Updated March 31
The Blake Griffin Sweepstakes is heating up. Or, if you've noted the shooting percentages of the clubs most desperate to attain his services, perhaps cooling down would be a better way of phrasing it.
As the calendar flips to vacation month for the league's lightweights, the Kings, Wizards, Clippers, Grizzlies, Thunder and Timberwolves remain in the running for pole position at the NBA Draft lottery, where this year's grand prize is grander than most.
|Blake Griffin averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds as a sophomore. (AP)|
Simply stated: If you luck into the No. 1 pick and add the super Sooner to your frontcourt, even a 20-game winner could challenge for a playoff spot next season. Whereas if you pick second (or below), you better look elsewhere for your chief means of improvement ... or plan on another game of pingpong next May.
Throwing records and lottery odds aside, it's clear who should get the No. 1 pick in June. Here's how I rate the weakest of the weak in the NBA today (record through Monday's games in parentheses):
1. Sacramento (16-56): The sad part about the Kings' worst-in-the-league record is they offer no excuses. Everybody has been relatively healthy, their best player (Kevin Martin) is having a good season and their past two lottery picks (Spencer Hawes and Jason Thompson) have potential. This team is so bad, it's the only one in the league that probably wouldn't make the playoffs even with the addition of Griffin.
2. Memphis (19-54): The Grizzlies have taken one nice step at a time with Michael Conley and O.J. Mayo in the backcourt and Rudy Gay and Hakim Warrick up front. They are a dominant big man away from being the next Portland. Griffin's that guy. Without him, they're the next Oklahoma City.
3. Oklahoma City (20-53): The Thunder are a year behind the Grizzlies in terms of the grand plan, but their foundation of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and Jeff Green trumps Memphis' best three. Like the Grizzlies, the biggest remaining hole is in the middle, which is the hardest to fill. That's why landing Griffin, a native of the Oklahoma City area, would be a dream come true -- and an instant ticket to the playoffs.
4. Minnesota (21-53): Kudos to Kevin McHale for getting the most out of the least this season. This collection of talent without Al Jefferson should be challenging the Kings for lottery favoritism. But with a healthy Jefferson and Kevin Love up front, the Timberwolves need Griffin far less than the top three on this list. After making a Love-Mayo draft-day trade last June, they need this year's Mayo, who probably doesn't exist.
5. Los Angeles Clippers (18-56): If this rag-tag organization lands the No. 1 pick, there should be an immediate do-over. With Baron Davis, Ricky Davis, Zach Randolph and Marcus Camby, the Clippers waste more talent than any two teams west of New York City. They're going nowhere anytime soon, and Griffin's career will go nowhere if he lands with this group.
6. Washington (17-58): Let's be honest: This is not one of the six worst teams in the league. With Gilbert Arenas in the lineup a majority of the season, the Wizards would have at least 10 more wins, which would put them on the fringe of the playoff chase in the East. They don't need Griffin to be right back there next year.
So, who's No. 30 in this week's CBSSports.com Power Rankings? It's gotta be the Clippers, because the worst team in the league (Sacramento) has too much pride to reside there.