If the poet Dante were to imagine NBA hell in verse, he’d probably save the deepest circle for the Brooklyn Nets. Not only has general manager Billy King assembled one of the worst rosters in the league, but also he has left the organization without its own first-round pick until 2019. With King already making trade inquiries in just the third week of the season, the time was right to invite him to Aspen, Colo., for my special GM seminar.
Hey there, Billy. Good to see you! Have you lost weight? How are the wife and kids? Are you ready for a fun weekend in the majestic Rocky Mountains?
Annnnnyway, before you head on out, I was hoping you could stay for my five-minute presentation. You don’t have to, of course, but I did fly you all the way out to Aspen. No pressure, buddy! Why don’t you just sit down, try one of these delicious homemade scones, and get ready for a plan that is gonna change your life.
Tanking. It’s the wave of the future, my friend. Imagine a world where you consistently fail, only to get patted on the back by your boss and coworkers. Sounds too good to be true, am I right?
But let’s talk about the 76ers for a moment. You remember them, right? They play in your division; you beat them three times last season. They haven’t been to the playoffs since 2011–12; you’ve been to the postseason three straight years. What do they have that you don’t have?
Two words: draft picks. You remember those, right? You’ve traded away seven first-rounders in recent years. Now, I’m not here to tell you how to do your job, buddy, but was that really the wisest decision? Philadelphia GM Sam Hinkie can finish in last place until the end of time just so long as he can flash those shiny picks in front of his detractors. There’s an old saying where I come from: In America, first you get the draft picks, then you get the power, then you get the women.
But Joe, how can I get more draft picks without valuable assets to deal?
I’m glad you asked! The picks can be yours if you buy into my foolproof system. I call it “The Tankshare Program.”
You’ve heard of timeshares, right? A group of people invest in a property to use as a vacation home. My program is similar, except instead of a vacation house, other GMs are going to invest in your wasted 2015–16 season.
Here’s how it works. There are several pick-wealthy organizations right now with a significant stake in where the Nets will eventually fall in next summer’s draft. The Celtics own your pick. They are loaded with middling future picks and a roster loaded with good players, but no true superstar. You represent their best chance to land a major impact player through the draft. The Sixers, on the other hand, would really love you to finish above them. Their destinies are at least somewhat in your hands. That’s leverage, baby!
If you buy into my program, I will personally call Celtics GM Danny Ainge:
“Hey, Danny, you hear about Brook Lopez’s foot injury? Yeah, it would be a damn shame if we lost by far our best player, perhaps the only guy on the roster capable of pulling us out of the cellar. But don’t worry — our doctors say the foot is fine, and he’s ready to play.
…or is he? There are always second opinions, you know what I’m getting at here? What if our doctors were to look again, maybe find a hairline fracture that would keep him on the shelf for a few months…the entire season, even. Would that be worth something to you? Like, say, the first-round pick you got from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo trade, perhaps?
Next, I’ll call Sam Hinkie:
Wassup, Sam. As you may have noticed, we signed Andrea Bargnani last summer. Turns out he’s pretty terrible…who would’ve guessed, right? He’s only averaging 7.9 minutes per game, yet he’s accumulated -0.1 win shares. Imagine the kind of damage he could do if he played, say, 35 minutes a night. Why, we might never win a game!
Of course, he doesn’t have to play that much. We could always give his minutes to more deserving big men, like Thaddeus Young or Thomas Robinson. But we’re friends, so I thought I’d seek out your advice. Would you like to see Bargnani play 35 minutes a night? Because I’d sure like those two second-rounders you got from the Knicks. Then everybody has what they want!
That’s the beauty of Tankshares — you can’t stop the Nets from being terrible, and you won’t profit from the draft pick, but you can at least grab a little something from those who have more to gain (or lose) from your final record than you do.
Let’s say, for example that you feel like buying out Joe Johnson’s $24.9 million contract. Where would he go once he became a midseason free agent? Probably some place like Cleveland, where the Cavs are plagued by injuries in the backcourt and desperate to win a title A.S.A.P. So maybe I call owner Dan Gilbert and say, “We don’t have to buy out Johnson, but if you’d toss in a second-rounder or two we might consider it.”
Now there will be some people who will throw around words like “fraud” and “extortion” — people like Adam Silver or maybe even the U.S. Attorney General. Well I say those people lack vision! Let me tell you about another man who was oppressed by the authorities because of his vision. He traveled around in tattered clothes, with a fervent group of disciples and a lot of new ideas. And he didn’t always do what the powers-that-be told him to do.
That man’s name was Bill Belichick.
The NBA needs a Bill Belichick — a visionary who isn’t afraid to to fly in the face of convention or rules or basic morality. With my help, Billy King, you can be that man. For the low, low price of $2 million per year, the Tankshare program can change your life. I’ll accept a personal check or money order. Thank you for your time.