Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
CHICAGO — Coach K doesn’t want to believe that any NBA teams are tanking for Diaper Dandies Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle and Jabari Parker in the 2014 NBA Draft.
But if they are, he has a message for them.
“If that is happening, shame on whoever is doing it,” Coach K said in response to a question from SNY.tv following No. 5 Kansas’ 94-83 victory over No. 4 Duke in the Champions Classic.
Then he jokingly asked a reporter, “Are you doing it?”
At least one NBA GM told ESPN.com that he was effectively tanking.
“Our team isn’tgood enough to win and we know it…Sometimes my job is to understand the value of losing,” he said.
And an NBA executive told SNY.tv he believes as many as six NBA teams are doing something similar because they have “unqualified GMs” who are using this loaded draft as an excuse.
“They are [tanking] but they shouldn’t,” that NBA executive added at the Champions Classic. “They are tanking to save their jobs from their own inadequacies not because Julius Randle can score around the basket and [Andrew] Wiggins can catch lobs.”
For a guy like Coach K, it’s just hard to “fathom” that any NBA team would do such a thing.
“As an American I wouldn’t like to think that an American team would [ever] want to lose or create situations where you would want to lose,” he said. “I can’t even fathom. I can’t go there. I can’t believe that that would happen. Maybe I’m naive and I’m going to go ready a fairytale after this.”
Wiggins, who took over the game late after a rough first half and finishfed with 22 points and 8 boards, said he hadn’t given the tanking topic much thought even though terms like “Riggin’ for Wiggins” and “Putting out the candle for Randle” have become part of the lexicon.
“I’m just worried about college right now, I’m not worried about what NBA teams are doing,” he said in response to the question from SNY.tv.
The debate over ranking Wiggins, Randle and Parker was hot coming into Tuesday’s games, and it just got hotter.
Magic Johnson and Jalen Rosetold SNY.tv they would take Randle No. 1.
An NBA assistant coach told SNY.tv he’d take Parker first and “nobody’s close.”
Others like Wiggins as the No. 1 pick.
No matter how you rank them, one thing is clear: All three are special talents who might be worth tanking for.
Or at least, if you end up with a top 3 or 4 pick, you certainly have a lot to look forward to.
“I don’t think anybody’s tanking,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I know that guys that like to play, compete and I guess you can make sure that you don’t play certain guys, which I don’t think has happened.
“But I think that those three all have a chance to be special.”
In addition to the Big Three, Kansas freshman Wayne Selden went for 15 points while his frosh teammate Joel Embiid, a 7-footer with speed and touch from the perimeter, had 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 points.
Kentucky point guard Andrew Harrison had an off night but is a projected lottery pick.
“I don’t think it’s limited to those three guys [Wiggins, Randle and Parker] as far as quality freshmen across America,” Self said.
In the first game, non-freshmen were the difference.
In a game in which Randle went off for 27 points and 13 boards, MSU sophomore Gary Harris had a brilliant game with 20 points and senior forward Adreian Payne showed nice touch in the paint en route to 15 points in No. 2 Michigan State’s 78-74 win over No. 1 Kentucky.
Self said he thinks as the season progresses, the freshmen, in particular, will experience some growing pains.
“When guys are seen and studied and figured out, there’s going to be a little bit of a roller-coaster for all these young kids,” he said. “It’s a great freshmen class, without question, and we’re very fortunate to have one that’s talked about a lot, but I also think our other guys have a chance to be pretty good, too.”
As for the tanking topic, the NBA exec had some final words of wisdom.
“Nobody should ‘tank’ if they have any integrity,” he said. “Karma’s a bitch. Do your best and hope to move up on Lottery night.”
Fairytales or no, Coach K concurs.
Adam Zagoria is a New York Times contributor and Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.