The Point of Getting the Eighth Seed

Published: January 27, 2016

What’s the point of getting the 8th seed?

I see this question a lot, and I don’t really know how to answer it. My problem isn’t that I don’t know how to list the positives of making the playoffs, even if you get defeated in the first round, it’s that I don’t truly understand the question. Every seemingly simple question has layers of subtext behind it, and when somebody asks this question, I am guessing that they are asking something like, “Why pursue the playoffs when you are destined to lose in the first round? Why shouldn’t you value the draft instead, where history shows that you have a higher chance at a better player the higher that you pick?”

My first question in response is: Even if I grant you the argument that the Pelicans are destined to be defeated in round one should they make the playoffs, where does the argument that securing better players over playoff losses end? If I were to tell you with absolute certainty that the Grizzlies were to lose in round 1 or the Clippers were destined for another round 2 defeat, would you advocate for them to concentrate more on the draft if it were possible? How about if I told you the Cavs were destined to be defeated in the Finals? I guess what I am asking is: Where does this slippery slope end? Is everything pointless if you are not winning a championship, or at least trending upwards? You ask me – “What’s the point of getting the 8th seed?” and I guess I respond with, “Tell me what, in your eyes, has a point in any NBA season outside of winning a championship.”

If you were Dell Demps or Alvin Gentry, could you honestly walk into the locker room today and tell these players that the rest of this season has no point? Or even if you didn’t have to be transparent with the players, would you totally disregard the rest of this season and focus solely on the very slim odds of landing the #1 pick, or the less than 50/50 odds of landing a top 3 pick? What if you don’t get it? Then, what was the “point” in that? As I pointed out in my latest piece, people are often arguing – 8th seed vs. Top 3 pick, but with how bad other teams are and how average the Pelicans are with Anthony Davis, the true argument should be 8th seed vs. 10th or 11th pick.

And make no mistake, that is still an argument that can be had. I remember Bill Simmons going on and on last season about how the Celtics would benefit more from the playoffs than moving up a few spots in the draft. Flash forward to a few months later, and GM Danny Ainge was offering 5 or 6 picks just to move into the 9th spot to take Justice Winslow. Flash forward a few more months, and it doesn’t seem like that playoff experience much this year, but Justice Winslow sure would have helped than more than Terry Rozier is right now. So, yes, the argument could be made, but it has to be made accurately.

And just as you can point to that one Celtics example, there are numerous examples you can point to on the other side. Teams that had multiple picks, year after year, in the 5-10 range and it never makes one lick of a difference. Teams like the one the Pelicans are chasing for the 8th seed currently, the Sacramento Kings. The truth is that there are examples of successes and failures nobody what path you are talking about taking. If I were to make the argument for shooting for the playoffs, it would go something like this: It would show your team is resilient and unwilling to lay down no matter what obstacles come your way. That helps build a culture that can sustain for years. It also gives you a better chance at attracting free agents this summer, which might be more impactful than anybody you can land outside of the top 5 in this draft. And finally, it gives your franchise building block another taste of the postseason, which is something he will need to become familiar with and master if this team is ever going to reach the promised land.

Is my argument flawless? Of course not. But neither is the question. The question assumes that all other avenues “have a point.” They may not. There might be no path that leads to a championship any time in the near future with the way Golden State is playing, and with how they look to be set up for years to come. But there has to be more to every individual season than: Championship or Bust. I have said for a while now to think of a season more like a chapter than as a book in and of itself. Perhaps this is the chapter where our hero gets knocked down, only to find inner strength and overcome because of that, not some external force.

Who knows, maybe that’s the point.


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