On the latest edition of his podcast, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski spoke with Bobby Marks about how rampant tanking was during the final weeks of the regular season. According to Woj, one NBA owner actually went off on his head coach after his team beat a good team on the road towards the end of the year.
"“There were teams literally signing G League players, intentionally bringing up guys they knew could not play in the NBA because they were determined to lose games,” Woj said. “I never heard more talk from front office executives — frustration with coaches who were winning games they didn’t want them to win. And owners, I know of an instance of an owner berating, really berating, his coach here in the last several weeks of the season for going in and beating a pretty good team on the road and going, ‘What are you doing?’”"
Of course the natural question is which owner/ coach was this? With how prevalent tanking is in the NBA, it’s not hard to narrow it down because most of the tanking teams stopped beating good teams as the season went on. I went through all the tanking team’s schedules, and took into account any road wins over playoff teams during the last month of the season. Here are the top four teams it could be, in order of likelihood:
- The Hawks beat the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz, and Washington Wizards.
- Coach Mike Budenholzer was granted permission to meet with the Phoenix Suns for their vacant head coaching position.
- Beat the Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers.
- Fired Jeff Hornacek right after that Cavs win.
- Beat the Golden State Warriors.
- Vivek Ranadivé is a vocal owner, and has imposed his will on the team in the past.
- Beat the Minnesota Timberwolves.
- They fired a well-liked coach in David Fizdale earlier this season. Who knows if J. B. Bickerstaff is even a part of the ownership’s long-term plans?
It will be interesting to see how the NBA lottery rule changes affect tanking as a whole next year, but I don’t see it making a difference. After seeing Sam Hinkie’s plan (#TrustTheProcess) come to fruition this year with the Philadelphia 76ers, teams know the only way they can contend with the super teams is to tank and draft star players of their own. I’m sure more will come out on this in the near future, but for now, my money is on the Hawks. If coach Budenholzer leaves, then we will know I was right!