Despite some tankeriffic exploits by the Milwaukee Bucks and Philadelphia 76ers this past week, this was an oddly competent showing for most of the teams that inhabit Power Tankings. We had four of the seven featured teams avoiding losing weeks by either going 2-2, 2-1, or 3-1 this week. And even though the Utah Jazz had a 1-2 record, they still managed to get that one victory over the Miami Heat.
This may be the work of the looming trade deadline. Veterans on bad teams may be upping their play in the hopes of increasing their trade value and getting a team looking to add them for the stretch run. How else can you explain such a surge in basketball competency amongst this group of teams looking to better themselves for the night of the lottery. Pride? No way. It has to be trade season.
Luckily, we only have about a week and a half of this left and then we can really see this thing get going. We're counting on you, cellar dwellers!
Here are the Week 16 Power Tankings:
|1. Milwaukee Bucks|
Record: 9-41 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -10.0 points per 100 possessions
One week after wondering if the Bucks would have the top spot for the rest of the season, I had serious doubts about whether or not I could have them in the top spot this week. They beat the Knicks Monday night with a Brandon Knight 3-pointer and didn't completely wet the bed against the Nuggets and Rockets the rest of the week. That coupled with the fact that the Philadelphia 76ers lost by 45 points Sunday night and were down 56 points at one time made me think about sliding the Sixers into the top spot.
However, I can't reward the Sixers with that honor just because of one big, embarrassing game. The Bucks have been working all season at this, hence their 5.5-game lead over the Sixers for worst record in the NBA. We're one-third of the way through February and they still haven't reached double-digit wins. Even the Bobcats had 11 this time last season and the Bucks themselves had 25 victories. This is how you tank, people. Step your game up, Sixers.
|2. Philadelphia 76ers|
Record: 15-37 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -9.7 points per 100 possessions
The Sixers are putting in work to get to the top Power Tankings spot, including a 45-point loss that dropped their net rating from -9.0 per 100 possessions before last night's game against the Clippers to the -9.7 you see above this paragraph. That's a pretty impressive drop based on one game and it nearly matched the Bucks' net rating for the season. They put up a good fight early in the week with close losses to Brooklyn and Boston. Then they lost by double digits at home to a 40-year old Steve Nash.
Then the 45-point debacle happened Sunday night, in which they gave up back-to-back windmill alley-oops to Blake Griffin. The Sixers only losing that game by 45 points seems like sort of a miracle because they were in danger of the 68-point loss the Heat suffered in 1991 to the Cavaliers. Had that happened, they probably leap frog the 5.5-game disparity between them and the Bucks. Maybe next time, guys.
|3. Los Angeles Lakers|
Record: 18-33 (2-2 this week), Net Rating: -5.3 points per 100 possessions
The Lakers sort of just ended up in the third spot by default. As I said above, despite the play of the Bucks and Sixers, this was an oddly competent week for everybody. The Lakers put up a really good fight against the Timberwolves before beating the Cavaliers and Sixers, both by double digits. The return of Steve Nash has shown a couple of things. First, when he's relatively healthy, Nash is still a very influential offensive player. The Lakers looked pretty competent in how they run the offense with him on the floor. Second, not having all of your point guards out with injury is a benefit.
Even the loss to the Bulls on Sunday wasn't bad; it just featured them featuring "Walking Dead" star Chris Kaman in the offense. Oddly enough, it was one of the few times in Kaman's career in which he scored 25 points or more in a game and his team lost. Kaman's teams are now 14-7 when he hits the 25-point mark. Clearly, the answer for the Lakers to avoid tanking is to give the ball to Kaman and get out of the way, right? It's just good science.
|4. Orlando Magic|
Record: 16-37 (3-1 this week), Net Rating: -5.5 points per 100 possessions
The Orlando Magic have back-to-back wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers. I repeat! The Orlando Magic have back-to-back wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Indiana Pacers! This is not how you power tank, Orlando. You don't go 3-1 in a week with wins over two teams that could very well meet up in the NBA Finals. Quick! Someone give me a hammer!
|5. Cleveland Cavaliers|
Record: 18-33 (2-2 this week), Net Rating: -6.5 points per 100 possessions
I'm not quite sure how to feel about the Cavaliers this week. They had a six-game losing streak that featured some pretty embarrassing play, lackluster effort, and the firing of general manager Chris Grant. That's all great for tanking purposes. Then they followed that up by finishing the week strong with wins over the Wizards (on the road) and the Grizzlies (at home). They're four games out of the 8-seed right now but have games coming up against the Kings (at home), the Pistons and Sixers (on the road but sandwiching the All-Star break), and Magic (at home).
The Cavs could conceivably get this whole debacle back on track for their push to get to the playoffs. Kyrie Irving looks like he cares again. Dion Waiters is attacking opposing defenses with fervor. They're not losing five straight games by double digits anymore. The Cavs might finally have things together. Of course, every time I've thought that this season, they follow that notion up with another big debacle. I don't want to hold my breath here but the Cavs may be just good enough to fall out of Power Tankings again.
|6. Boston Celtics|
Record: 18-34 (2-1 this week), Net Rating: -5.1 points per 100 possessions
Jeff Green went off for 36 points against the Sixers to begin the week and it looked like the "trade for him" showcase the Celtics are conducting was going to be underway. Boston is looking to put themselves in a much better financial situation and ridding themselves of Green's deal while acquiring an asset would be a real nice step in that direction. Then the Celtics followed that up with Jared Sullinger and Gerald Wallace burying the Kings in Boston. Boston has been teetering with the concept of tanking all season long.
Shooting just 35.9 percent Sunday against the Mavericks' defense (and it was only that good because of a 52.0 percent fourth quarter) got them back on track and kept them from falling out of Power Tankings this week. The need to rest Rajon Rondo periodically as he continues to build strength and conditioning during his return from the ACL tear is the main thing that will keep them in these rankings the rest of the season. The trade deadline will determine just how deep into the tankings they get.
|7. Utah Jazz|
Record: 17-33 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -7.9 points per 100 possessions
A four-game losing streak started restoring my faith in the power of tanking with the Jazz and Tyrone Corbin's coaching this season. The Jazz dropped conseuctive games to the Warriors, Clippers, Raptors, and Mavs (all very respectable losses) and looked like they may be back into the business of losing games. Then they decided to beating the Miami Heat would be fun for old times' sake. Not only did they beat the Heat but they did it behind limiting LeBron James to just 13 points (lowest total of the season) and riding the hot hand of... wait, that can't be correct... Marvin Williams?
I think the Jazz may need to get back into this tanking thing and games like the win over the Heat aren't going to help. I need the hammer again!