Mark Cuban gently hints the Thunder should tank

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The Spurs have made the playoffs 24 of the last 25 years. The lone exception: 1996-97, when David Robinson missed 76 games due to an injury that many believe didn’t need sidelined so long.

But by keeping Robinson on the mend, San Antonio went 20-62 and won the lottery. The Spurs used the No. 1 pick on Tim Duncan, vaulting themselves from a team competitive within the Western Conference to a dominant outfit that has won five championships since.

Could the 2-5 Thunder, who are missing Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, follow that model?

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban isn’t saying they should, but he’s sure not saying they shouldn’t.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Cuban said he would not consider it a breach of NBA integrity if the Thunder essentially bagged this season to improve their odds of winning a title in the near future.

“The question I don’t think anybody has asked is, why don’t they pull a David Robinson and try to get Tim Duncan?” said Cuban

“I’m not suggesting anything,” Cuban said. “I’m just curious why the question hasn’t been asked because I’m curious what the answer is.”

“I don’t know, it would be a tough call,” Cuban said when asked whether he’d want Durant and Westbrook to miss the rest of the season if he owned the Thunder. “When Dirk got hurt, we didn’t. But it’s a little different.

“Because I had a lot of one-year guys and we had to see who we wanted to keep. And I never thought he’d be out that long. Honestly. I thought he’d be back at the start of the season, and then one week, two weeks, it kept dragging on. We never would have gotten to No. 1 and he never would have sat out the whole year. So I’m glad we did it the way we did because I like the fact I’ve never had a losing season.”

This is Cuban at his worst, self-serving and not as smart as he thinks.

Many people have wondered whether the Thunder should tank. This is not some new idea Cuban came up with. Ironically, Oklahoma City general manager Sam Presti led the push to defeat lottery reform that would have made tanking more appealing to the Thunder.

Oklahoma City tanking would also help Cuban’s Mavericks, who fancy themselves championship contenders now. If the Thunder get healthy in time to make the playoffs, they’ll be a serious threat no matter their seed.

It’s possible the Thunder will finish in the lottery, whether or not they choose to tank. But, for now, they should try to win as much as possible. A team with Durant and Westbrook shouldn’t just throw away a season.

That said, if those stars take longer than expected to return and/or Oklahoma City wins too few games in the meantime, tanking could become a viable option later.