COMMENTARY | There aren't many other NBA franchises that need a star worse than the Phoenix Suns. Andrew Wiggins will be eligible for the 2014 NBA draft and is viewed as the biggest "sure thing" since LeBron James. Should the Suns just tank the 2013-14 season to give themselves the best chance to get the No. 1 overall pick?
THE ARGUMENT FOR TANKING
If indeed Wiggins turns out to be as good as advertised, the Suns should do everything in their power to get the chance to draft him. For at least the first four seasons of his career, he'd be on a reasonable rookie contract and the Suns would instantly return to relevance in the basketball world.
Sure, the Suns would be spitting in the faces of their fans for an entire year, but wouldn't most give up one season to get back into the limelight for the better part of a decade? I know plenty of folks in Charlotte are nodding their heads right now.
Being awarded the No. 1 overall pick in a draft as strong as the 2014 one projects to be is like holding the golden ticket. For those who have forgotten, the team with the worst record is given a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick. By contrast, dropping to the fourth-worst record hurts the percentage dramatically, as that team only has an 11.9 percent chance at No. 1.
There is a hidden benefit to tanking, as well. Players that generally wouldn't get a lot of playing time could have an opportunity to show what they can do. The Suns could take extended looks at players to decide whether they'll have value as bench players when the franchise turns around.
THE ARGUMENT AGAINST TANKING
So, the team has done it's due diligence in losing to the best of their abilities. The fans are frustrated and moody, but they realize it's for the "greater good" of earning the No. 1 pick. The NBA draft lottery comes up and voila! The Suns slip in the draft and are slotted at No. 3, missing out on Wiggins.
In fact, under the current lottery system, only four times in the last 28 years has the team with the worst record actually won the lottery. It hasn't happened since the 2004 Orlando Magic, who selected Dwight Howard.
The Suns would have wasted an entire year of development, marketing and team-building trying to set themselves up for something that never happened. The fans who paid their hard-earned money to come to games and buy jerseys would be screwed. The players on the team would have wasted a year of their careers, which they would never get back.
The small benefit to this situation is that the Suns would likely have plenty of cap room with which to sign free agents to get the ball rolling again. But, who would want to come to Phoenix knowing it's a franchise in shambles?
Tanking is a risk that's not worth taking. The Suns should field the best team they can (while keeping salaries reasonable). They can use the 2012-13 season to continue to develop their own players like Markieff Morris, Alex Len and Goran Dragic. Even if they overachieve and win 35 games, they'll still be in the lottery and will still have a chance to win the Wiggins sweepstakes.
Michael Dunlap is an NBA credentialed writer who covers Phoenix Suns practices and games for the site he founded , HoopsHabit.com.
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