Friday, May 17, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Andrew Wiggins and Tanking NBA Seasons

Andrew Wiggins is a Canadian kid. Will the Raptors make a move to draft him? (

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: Andrew Wiggins committed to the University of Kansas for a pit-stop before going pro. Which NBA team is most likely to pull the biggest tank job to draft the likely one-and-done talent?

Orlando, seemingly, has already taken steps toward this after Dwight Howard forced his way to Los Angeles and the Magic jettisoned J.J. Redick to the Milwaukee Bucks for what looked like spare parts to some. Even so, Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris (in his partial season there) came on strong for Orlando while the team as a whole sank to last place in the entire NBA. Having that front court duo together for an entire season, however, will likely keep the Magic from repeating in that respect.

The team making the biggest (read: worst) play for Andrew Wiggins will be the Cleveland Cavaliers. Forget waiting for LeBron James and his potential homecoming in 2014. He's already established himself as one of the greatest basketball players of all time and has yet to hit 30 years of age, but pairing him with Kyrie Irving would marginalize the young point guard's ball handling wizardry and ability to control the pace of games with James needing to be the primary ball-handler to maximize his talents.

Would that be worth it? With the right role players, absolutely, but the Cavs don't have those kind of ancillary components right now. They have Irving, Tristan Thompson, an underwhelming-as-a-rookie Dion Waiters and Anderson Varejao, who hasn't played since December after an injury derailed his fantastic start to the season. Aside from those players, the Cavs roster looks like a scrap heap of journeymen, outcasts and Did Not Play - Coach's Decision All-Stars.

Cleveland was only four losses away from tying Orlando for the league's worst record in 2012-13. Without All-NBA numbers from Varejao in a few early outings or a couple out-of-his-gourd games by Irving, those four wins could have easily gone the other way. If we presume Irving will be better all-around from one more year of experience and Varejao will perform at a slower rate or finally be dealt for pennies on the dollar, the Cavaliers' schedule should look awfully familiar come the end of next season. The only contracts the Cavs have on the books for 2014-15 are those of Varejao (pending trade) and Alonzo Gee, with team options for Irving, Thompson, Waiters and Tyler Zeller. (Those first two are essentially automatic, the third is probable and the fourth, not so much. Sorry, Tyler.)

It isn't a stretch for Cleveland to head into that season with a core including one of the league's top point guards and Wiggins with at least two young role players in tow with Thompson and Waiters. But spurning LBJ in order to form a young team with unknown upside a la the Oklahoma City Thunder? That would be a tank job, especially if it the lottery didn't work in the Cavs' favor.

It seems like it was a lot longer ago than just the 2009-10 season that the Phoenix Suns propelled to a 54-28 record with Steve Nash at the helm and battled the San Antonio Spurs in those gritty playoff matchups where the two teams met three times in four years.

Those better days seem distant because since then the Suns have failed to finish above .500 and no longer have their beloved star in Nash. The Suns were last in the Western Conference with a 25-57 record and seem like a favorable pick to be in a similar position next season with New Orleans and Sacramento having young talent still adjusting to the league.

Phoenix desperately needs help at the shooting guard or small forward positions, especially looking toward the future. The Suns' two shooting guards right now are Jared Dudley (10.9 points per game) and P.J. Tucker (6.4 ppg) and those two will be 29 years old when Wiggins will likely be entering the draft next season. The Suns are slightly better off at the SF position, but Michael Beasley has had multiple off-the-field issues during his time in the NBA and only averaged 10.1 ppg this season. Beasley will also be entering the final year of his contract when Wiggins is drafted. Wesley Johnson is Beasley's backup and averaged eight ppg but only played about 20 minutes a game last season and hasn't asserted himself as a starter.

Not only does Phoenix have the need at Wiggins' positions and the situation that would likely place them in contention for the possible No. 1 draft pick, but Wiggins would also have a talented point guard in Goran Dragic to facilitate the offense. Dragic managed 7.4 assists per game for a team that was No. 21 in scoring, yet is still an scoring threat at 14.7 ppg this year. Imagine the two-man offensive schemes the Suns could develop with Dragic and a versatile, athletic swing man like Wiggins.

The Suns need a star to bring the team back to relevance and what's one more season of poor play for the prospect of Wiggins' potential? Phoenix needs the type of player and style of play Wiggins can offer because that 2009-10 season will only seem longer and longer ago.


My initial, knee-jerk reaction was to say that the Charlotte Bobcats would be the team to throw their season away and do whatever it took to be at the top with a chance to take Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick. However, that would imply that the Bobcats knew how to do something other than lose, and that simply isn’t the case. My second thought was it could possibly be the Mavericks, given owner Mark Cuban’s tendency to do things out of the norm and his burning desire to be in the headlines. But again, while I still think it’s possible, I moved away from that notion. The team I have finally settled on that is most likely to throw its season in order to obtain the player with the most hype before ever setting foot on an NBA floor since LeBron James may come as something of a surprise.

I think the Boston Celtics are the most likely team to throw their season to have a chance to pick Andrew Wiggins.

Yes, I know, it’s blasphemous for me to insinuate that such a storied and respected franchise not only in basketball, but in all of sports, would dare sink to throwing games simply to have a chance at taking one player. However, this is not just any player, and the Celtics have an out that could provide them with a shield from scrutiny and accusations from media about taking a dive on their season.

Under the guise of rebuilding, the Celtics could potentially move all their aging players in order to acquire picks and expiring contracts to give them a chance to build a team around Wiggins, as well as lose the amount of games necessary to have a pick high enough to draft him. Players like Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett could still be attractive pieces for contending teams looking for that one last element that will push them into title contention. The team has already been rumored and reported several times in the last couple of years to have been actively trying to trade the one building bock it has in point guard Rajon Rondo.

While fans would be frustrated about losing, the idea of rebuilding has already been placed in their heads as a necessity after the early exit from the playoffs this season, which was largely blamed on the declining play of aging superstars Pierce and Garnett, and the loss of Rondo to injury. The fans know they need a new centerpiece for their team, and this opens the door for the Celtics to move expensive, aging players, and put themselves in a position to lose consistently in the effort to acquire Wiggins.

The Sacramento Kings were founded in 1945 but have only won a single title. That was way back in 1951 as the Rochester Royals.

The Maloof brothers have been destroying the franchise and turning away fans, it's time to give Sacramento something to cheer about. What better way to make your fans happy than by drafting the soon to be college phenomenon Andrew Wiggins?

Tanking is a tricky situation for the new management. It is in their best long term interest to be as bad as possible next year as they have the opportunity to build around a player from the loaded 2014 draft. However, they must show the city of Sacramento that things are truly changing and that they are ready to make the best basketball team possible.

The Kings have a few valuable trade pieces despite winning only 28 games in the 2013 season. The new management should look to clear house and get rid of every trace of the Maloofs while stockpiling young players and draft picks. This will allow them to show their fans that they're ready to shake things up while giving them the best chance possible to land Wiggins.

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