In the North American basketball league, relegation does not exist. Some teams do everything to finish the season at the bottom of the rankings, which gives them the opportunity to then recruit players with high potential. Hoping to bounce back.
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Selected in third position of the “draft” in 2014 by the Sixers, the Cameroonian pivot Joel Embiid is at the base of the process of rebuilding the Philadelphia franchise. MATT SLOCUM / AP
The regular season of the NBA, the North American basketball championship, ended on Sunday April 10. With the feeling of a job well done for the franchises having finished in the first six places in each of the two Conferences (East and West) and qualified for the next stage, that of the playoffs which will begin on Saturday April 16. With the hope of being able to participate in this final phase for the teams having finished seventh to tenth place in each conference and who are competing, by April 16, in play-offs to win the last four tickets. With a big smile also for some teams who finished in the last places.
Read also: NBA: no playoffs for LeBron James' Lakers, beaten by Phoenix
Because this is one of the particularities of the NBA: you can have missed your season and be satisfied with it! First, because in this closed championship, the fear of relegation does not exist – which guarantees the sustainability of each of the thirty franchises. Then, because finishing in the last places can pay off: the further a team is in the rankings, the more likely it is to recover in the off-season during the "draft", a sort of great purse for university and foreign players. , a future prodigy thanks to a “lottery” system and, from there, to rebuild.
Rushing into a flaw in the system, some teams decide, from the start of the season or from the moment they feel they have dropped out of the standings, to embark on a kind of snail race hoping to finish at the bottom of the table. . This strategy is called tanking. This year, it was the Houston Rockets who were the most skilful at this little game, ahead of the Orlando Magic and the Detroit Pistons.
“Losing is our best option”
"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but I went to dinner with several guys [from the team] the other night. (…) I told them: “Listen, losing is our best option”, had, for example, declared, in February 2018, Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. He had been sentenced by the league to pay a fine of 600,000 dollars (about 554,000 euros).
This is often done in a more subtle, more cynical way. "You never tell the players not to try to win a game, but it is obvious that you are putting in place a team that is not good enough to win", summarized an anonymous general manager, in an interview for ESPN in 2013.
In seven NBA seasons, former French international Kevin Séraphin claims to have never experienced a “tanking” situation, but he admits that he was able to observe it closely:
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