Kevin Durant extensively defends NBA teams who tank for No. 1 pick

Peter Dewey
4 Min Read
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Brooklyn Nets superstar Kevin Durant recently defended NBA teams who are tanking for the No. 1 pick.

Durant explained that there are only a handful of teams that truly can win the NBA title each season, so some of the lesser teams are smart to try to improve their rosters for the long term by tanking.

“Nah, teams have been tanking for a minute,” Durant told ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “What, you’re going to force them to be competitive? I don’t see a problem with it, because each year there’s only a few teams that can win it anyway. So the rest of the league is trying to figure out where they are. And that’s pretty smart business if you’re a team and you know you’re not going to be a playoff team or play-in team, you might as well try to play for [the No. 1 pick]. You might as well try to get some of the guys who probably won’t get real rotation minutes if you have a good team, get them some reps and maybe those guys can change their lives as well.”

The 2023 NBA Draft is expected to have a few gems at the top of the draft, mainly international star Victor Wembanyama. The French prospect is a very unique player, possessing guard-like skills despite being a 7-foot-4.

He’s not the only star coming into this draft, as G League guard Scoot Henderson is also highly rated. With two star prospects available, teams are likely trying to find a way to position themselves for the best possible odds in the lottery.

For younger rebuilding teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic and others, it makes much more sense to get another building block for the future than to attempt to make the play-in tournament and move further back in the lottery.

Durant makes a really good point about teams making the smart business move when they know that they can’t win an NBA title in a specific season.

A former No. 2 overall pick, Durant was a part of an Oklahoma City Thunder organization that used draft picks on him, Russell Westbrook and James Harden to completely rebuild the franchise. Durant and Westbrook were drafted by the Seattle SuperSonics, who later became the Thunder.

The Thunder eventually made the NBA Finals with that core group of players.

While Durant clearly understands and supports the logistics of tanking, it’s certainly not something that will be on the mind of his team this season.

The Nets are just 1.5 games out of the top spot in the Eastern Conference, and Durant is playing at an MVP-caliber level.

The 12-time All-Star is averaging 29.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game while shooting 56.8 percent from the field and 36.9 percent from beyond the arc.

Brooklyn is focused on competing for an NBA title, and the team has won nine of its last 10 games to move into the top half of the Eastern Conference.

As long as the two-time champ is in Brooklyn, tanking probably won’t even be a thought for the Nets franchise.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball, football and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.