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Staff Roundtable: Should Spurs Tank or Compete for the Play-In?

Becky Hammon, Mitch Johnson, Gregg Popovich, Bennie Adams
Becky Hammon, Mitch Johnson, Gregg Popovich, Bennie Adams / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages
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San Antonio Spurs
Gregg Popovich, Devin Vassell / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

Would tanking do anything for the San Antonio Spurs?

Our next two participants in the survey were both site experts here at Air Alamo. I'll begin with Ethan Farina, who's in favor of competing.

5. Ethan Farina - Compete

"The destination matters but so does the journey. I've always supported 'tanking' in the sense that it was a byproduct of the Spurs going young even if that meant putting players in uncomfortable positions - -ones that allowed them to grow but would ultimately cost the team wins.

If getting a better draft pick happens as a result of the Spurs going young, great. What I don't agree with is pulling all the starters and blatantly not trying to win games. You can frame it up as avoiding injury or giving players early rest, rationalize it however you want, but it's throwing games. I don't think that's the right move forward.

Telling your players to lose games or benching them when it's clear they'd rather play can backfire. It also might not get you what you want in the end. The Spurs should keep the pedal down."

6. Dylan Carter - Tank

"San Antonio needs more top-end talent to get back to championship contention. The team has competed for the play-in or 8th seed every year since the Kawhi saga. If they land a top 3-to-5 pick, they have a chance at landing a player who can change the trajectory of the franchise.

There are four power forwards at the top of this draft class who would fill the Spurs’ biggest position of need. Plus, missing the playoffs altogether may put a chip on the shoulders of these players and front office decision-makers to go hard in the offseason."

As it turned out in the anonymous survey, the team was split down the middle, 3-3. Great. That means my vote will be the tiebreaker, so let's dive into my thoughts.

7. Joshua Paredes

I need to preface this by saying I don't think there's a wrong answer here. I can see the rationale behind both sides. Team tank wants to maximize the odds of the Spurs getting a top draft pick and a better chance at getting a difference-maker in June. The downside of that could be the morale of the current squad also tanking when they don't have anything left to play for.

Team compete wants to maintain the integrity of playing to win, winning being something the Spurs did plenty of until a couple of years ago. That would likely end with a better attitude in the locker room to end the season but probably result in a quick exit in the play-in and a lower 1st round pick.

Before I give my answer, a final thought on the debate itself: Anyone who speaks for either side of the debate as if it's the only correct answer irritates me. There are merits and negatives to both sides, and dismissing the other side for thinking differently isn't it.

All that said, I need to side with the team itself on this one. Young, competitive guys like Devin Vassell and Keldon Johnson would not be happy about packing it in for a couple of weeks and giving up. The team's newest All-Star, who can often wear his emotions on his sleeves, also wouldn't be a fan.

The Spurs have a system and integrity that just about every organization admires for a reason, and I don't think compromising that to move up a few spots would make that much of a difference. At this point, San Antonio isn't going to out-tank Houston, Orlando, Detroit, and Oklahoma City. They probably won't fall behind Sacramento or Indiana either. Portland also has gone into full tank mode.

It's very likely the Spurs' inconsistency will give both sides what they want anyway. If they compete hard, they'll probably win a few while also dropping more, as they've done all season long. Anyone that finishes in the bottom 10 of the NBA has at least a 17% chance of moving into the top four. Shutting it all down early for a few more percentage points just doesn't seem worth it to me.

Next. Panic or Patience: 3 Troubling Spurs' Trends. dark

By the slimmest of margins, team compete comes out on top in this debate, but it's easy to see why many don't agree. Ultimately, it just might come down to the final week of the season for us to see where the Spurs end up.

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