Los Angeles (AFP) - Detroit Pistons head coach Stan Van Gundy believes NBA risks being tarnished by teams setting out to lose deliberately in order to boost their chances of building a stronger roster through the draft.
As the Pistons missed out on the playoffs for a second year running after finishing ninth in the Eastern Conference, Van Gundy took aim at in-form Philadelphia, who finished third in the standings.
The 76ers swept into the playoffs with a 16th straight victory on Wednesday, capping a 52-win regular season just two years after posting 10 victories against 72 defeats in the 2015-2016 season.
Van Gundy said the strategy of the 76ers' and other teams who have been accused of "tanking" this season were a threat to the integrity of the league.
"We have about 10 teams that have gone out of their way to try to ensure they have a better chance to lose," Van Gundy told the Chicago Tribune. "To me, the essence of sports is two teams playing against each other trying to win.
"Even in Philly's years, I don't think the players and coaches (were) out there tanking. It's who they decide to put on the court and build (the) roster.
"But when you have a third of the league trying to lose games, I don't think that's good for our product at all. To me, it's a lack of integrity in your league and lack of respect for your fans.
"Philadelphia is good and everyone is praising the process, how great it was, but the process is based on being as bad as you can be, historically bad for as long as you can. If that's the process and the accepted way to build a team in the NBA, then something needs to change."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver reportedly sent a memo to the league's 30 clubs in February warning them that any side suspected of throwing games would receive the "harshest response possible."
Teams at the foot of the NBA are often suspected of tanking in order to improve their chances of being given a favourable pick in the following season's draft.
Several teams have come under suspicion this season, in what is the last year before the NBA reforms its rules over how draft picks are allocated.
It has also coincided with a 2018 draft class which is expected to feature several potential elite talents.
"We have to find a way (to make sure) there is absolutely zero incentive to lose," Van Gundy said. "I don't know the best way to do that. But as long as there is incentive, some people will choose to go that route."