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To 'tank' or not to 'tank'? The Wizards and the rest of the season

With 11 games left in the season, it's time to ask the question: should the Wizards give their young players more opportunities?


For what seems like the hundredth year in a row, us Wizards fans are watching the standings to find out their team's draft lottery position. This season, a few wins could make a big difference. The Bobcats and Magic pretty much have the top two spots locked up, but there are nine teams besides them that have between 22 and 29 wins. The Wizards are one of those nine teams.

There's a big difference between third and 12th in the lottery, which probably explains why the Phoenix Suns are unabashedly tanking right now. Via the Arizona Republic:

[Goran] Dragic was told that he was being rested to give rookies Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett opportunities and because he could use the rest for how intensely he has played and his upcoming summer duty for the Slovenian national team. Marshall could use the time after sitting most of the year, and Garrett merits a chance but Dragic had no health issues and two games in March will not make much of a difference on the European Championship in September.

Dragic has no injury, and yet he has not played for the past two games for that reason. Tom Ziller correctly calls out the Suns' shamelessness here.

But there's an interesting question to consider in the Suns' case. What's the bigger crime here? Sitting your best player in an obvious attempt to not put out your best product, or being too open about it?

As Ziller notes, teams find more creative ways to improve their lottery standing all the time.

I don't actually oppose tanking. Not all bad teams do it. And there's no faking being the worst: Charlotte and Orlando are the two worst teams in the league by a solid margin, and they'll finish the season with the top chances at the top pick. Some teams value going into the offseason on a run. Some teams prioritize learning about their own players. Some teams want those ping pong balls.

A lot of people have a problem with that last one. So it's a problem when a team is as obvious as the Suns are being.

I'd also suggest that there many not be a huge difference between "learning about their own players" and "ping pong balls." The Suns will defend their actions by saying they are just trying to learn more about Kendall Marshall and Diante Garrett. Is that objectionable in a season that's going down the drain? It certainly comes across better than intentionally losing.

That brings us to the Wizards. Like the Suns, the Wizards are in that bucket of teams between third and 12th. Like the Suns, the Wizards have several young players that have not played much and could therefore be in line for more "evaluation" minutes. Unlike the Suns, though, the Wizards have a vested interest in finishing the season strong, given Ted Leonsis' expectations.

Is that enough to continue with a business-as-usual approach? Perhaps not. The Wizards have several players with nagging injuries now, allowing them to maintain a commitment to winning while giving Jan Vesely, Chris Singleton and Kevin Seraphin some more opportunities. But this also begs the question: is it worth it for Martell Webster, Bradley Beal and A.J. Price to come back for the final 11 games?

Pretending this season is like a playoff push or being realistic and giving the young guys opportunities. Which framework is a more meaningful way to play out the string?