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Power Tankings: Hard to ignore all of this losing right now

By Zach Harper | NBA writer

Just when it looked like a lot of the bottom teams in the league were trying to ignore the tanking expectations and find their way into some wins, we've hit a spike in these overmatched rosters accumulating losses. The Milwaukee Bucks are still doing what they've been doing all season long, only their top player is starting to become a distraction to enjoying an emerging rookie internet star. The Utah Jazz have managed to wash away the stank of losing so many games, but the Boston Celtics and Orlando Magic are on massive losing streaks. The Philadelphia 76ers are losing stretches they should be winning and winning stretches they should be losing.

We've gotten to the point where we may need to keep an eye on the Los Angeles Lakers and start figuring out conspiracy theories fans will want to come up with for rebuilding this franchise as quickly as possible. There is just a lot of losing to keep track of, which was the point of this sarcastic exercise from the beginning. But who knew it would be so much work to keep track of so many losses? Maybe we should start tanking this idea soon and just play for the lottery next year?

Here are the Week 12 Power Tankings:

1. Milwaukee Bucks

Record: 7-29 (0-3 this week), Net Rating: -8.9 points per 100 possessions

The fun of Giannis Antetokounmpo has been great and all but this team has been so bad and so uninteresting that the Larry Sanders situation is the only thing that can really keep your attention right now. It's possible we all misjudged his fantastic 2012-13 season and ignored tell-tale signs of him possibly having an attitude problem that isn't worth the trouble. He's still getting kicked out of games, he fought with teammates, he had the night club incident, and his extension hasn't even kicked in yet. This could just be an overreaction to a tough season and perhaps being on a winner will cure the frustration. Until this team wins the lottery or starts getting more interesting on the court, we're going to end up focusing on the dramatic.

2. Orlando Magic

Record: 10-27 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -5.6 points per 100 possessions

I've really tried to avoid this current slide the Orlando Magic are on but it's just become too severe lately. This was a while ago but they were once 6-9 and battling tough every night. That initial impression was something I was hanging onto for much of this season but since then, the 4-18 record and current seven-game losing streak is too much to ignore. Six of these seven losses in the streak have been big blowouts with one overtime loss sprinkled in. This team has been relatively healthy lately too, it seems. Maybe they're just embracing tanking and trying to make sure the post-Dwight Howard era is executed properly?

3. Boston Celtics

Record: 13-25 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -4.4 points per 100 possessions

The Boston Celtics were a scrappy bunch under Brad Stevens two weeks ago. They were clsoe to hovering around .500 at 13-17 and in the hunt for the division lead. Jordan Crawford was a revelation and the rest of the roster was waiting for Rajon Rondo to give a middle finger to tanking as the Celtics make an improbable run toward some playoff revenue. Unfortunately, they're now in an eight-game losing streak and only three of those losses have been close games. Their net rating is -10.5 points per 100 possessions during this time and the defense and offense are both abysmal. Perhaps, Rondo will want some extra D-League time just to make sure he gets some wins under his belt this season.

4. Philadelphia 76ers

Record: 12-25 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -8.1 points per 100 possessions

Here is how funny the tanking expectations have been with this Philadelphia 76ers team this season. Last week, they went 4-1 on a West coast road trip that saw a loss in Phoenix followed up by four straight wins in Los Angeles (Lakers), Denver, Sacramento, and Portland. It kind of woke everybody up to the idea of this team really isn't so terrible after they had fallen off for a month or so. Then they came home for three of four games in which they were blown out in Philly by Minnesota, went to Cleveland and got killed, and lost by double digits at home to Detroit and New York. Four-game winning streak followed by a four-game losing streak and the playing environment seemed to be flipped on its head for both.

5. Utah Jazz

Record: 12-26 (1-1 this week), Net Rating: -9.3 points per 100 possessions

Three things have helped the Utah Jazz go from a top contender for Power Tankings every week to an 8-7 record over their last 15 games:

1) Competency at the point guard position has been huge. Trey Burke hasn't been all that great for the Jazz but more importantly, he hasn't been a disaster like previous starting point guards for them this season. He's been a decent volume scorer and has nearly a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio.

2) The team has been killing it from 3-point range. Over these 15 games, they're making 38.8 percent of their 3-pointers on 20.8 attempts per game. Prior to that, they were taking 17.2 per game and making just 32.6 percent of them. Having two playmakers on the court instead of one has opened up the offense and turned their shooters into weapons.

3) Gordon Hayward is playing some incredible basketball. His duel with Kevin Durant this past week was a nice reminder that Hayward is still a pretty good all-around player. In this 15-game stretch, Hayward is averaging 17.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 5.3 assists. Having Burke on the floor means he has to do less, which means he can do more.

Keep an eye on: Los Angeles Lakers

Record: 14-23 (0-3 this week), Net Rating: -5.4 points per 100 possessions

I don't know if the Los Angeles Lakers have accepted the idea of tanking but the various injuries to their entire backcourt is finally taking its complete toll on the overall success of the team. And really, their actual success this season would be losing a bunch of games and securing a star prospect in this year's draft. You still need to convince Mitch Kupchak and Kobe Bryant on why losing games this year is much more meaningful than having a little pride. If you don't mind, I'd like to channel my inner Marisa Tomei to explain it.

Imagine you're the Lakers. You're introducing Andrew Wiggins on opening night in 2014, he's two possessions into his rookie season, and he catches eye-contact with Kobe Bryant as he's standing on the wing... BAM! Wiggins fakes toward moving to the top of the key and cuts behind his man. Bryant tosses up the lob to the rim and Wiggins catches the ball above the box on the backboard, slamming it down over DeAndre Jordan as the internet erupts and starts posting .gifs and videos everywhere. It's a statement of a new generation of Lakers' success and brings the fan base so much joy they all want to buy Wiggins merchandise. Now I ask ya. Would you give a damn how many wins Kobe Bryant led you to in 2013-14?

 
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