Maybe the Vogel era can't be remembered as a bright, shining moment in Pacers history...but maybe his dynasty can be about doing what JOB could never accomplish: tanking at the appropriate time. Or maybe the curse of Jim O'Brien lingers, and there's mathematically not a very good argument to support tanking. That's what I want to find out.
Now, I'm all for the Pacers making the playoffs...IF THEY'RE GOING TO FRIGGIN TRY!!!!! The team we saw through Vogel's first two weeks, in the playoffs, would be a nightmare for any contender in round one; hell, it'd probably even take 6 games to finally kill. But this team? No way it doesn't get casually swept by Chicago or Boston. And I hate Boston...
So are you in the "what's the point, let's tank" camp or the "we've got to fight for our pride" camp?
I don't know what camp I'm in. That's why I did this FanPost, to determine whether the logic behind tanking supports the notion that we should just give up. There are a few questions to answer:
1. Is it even possible to tank, given the remaining schedule?
Here's the remaining games: @ TOR, @NYK, vs. NYK, @ BOS, vs. CHI, @ MEM, @ NJ, @ CHA, vs. SAC, @ DET, vs. BOS, vs. MIL, @ NOR, vs. WAS, vs. ATL, vs. NYK, @ ORL.
The combined record of the teams the Pacers have left to play: 419-475 (as of 3/10/2011)
Game-by-game, given regular circumstances (not accounting the Pacers' hot streak a few weeks ago or their current cold streak), it looks like there are about 6 fairly "winnable" games out there, without outright pulling all starters and blatantly giving up. That leads us to our next question.
2. Will a projected record of 33-49 even leave the Pacers out of the playoffs?
This sounds preposterous, and I'm not sure that any team that bad has ever made the playoffs, but looking at Charlotte's schedule and Milwaukee's schedule it doesn't look much better for either of those teams. I only count 7 "winnable" games for the Bobcats (who have been actively trying to lose since before the trade deadline) and maybe 6 for the Bucks. If everything remains status quo, that means between the Bobcats, Pacers and Bucks, one 30-35 win team will sneak into the 8-seed.
3. Assuming a 30-34 win season, and no playoffs, is it even worth it to tank?
Well, let's assume that the Pacers tank and Milwaukee makes it in (the most likely choice over Charlotte, who obviously wants no part of the playoffs). Here are the teams currently projected to pick after Indiana in the lottery: Phoenix, Utah, Houston and Golden State. Then there are two teams within three games of the Pacers, who could overtake them by the end of the year. They are the Los Angeles Clippers and Charlotte (though again, not likely). So let's spllit the difference and say that the Pacers will end up picking no worse than 9th if the lottery balls don't award a top-3 pick to any of those Western Conference teams with better record.
So, if Wikipedia is to be trusted, the Pacers would have a 1.7% chance of winning the lottery, if they finished with only the 6 more projected wins I'm giving them. Let's say they just flat out go on an epic, historic, Cavaliers-like losing streak and don't win for the rest of the year. Then their chances probably increase to about 4.3%, which assumes by losing out, they'll still end up with a better record than New Jersey, Toronto, Minnesota, Washington, Sacramento and Cleveland. And I'm not just being pessimistic. Mathematically, this is highly-likely.
So if you want a top three pick, with the 9th worst record the Pacers would have a 1.7% chance at #1, a 2% chance at #2 and a 2.4% chance at #3. With the 7th worst record they'd have a 4.3% chance at #1, a 4.9% chance at #2 and a 5.8% chance at #3. Realistically, by sucking the rest of the year, they'd have between a 2-4% chance of landing in the top 3.
Is it worth it? Taking a look at the draft, it's pretty clear to me that there are only 3-4 guys in the projected lottery who would belong there most years. They are Kyrie Irving, Jared Sullinger, Derrick Williams and Perry Jones, in no particular order. I'd take any of them with a pick from 1-3. That said, it's fair to say the talent significantly drops off at 4. So the question becomes, is it worth the risk to tank for Irving/Sullinger/Williams/Jones, knowing you only have roughly a 3% chance of getting one of those guys, with the alternative being a guy at a similar talent level to someone you could've probably gotten anyway if you hadn't tanked (Jimmer Fredette, Tyler Honeycutt, Nolan Smith, Kemba Walker). In other words, if those top four are unattainable thanks to low lottery chance, there's not much of a talent level discrepency between the next two tiers: Harrison Barnes (projected early-to-mid lottery) and Terrence Jones (projected late lottery) or Brandon Knight (projected late lottery) and Nolan Smith (projected mid-to-late first).
So in conclusion, it would seem an illogical gamble to tank now.
Q: Luke, don't you know that if the Pacers make the playoffs they have no chance of landing any of those four guys you mentioned?
A: Yes, I do. But I've never won anything in Vegas either, so what do I know?
Q: How do you suggest the Pacers "tank" any worse than they're already playing?
A: Good call. I suggest no lineup changes. They're bad enough as they are.
Q: WTF? Wat kind of fan are U NEWAY?!?! who sayz stuff like his team shld tank you are a punk and u probably live in ur moms basement lolz lolz lolz
A: Um...Didn't you read the article? I'm arguing against tanking. Oh, wait, I guess I had you at "read"...And mom lives in a ranch.