The Raptors’ last 19 games: to tank or not to tank, that is the question

The Raptors’ last 19 games: to tank or not to tank, that is the question

Detail from “Ode to a Lost Season” by Neil Ta, from the Flickr pool 

When the Toronto Raptors were mired in the midst of an epic 13-game losing skid, steadily sinking to the bottom of the NBA standings and decimated by injuries, the choice seemed obvious: throw in the towel while the towel-throwin’ was good. But today, the National Post tells us that a tank job isn’t in the works for the Raps. According to basketball beat reporter Eric Koreen, “If you are waiting for the Toronto Raptors to properly tank, you should probably stop doing that.” That’s rather unfortunate—because it just so happens that we were waiting for exactly that.

As we’ve mentioned in this space before, the NBA has a time-honoured tradition of tanking. Because basketball teams are small, and top-tier draft picks are ready to make an impact as soon as they hit the pro floor, a coveted first-rounder can instantly make a bad team better. Of course, number-one picks don’t always pay immediate dividends (see: Bargnani, Andrea). Still, first-round picks are always a good thing to have in the NBA. Period.

So why wouldn’t the Raptors tank? They currently boast the fifth-worst record in basketball (17-46) and are in zero danger of making the playoffs. The Cleveland Cavaliers probably have rock bottom wrapped up, but the Raps could easily make a push for the second-last spot with a couple more quality losing streaks. And the lower they fall, the higher their odds of landing the first or second pick in the draft lottery this summer.

The thing is that it will be hard to tell whether the Raptors are tanking or not. And with head coach Jay Triano’s new plan—to try a bunch of new things over the final 19 games of the regular season—they could get a lot worse.

Whether they do it on purpose or not doesn’t matter. As long as the Raptors keep on losing, that’s all that really counts.

• Raptors giving up? No tanks [National Post]