The 15-29 Pistons take on Miami later tonight in Auburn Hills, an occasion that has the Detroit News’ Vincent Goodwill warning hometown fans dreaming of a shot at John Wall there’s little to gain in losing on purpose.

The bottom line is this: Tanking doesn’t pay off, especially if a team doesn’t have competent leadership. Yes, once-in-a-lifetime players come through the draft, but there’s a reason those guys come along only twice a decade. What happens when a team tanks to draft Michael Olowokandi or Kwame Brown (above, right)

The Celtics tanked the 1996-97 season in pursuit of Tim Duncan, and with two lottery picks, had the best odds of winning at 36 percent.

They wound up with Chauncey Billups (No. 3) and Ron Mercer (No. 6). Billups was traded midway through his rookie season and didn’t develop into a top-level player until his arrival in Detroit in 2002. Mercer was serviceable, at best.

In the last 10 years, only No. 1 picks LeBron James and Dwight Howard led their team to The Finals, and neither have jewelry to show for it.

When a team gives up on a season, it makes it increasingly difficult to evaluate its players, to see who fits and who should be let go. With a possible labor dispute coming in 2011, many teams will be reluctant to go through a housecleaning.

And who knows? If one of those porous teams makes the playoffs — and makes some noise — general managers might discover they want to add to the roster, not blow it up

I wouldn’t be too worried about the prospect of the 2009-2010 Pistons making the playoffs, much as I’d find it hard to characterize Joe Dumars as a poor GM (the selection of Darko Milicic — unassisted via tanking — aside)