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Power Tankings: Will life find a way with the Raptors?

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

General managers, start your engines.

Masai Ujiri has turned the Toronto Raptors into the first dealers of the tanking season. With a seven-player trade that sends Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings in return for four role players, the Raptors are announcing they're clearing cap space and acquiring potential assets in the hopes of bringing more ping-pong balls north of the border. This won't be the end of deals for teams looking to get near the bottom of the standings and the top of the lottery.

The Philadelphia 76ers have three good trade assets in Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, and Spencer Hawes. The Cleveland Cavaliers have Anderson Varejao to deal if they really want to get serious. The Orlando Magic could move Arron Afflalo and Jameer Nelson to clear the backcourt and grab some productive growing pains for their young players. We could always see the Phoenix Suns getting back into the mix by moving Goran Dragic.

The Milwaukee Bucks and Utah Jazz could always deal ... well ... they're probably fine tanking with what they have out there. The first big trade of the tanking season has occurred and we thank Ujiri for getting the ball rolling. For the first time this season, Power Tankings is starting to mean something.

Here are the Week 7 Power Tankings:

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 4-16 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -10.7 points per 100 possessions

After a road win over the Wizards in overtime, I thought the Bucks would be ready to get out of their top spot in Power Tankings. I figured I had been too hard on the Bucks and was ready to admit maybe they weren't the worst team in the league. Even with the Jazz getting a little bit of a surge since Trey Burke's return/debut, Utah still had a worse record and a worse net rating. I'm not above admitting when I'm wrong, especially when it comes to basketball. I'm wrong all the time.

Then the Bucks lost to the dumpster fire that is the Brooklyn Nets. They lost this game in Milwaukee. Yes, it was on an away-and-home back-to-back and the Nets got a day off in between getting destroyed by the Knicks and getting a bounceback win over the Bucks. There's still no excuse for losing this game if you're not the worst team in basketball. The Nets give up 107.9 points per 100 possessions. Milwaukee put up a 94.6 offensive rating in that game. They didn't lose to the dumpster fire; they jumped into the dumpster.

2. Utah Jazz

Record: 4-18 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -11.9 points per 100 possessions

I'm not killing the Jazz with the top spot in Power Tankings (actually, maybe that would be rewarding them if they were the top spot? I'm a little confused now on what I've created here) because I don't mind the fight they put up this week. They hung tough with the Pacers, got destroyed by archers in a battle with the Trail Blazers, and then they bounced back to lose to the Kings in overtime. Putting up a fight is all you can ask out of the Jazz this season, as they've cleared the decks for the future.

The biggest thing I want to see out of the Jazz is making Derrick Favors a big deal in the NBA. He currently has the fifth-highest usage rate on the team. He's behind their best player Gordon Hayward (understandable), Burke (don't mind him getting his feet wet), Alec Burks (I wouldn't force the ball through him over Favors) and Enes Kanter (they're focusing on the wrong big man at the moment). Favors has his field-goal percentage up over 50 percent now and we should see them build more confidence in him by making him the second option behind Hayward.

3. Brooklyn Nets

Record: 6-14 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -8.1 points per 100 possessions

I do believe the injuries are the biggest factor in why the Nets are so bad. After that, it's the debacle that Jason Kidd is creating. It's good they didn't drop that game to the Bucks in Milwaukee because then we would have had a five-alarm dumpster fire on our hands. I've been turning my head the other way when it comes to the Nets for weeks, but at this point they might as well start trying to tank. You could really have a chance to grab one of the top stars in this draft, add it to the expensive core, and then have your transition to the future.

Oh wait; they have to give their 2014 pick to the Celtics, which will be swapped with Atlanta if the Hawks finish with a better record. Well, maybe being thrown into Power Tankings will turn things around for the Nets. I'm sure Lawrence Frank is reading this and including it in his daily reports. It's not like he has anything better to do.

4. Cleveland Cavaliers

Record: 7-13 (2-1 this week), Net Rating: -7.5 points per 100 possessions

They played pretty well this week, going 2-1 with wins over the Nuggets and Clippers. Normally, I would reward a team like this for taking down two good opponents. However, I have no idea how to explain Kyrie Irving going scoreless in a game on 0-of-9 shooting and 0 of 3 from the free-throw line. It seems only right to accuse them of a tank job in that case. Also, this happened:

This spot in the Power Tankings is on you, Quicken Loans Arena security staff.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 7-14 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -7.1 points per 100 possessions

A great indicator for future success/failure is the scoring margin/net rating for a team. The Sixers have dropped to the fifth-worst net rating in the NBA, ahead of the four teams you see above them in Power Tankings. They got a fun win in double overtime over the Magic and then dropped a back-to-back against the Bobcats and Nuggets. The Bobcats loss was especially bad because it was a 17-point drubbing. Charlotte has a great defense this year, but you can't let them get loose for over 100 points, even in your chaotic style of play.

Sixers rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been out and hospitalized with an infection in his leg. I see you, Sam Hinkie.

You know how you got here: Orlando Magic

How you got here: 126-125 OT loss to the Sixers

Arron Afflalo scored 43 points. Victor Oladipo registered a triple-double. And this team almost won a road game without Nikola Vucevic and Jameer Nelson. I'm still going to be petty and give you a dishonorable mention in Power Tankings if you lose to the Sixers. I'm that mature.

Keeping an eye on: Toronto Raptors

Record: 7-12 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -0.3 points per 100 possessions

And it begins. The first big domino in Masai Ujiri's rebuilding plan has fallen with the trade of Rudy Gay. He has fired the first self-inflicted salvo in the great tank war of 2013-14! Now that the Raptors are taking the lead ...

Keeping an eye on: New York Knicks

Record: 5-14 (2-1 this week), Net Rating: -4.0 points per 100 possessions

You're blaming orange jerseys on the crap that's hitting the fan at Madison Square Garden? Seriously? YOU'RE ADULTS RUN BY RICH ADULTS! You can't believe in superstitions like that. Here's what we're going to do.

Take all of your change and put it in your left hand pocket. Go on; do it! Tie your left shoe in a double knot. Right now, do it! Turn your headband around backwards. Turn your headband around! Do it! Now take this shooting sleeve and stick it behind your left ear.

("We look like fools!" -- Knicks)

What the hell do you think you look like shooting step back jumpers up Spike Lee's butt?

 
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