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How Tanking Impacts NBA Betting

Philadelphia 76ers

Being an avid fan of the NBA is awesome. Playoff basketball is as exciting as it gets, the new wave of young stars has made the league must-see TV on a daily basis and there’s never any shortage of entertaining headlines, even in the offseason. But the current setup of the Association has one major flaw: tanking.

For those who aren’t aware, tanking is the practice of bottoming out (otherwise known as losing on purpose) to obtain a higher chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the draft. Since the draft lottery is designed to award the worst teams in the league with the best crop of young talent, bottom feeders everywhere scramble each season to put the worst product on the floor in order to collect losses like they’re valuable vintage sports cards.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the embarrassing end of Saturday’s Philadelphia 76ers-Portland Trail Blazers clash. Down three with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers decided not to foul and instead let the Blazers simply run out the clock, handing them the win in the process. While their chances were slim, fouling Portland would have at least given Philadelphia the opportunity to get the ball back and potentially chuck up a game-tying three-pointer if the Blazers missed both free throws.

This is unfortunately nothing new for the NBA’s most tank-tastic franchise. Philadelphia has been downright unwatchable for the past few seasons, and management’s decision to consistently put an inferior product on the court has drawn the ire of other teams and the league’s front office itself.

Philly is not alone in this practice, however. The Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Minnesota Timberwolves and New Orleans Pelicans could also be accused of exposing the loophole. You’d expect the woefully bad Brooklyn Nets to be in this group, but they owe their 2016 first-round pick to division rival Boston as a result of the 2012 trade that sent Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett to New York. Tough times in Brooklyn, indeed.

I’m not saying each squad listed above is blatantly tanking like the 76ers, but they’re certainly in the conversation. The Lakers have dedicated the campaign to being generally awful on the Kobe Bryant goodbye tour, the Suns are lost without a paddle, the Pelicans recently shut down superstar Anthony Davis in an effort to bottom out and the Timberwolves clearly have their sights set on another high draft pick to add to their abundance of young talent.

Due to a prior transaction with Philadelphia, the Lakers’ pick is top three protected, meaning if the selection falls any further than fourth the Sixers will get it instead. Minny has a similar deal with Boston, however it’s surely going to stay with them in the offseason as it’s top 12 protected and the T-Wolves had the fifth-worst record in the NBA as of March 28.

So, how can all of this impact your hoops betting? Take a look at each club’s performance over the last 20 games. Judging by this table, it may be wise to fade the aforementioned floundering squads during the stretch run of the regular season.

The tank is on: How bad NBA teams performed over the last 20 games
TeamSU RecordATS Record
Philadelphia 76ers1-198-12
Los Angeles Lakers4-168-12
New Orleans Pelicans6-148-12
Phoenix Suns6-1410-10
Minnesota Timberwolves8-1213-7