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Power Tankings: Not Bucking the tanking trend

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

We've officially completed a full month in the 2013-14 NBA season. What have we learned after one month of Power Tankings?

We learned that anybody who thought the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Cleveland Cavaliers could make the playoffs in the East without a ton of help from the conference being horrendous was probably foolish. We've learned that the Phoenix Suns flat-out don't belong in the tanking discussion early in the season. We've learned that the Philadelphia 76ers are not to be taken for granted because their players are kind of exciting. Yes, even Spencer Hawes!

We've also learned that the Utah Jazz and Milwaukee Bucks are going to have a season-long battle for the top/lowest spot in the lottery and there's nothing anybody else can do about it. Unless Larry Sanders comes wildly swinging champagne bottles at his opponents every night, we're not going to see the Bucks put up much of a fight with that offense. And the Jazz's point-guard issues might not be the reason for their slow start; it might just be the roster as constructed.

These teams are wigging out for Wiggins, having a scandal for Randle, being sorry for Jabari, and never having a lead for Embiid. The next few months are going to be very exciting.

Here are the Week 6 Power Tankings:

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 3-13 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -11.1 points per 100 possessions

The Bucks have been tanking for the No. 1 spot for a while now and they've finally grabbed it as we head into December. They're the worst offensive team in the league at an anemic 93.1 points per 100 possessions. With Caron Butler battling swollen knees (his own, not somebody else's), that offense could get even worse. Getting more time for Giannis Antetokounmpo will at least make the games more watchable for fans, but the chase-down blocks and Go-Go Gadget arms won't make up for a lack of shooting ability on this team.

Despite being ninth in 3-point percentage, the Bucks are still 26th in effective field-goal percentage. I get that Larry Drew wants to look competitive and you believe that veterans are going to make you more competitive on the court. But a little youthful exuberance and unbridled enthusiasm might not be the worst thing for the product on the floor at this point. Give Antetokounmpo a bunch of minutes, let John Henson play like a starter out there and see if the alternative to what you're throwing out there at the moment is any better. It's not like what you've been doing has any semblance of working.

2. Utah Jazz

Record: 3-15 (2-1 this week), Net Rating: -12.0 points per 100 possessions

Before the season started, I thought the Jazz were going to be a huge pain for opponents to deal with on a nightly basis. I figured the young frontcourt would be a handful for veterans to face and that they would have just enough firepower to turn every game into a competitive battle. So far, that hasn't been the case. Sure, it was hard to judge them without rookie Trey Burke running the show because the alternative was 2013 Jamaal Tinsley or pretending John Lucas III should get extended minutes. But I'm not sure point guard was the only thing keeping the Jazz so awful throughout November.

Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks have shot horribly so far this season and it has caused a huge issue with the Jazz's offensive output. Not to mention this young frontcourt can't really defend anybody despite having Derrick Favors out there to turn away shots. However, they managed to have their first winning week of the season and this team is pretty much back at full strength. We can now see if the Jazz can play more like a 28-win team that is tough to close against rather than a 15-win team that can't compete after halftime.

3. Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 6-12 (0-3 this week), Net Rating: -6.7 points per 100 possessions

The Sixers put up a goose egg in the win column this week, which is exactly what we want to see. Three double-digit losses coming in Orlando, at home against the Pelicans and at the Pistons. These were not embarrassing losses either. That Magic team is pretty tough to deal with at home, the Pelicans were starting to click before Anthony Davis broke his hand and the Pistons are playing incredibly well right now. The Sixers have done exactly what has been asked of them by their fans that accept the idea of acquiring beer pong balls.

They've been entertaining and competitive while starting to lose games. A way to ensure more of this could be by playing the backcourt of Michael Carter-Williams and Tony Wroten a lot more. In 108 minutes this season, the combination of those two on the court together puts the Sixers at a minus-7.8 points per 100 possessions. It's also putting two players that have been very exciting on the court together. The real problem with the offense when they're on the court together is the team's free-throw shooting has been poor. Everything else has been respectable. The team moves the ball extremely well with these two on the floor and the ball pressure they put out there leads to a frenetic pace. More of this please.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 5-12 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -8.8 points per 100 possessions

Cavaliers fans had a weird week. This team is still is disarray after the infamous team meeting in which Dion Waiters apparently fought everybody in the room in some sort of organized cage fighting. At least at this point, that's where the game of telephone rumors has taken us. They started their softer stance on LeBron James as the city tries to figure out ways to bring him back to the organization but still saw a double-digit loss to the Heat. Then the Cavs had a horrendous loss to the Celtics in Boston. When it looked like all hope was lost, they bounce back and beat the Chicago Bulls thanks to a huge effort by Andrew Bynum.

Kyrie Irving still can't get on track and it's hard to pinpoint what's wrong with him. He's two missed shots away from being under 40 percent on the season from the field. He's playing like Uncle Drew looks, rather than the pretend unsuspecting crowd is used to seeing Uncle Drew play. A lot of Cavs fans seem to be losing faith in this team getting it together but because of the East, they're two games out of the eighth seed right now.

Keeping an eye on: New York Knicks

Record: 3-13 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -6.3 points per 100 possessions

It feels very forced that I haven't outright included the Knicks in Power Tankings so far, but the sad thing is they're clearly not tanking in any way. They set themselves up to hang with the big boys in the East this season and one Tyson Chandler injury has left them in shambles. Can you imagine what would happen if they did start tanking? The Knicks' dance team would be learning how to throw paper bags onto the fans' heads rather than practicing their t-shirt toss. The Knicks would play a zone with Andrea Bargnani anchoring it while he has his back to the action on the court. J.R. Smith would be required to dribble 27 times before making a single movement of progress toward taking a shot.

And all the while, Carmelo Anthony would be putting up valiant efforts to show teams he's really worth saving in free agency this coming summer. His season will essentially turn him into Snake Plissken in Escape from New York. If anything, the Knicks have become a post-apocalyptic world for Melo and the postups and 3-point attempts are his only way of making it out of there intact. You can only count on yourself, Carmelo. Safe voyages.

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