Wasted Seasons?

Published: December 19, 2016

I keep hearing the term “wasted” season, and it annoys me. Rather than just stew over here, I wanted to try to add some clarity to all sides of the manufactured debate.

  • If one is primarily interested in winning a title this year, the performance this season is going to leave you completely and unambiguously dissatisfied. If this makes the season a waste, then it is a waste. Of course, even if the team was much better, it’s unreasonable to think they’d be at the top tier of the NBA this season. I won’t get into the details of the other teams, but there is a ceiling up there that has low probability of being cracked.
  • If one can set aside title aspirations this season but wants them in the next couple season, the performance this season is still disappointing. While teams can make the leap, the mechanisms for making the leap typically involve an influx of talent. Free agents who make a difference did not come here this season, and it’s hard to imagine one coming next season. More on that. Trade is another mechanism, but the Pelicans are short on assets today. “Being healthy” is a way to raise your performance. This is happening to some extent, and it is working to some extent. The extent, however, is not demonstrably great at this time, and there is a demonstrable hole in their wins compounding that. Development is another way. Buddy is developing, but he’s not a consistent net positive yet. Our free agents, which were gambles, can develop or “dial in,” but even if this happens, it really raises eyebrows about the free agency from this past offseason. So, this also seems like a valid reason to call for change. If the change does not happen, a waste is a possibly valid label.
  • If one sets aside title aspirations entirely, then perhaps wins matter. Everyone likes to see wins, and certainly one wants to see wins more than losses, at least on a game-by-game basis. The start of the season did not deliver, but they are roughly 0.500 since Jrue came back. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. If you want to see more wins than losses, maybe this season can deliver from this point on, or overall with some luck, but this team was never going to win, say, 50 games, with any reasonable probability.
  • If one sets aside titles and wins, wanting only to have fun, maybe see some competitive basketball, then maybe this season can deliver. Davis is putting on a show, and even if your team loses, the other teams can do impressive things. Dunks and little runs are fun. The games have entertainment and are social. Cue attendance comments, but most people are simply unqualified to discuss attendance in a factual way. The dramatic look of so many empty seats in an arena has an effect, but it is not localized to New Orleans. Get over it. Thousands attend, and one reason they do is the people with whom they socialize.
  • If one is interested in the team being a viable business, then this season may not be helping. The losing does not help, but Davis’ play and some of the exciting basketball may help. Also, the team is out in the community more, and time in the market is a positive factor, too.

There are some issues I have with the use of the term, of course.

  • If one wants a high draft pick, then losing is the way to do it. As such, this season is not a waste unless they win too much for that. So, if this is your goal, only complain about wins, not the losing, at least in the short term. Also, the deals that help you lose are helping you. That doesn’t make them good deals, but it’s unfair to completely pan them if they further your goal. It could be suggested that you are simply making the most of the hand you are dealt, but then you are acknowledging the sunk costs. If it’s a sunk cost, meaning, a cost that is “spent” and is a part of any path going forward. As such, it does not factor in when making choices going forward. The state of affairs matters, but not the choice. Also, it may reflect on the chooser, but not the future choices.
  • If one is worried about making the playoffs, this is somewhat addressed above. Also, consider just what making the playoffs matters. How much did the first round sweep matter a couple seasons ago? What is the basis of complaint for not making the playoffs?
  • If one is worried about Davis re-signing with the team later, the state of affairs matters little now. In a couple years, what is going on then will matter more than this, just like they playoffs a couple years ago do not affect things now. Also, the new CBA clauses could lower the risk of him bolting, as well. This makes the current season, potentially, matter even less. It certainly doesn’t make the current season matter more.

I’ve tried to make sense of this idea of a wasted season. Personally, I find the term to be empty, lazy, and designed to attract attention. It works in that regard, but it in no way reflects what the real criticism is. When everyone means something different, potentially, what could be very good criticism of the franchise than be send a very direct message the team gets lost as noise and confused the grunting of beasts.


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