The case for NOT tanking

Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

A big topic of debate right now is whether the Celtics should try to field a competitive team in earnest this coming season or to 'tank' - to go ahead and lose as many games possible with the goal of getting into the lottery to try to get one of the top players in the 2014 draft like Andrew Wiggins, Aaron Gordon, etc.

I'm going to make the case that tanking is not our best option. This hinges principally on the fact that most of our draft picks that we currently control over the next 5 years do not depend on our record.

We currently own the following picks:

2014: Our own. The worse of either Hawks or Nets.

2015: Our own. The Clippers.

2016: Our own. The Nets.

2017: The _better_ of either our own pick or the Nets.

2018: Our own. The Nets.

Four - and possibly FIVE of the nine first round picks we currently own for the next 5 years are NOT determined by our own record.

In other words, whether we 'tank' or not has almost zero effect on those 5 picks.

Of the nine picks, the ones that look most likely to be high, with a chance in the lottery, would be the 2016 & 2017 Nets picks (because of their contract / salary horizon). If Chris Paul gets injured again, I wouldn't be surprised if the 2015 Clipper's pick is a decent one as well, but it's not good to expect or hope for injuries.

The ones that look the _least_ likely to be in the lottery would be the 2014 Nets pick and probably our own 2014, unless we purposely tank our selves. And our own 2017 & 2018 picks will probably not be in the lottery either, as we should be a strong team again by then.

The most optimal path is not necessarily to deconstruct to the point of tanking ourselves. The risk with deconstruction is that you can end up inadvertently creating problems such as ruining the development of young players, and creating a generally 'losing' environment.

The most optimal path, given our situation, might be to continue to work & move assets EXCEPT for those most likely to end up high in the lottery to strengthen the team as much as possible. Yes, you won't likely make a deep playoff run. But you can build up a solid, winning core of players. When the Nets or Clips inevitably stumble, you will have a strong team AND a top draft pick or two. So you will be dropping a star talent rookie in with an already strong cast.

Waiting for 2015, 2016 might require more patience from the 'tank it now' crowd. But it actually stays on Danny's original timeline, given that is the time frame a lot of his contracts come off the books. You'll know by then whether to extend guys like Bradley, Green, Sully. You'll be clear of contracts like Bass, Lee, Humphries & Wallace. You may have moved some of those along with some of the draft picks mentioned above in order to bring in more preferable talent.

Just a hypothetical, but you might be able to make a deal for a player like Aldridge, who wants out of Portland, by giving up three of those picks that are least likely to be in the lottery and a couple of our contracts. Aldridge is the kind of star we are looking for in those drafts but he's proven already. I would do that deal in a heartbeat.

So you'll have accomplished three things going this route:

  1. You'll have shored up your own young talent as much as possible and continued to emphasize the goal of winning. With the right trade, you may already have added a super stud.
  2. You'll be past the bad contracts and should only have long term contracts on players you actually want to keep.
  3. You'll still be picking in the first round - potentially very high in the first round if other teams stumble.

And none of that requires that the Celtics tank.

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