The ethical conundrum of tanking for Hornets fans

Indiana Pacers v Charlotte Hornets
Indiana Pacers v Charlotte Hornets / David Jensen/GettyImages

As we start to digest the All-Star break, it’s a good time to reflect on the first half of the season and take inventory of where we are. At this point, most Hornets fans have accepted our fate; we’re not going to win the championship this season.

To take it further, the Hornets almost certainly aren’t headed for the playoffs, or even the play-in tournament. This team is going straight to the draft lottery, yet again, as they have every year since 2015-16.

To tank or not to tank

This begs a question that is all too familiar to Hornets fans; should they be rooting for losses? This of course refers to the ‘T’ word, tanking. It’s pretty easy to argue the team is now incentivized to lose games, race to the bottom, and give themselves the best possible odds of picking at the top of the 2024 draft.

Again, this is familiar territory as the Hornets have selected #2 overall in two of the last four drafts, and have LaMelo Ball and Brandon Miller to show for it. So the evidence would suggest that they should pile up the losses and hope to add another generational talent in June.

But the answer isn’t so easy. For one thing, the NBA has flattened the lottery odds in recent years, so the increase in your odds as you get worse is pretty marginal. There is no guarantee that the ping-pong balls will fall the way we want. We saw this just last year as the Detroit Pistons had the worst record in the NBA by several games, yet ended up with the 4th overall pick.

You play to win the games

Furthermore, creating a culture of losing can be extremely detrimental and that is the exact opposite of what this franchise needs at the moment. Winning games and building good habits, especially for the young players should be the priority down the stretch over adding a few extra ping-pong balls into the lottery.

Plus, as good as the Hornets have looked lately, I don’t exactly expect they’ll have to rig the deck too much to still finish near the bottom of the NBA standings. Being 13-41 is a pretty good head start anyway.

There is no reason the Hornets can’t keep building on this recent success, create a positive, winning culture, and grow and develop the young players, while also giving themselves an excellent chance at another top 5 draft pick.

If you believe in the basketball gods being just, they will reward teams for playing the right way and respecting the game and the process. If the Hornets do this, everything else will work itself out.

In summary, don’t feel guilty rooting for the Hornets. We’ve faced more than enough losing to not enjoy whatever victories we may achieve this season. Enjoy the ride, enjoy the wins, and enjoy every step of the process.