Bryan Colangelo admits to tanking when he was GM of the Raptors

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BOSTON — Former Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo appeared as part of the basketball analytics panel at the 2014 MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference on Friday, and as part of a discussion about revamping the draft lottery system, shared an story about how he tried to “tank” in one of his final seasons in Toronto, albeit unsuccessfully.

“I like it because there’s no assurances when you do tank,” Colangelo said, responding to a question about the implementation of a “wheel” system where future draft picks would be largely pre-determined, therefore eliminating any incentive for teams finishing at the bottom of the standings.

“Admittedly, I will say, I tried to tank a couple years ago,” Colangelo said. “And I didn’t ‘come out and say, ‘Coach, you’ve got to lose games.’ I never said that. I wanted to have him establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that, but I wanted to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players, and with that comes losing. There’s just no way to avoid that, but I never once said, ‘You’ve got to lose this game.’ ”

Colangelo explained how tanking didn’t exactly work out in 2011-12, because had his team won just one additional game, they would have been in the running for Damian Lillard with the sixth pick instead of selecting eighth, where the team ultimately drafted Terrence Ross. Of course, had they lost even more, Colangelo pointed out, they would have had a better chance at landing Anthony Davis — meaning that trying to solidify one’s fate in this area can be more maddening than it is satisfying.

“There’s no assurances,” Colangelo said. “I do like the certainty of the (new, proposed) process. I think there are some merits to obviously take it to the next step, except I wish we could start it sooner because there really is some ugly basketball being played.”

We’ve always said that tanking is something that never happens on the level of players and coaches, but rather is executed at the front office level in terms of the roster that ends up being assembled and made available to the coaching staff. Colangelo admitted as much.