I don't know about you, but I've pretty much had it with the insane amount of national coverage dedicated to "tanking." This isn't because the Sixers are at the center of it all, either. While I certainly don't agree that Sam Hinkie has done anything morally wrong, it's understandable why some are turned off by the Sixers' strategy.
It's bothersome because one team, the Philadelphia 76ers, has taken an extreme (and effective, in these eyes) approach to team-building. The Milwaukee Bucks, who happen to be two full games worse than "The Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Basketball," assembled a group of players in hopes of snagging a low seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. The Orlando Magic and Utah Jazz are teams with nuclei full of young NBA-caliber players. The Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers are dealing with the type of talent shortages that frequently occur directly after going all-in with aging rosters.The Sacramento Kings tried to improve during the season with the Rudy Gay trade, and Gay has played at a surprisingly high level for Mike Malone.
The Sixers are the exception to the rule. There will always be bad teams, no matter what their intentions are.
This brings us to tonight's opponent, the Charlotte Bobcats. Before the season, they were expected by many to be part of the so-called tanking brigade. At 36-38, Charlotte is far from a juggernaut, but they look like a safe bet for the playoffs because an inordinate amount of awesome teams happen to reside in the Western Conference. Like the Phoenix Suns, they've exceeded their low expectations by quite a bit.
Al Jefferson, who despite his faults has always commanded a double team on the block, is the player that Charlotte runs its offense through. They're still below league-average on that end of the floor, but Big Al has produced after receiving a large contract last summer. Josh McRoberts has found his niche as a passing big man and highlight-reel dunker. Kemba Walker is Kemba Walker, steady if unspectacular.
With all due respect to Jefferson, the Bobcats' biggest offseason acquisition was probably their coach. Steve Clifford has Charlotte currently sitting as the 8th-ranked defense, a very impressive feat. The team's future is a bit more unclear, as they've obviously punted on a chance at the top of this year's draft. Still, they own both Portland's 1st Rounder as well as Detroit's juicy top-eight protected pick, which rolls over to top-one protection next year. Remember, there's no one way to build a contender.
Anyway, this is a long way of saying that I don't think the lottery is broken. Even if a team like Charlotte is bad for a few years, priorities are always going to eventually change. The Bobcats' lottery luck wasn't great — This should always be mentioned when talk of "rewarding bad teams" is casually thrown around — and right now, they're coming up for air, primed for the playoffs with a fairly young team.
Tip is at 7:00. I had this fixture a couple of months ago, and Thaddeus Young won it for the Sixers in the final seconds.