Title: NBA.com/Hoop Magazine Around the Rim Roundtable
Date: December 6, 2016
Original Source: HOOP Magazine / NBA Around the Rim
Synopsis: I took part in a mid-season roundtable for NBA.com’s regular Hoop Magazine Around the Rim feature.
There’s been a lot of tanking talk this past week. How do you feel about tanking? Acceptable reality or shameful surrender?
Murphy: I have trouble getting too upset with a team making the most of the system they operate within. Hinkie very clearly saw a system that he believed incentivized medium-term, high-degree losing, and I can’t really fault him for trying to make the most of that opportunity, given no alternate path to more immediate contention. I don’t care all that much morally, because I think Hinkie’s vision was an extreme example most organizations don’t have the stomach for, anyway. My issue with the general team-building strategy, though, are two-fold: For one, life has a sample size of one, and while playing the odds is absolutely a reasonable approach, there’s also a reasonable risk it doesn’t work out (you continually don’t get the No. 1 pick, your top prospects get hurt, you have one or two bad beats on can’t-miss guys who bust, and so on). Second, I think Hinkie underrated the importance of culture as a team goes through that process: Losing might be fine, but there’s a cost to constant losing, roster turnover and rosters with glaring holes. I can’t help but wonder if a few of their fliers may have turned out better with a more protective system for development were in place.
Obviously the favorites are still Golden State and Cleveland, but who do you still see them as the third-best bet to secure the Larry O’Brien Trophy?
Murphy: I do think the Clippers are the third-best team in the NBA, but I think the gap between them and the Warriors is significant enough that they should be considered a second tier of their own below the likely finalists. Their recent stretch has dropped their advanced metrics some, and it would be difficult to keep that level of play up for 82 games, anyway. What’s important is that the Clippers have clearly demonstrated that their upside is high enough to make a series with a Golden State or Cleveland competitive, barring what seems to be an annual stroke of bad luck around the playoffs. I’d also be remiss not to throw the Raptors out there as something close to the Clippers in terms of likelihood to shock with a trip to the finals. They are probably not as good as the Clippers when they come down to earth some (I just don’t think the defense can get to an elite level), but the gap between them and Cleveland may have narrowed to where a deadline acquisition or a Cavs injury could change the accounting in the East playoffs to where the Cavs are actually threatened.