends of the hardwood, and even though he had to go to the Heat and win a Chip there before finally handing a ring to his hometown team, he delivered in a big way, and he’ll definitely go down as the franchise’s greatest player ever.
2. Milwaukee Bucks: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1969)
The Milwaukee Bucks weren’t doing much to make a name for themselves following the league’s expansion, and they finished last in the Eastern Conference with a 27-55 (2nd worst in the league) record during the 1968-69 campaign, earning the right to draft Lew Alcindor (A.K.A Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) with the 1st overall pick.
Kareem made an instant impact on the team and they finished with a 56-26 record the very next season, eventually leading the Bucks to a Championship before demanding a trade to a bigger market. Up to this date, he’s still the league’s all-time leading scorer, a 6 time NBA Champion, 6 time MVP, ROY and 2-time Finals MVP.
1. San Antonio Spurs: Tim Duncan (1997)
The San Antonio Spurs were already struggling in the playoffs, but losing David Robinson amid the 1996-97 campaign due to injury sealed their fate with a terrible 20-62 campaign, but hey, at least it granted them the rights to own the 1st overall pick for that draft.
And obviously, they went with Wake Forest’s standout big men and found their perennial face of the franchise, Tim Duncan who had won 2 MVPs, 3 Finals MVPs and all 5 Championships in franchise history, and playing his entire 19 season career with the very same team.