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NBA Teams around the league could use ‘reverse analytics’ to figure out best way to tank

There are seven NBA teams that are in a race for the worst record in the league — a process called tanking — in order to get the top pick in the draft this summer. Because of that, the last six weeks of the season are bound to be an exhibition of extreme losing.

But outwardly tanking is something that is frowned upon in the NBA. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was recently fined $600,000 for telling some of his players that losing was the best option.

Be that as it may, tanking still happens in the NBA. And there’s two ways to do it, per Brian Windhorst and Tim MacMahon of ESPN: passively and actively.

Passive tanking is losing under the guise of the term “player development.” That’s something most NBA fans are familiar with. But active tanking is something else entirely, per Windhorst and MacMahon.

Active tanking is more complex and, therefore, more rare. But in a race to the bottom so intense, it’s something that some have started to notice. One executive told ESPN that he suspects the use of “reverse analytics.” Instead of using data to determine which lineups may be most effective in a certain matchup, coaches may be provided with data that could yield the opposite.

“It’ll be like ‘Mission: Impossible,'” the executive said, tongue partially planted in cheek. “The coaches will get the data on paper that will self-destruct right after they read it.”

This is a whole new level of trying to lose. Coaches are actually using the negative data of their teams in order to help their teams lose. In a way, the genius of it has to be respected.

But is it good for the game? Fans of these teams certainly don’t want to lose in any way, but sometimes fans of bad teams want them to tank for draft picks. The people that really lose here are the players, who never want to actually tank games.

But so long as the draft lottery is the way it is, teams will tank. Until there is a drastic change to that, teams might as well use what is at their disposal to put themselves in their best position for the future.