Power Tankings: Has the Sun set on Phoenix with tanking?
The Sixers are coming back toward the light, the Jazz are a mess and the Nuggets are on the bubble right now. But we have to say goodbye to someone in Power Tankings.
The Power Tankings started looking a little shaky after the first week of the season. The Philadelphia 76ers didn't lose, the Phoenix Suns started to look like a problem and the Orlando Magic were destroying the idea that they would tank. Luckily, Power Tankings follows teams for the entire season, meaning glitches in the matrix can get ironed out and we can see teams truly embrace being bad. That's exactly what seemed to happen in the second week, saving the good name of Power Tankings that took weeks to build up.
The Sixers fell back down to earth, the Magic struggled a bit and the Utah Jazz have been so bad that they're no longer on the bubble but have moved to the top of the list. The Sacramento Kings have been kind enough to fall apart after their first victory of the season, while the Boston Celtics may have just celebrated their own championship this week.
It's fun to have new teams throwing their names into the Tankings hat, but we also have to say goodbye to a team for the time being as they've risen like a phoenix in the first two weeks of the season.
Here are the Week 3 Power Tankings:
|1. Utah Jazz|
Record: 0-7 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -14.6 points per 100 possessions
I really hope the Jazz are tanking because if they haven't started yet, this is going to get really awkward in February. Coming into the season, it looked like the Jazz were going to be a really tough team to beat throughout the regular season. They've actually been pretty easy to dispose of through their first seven games. They currently have the worst net differential in the NBA and it's not even close (Kings are second at -9.1). They had close losses to the Oklahoma City Thunder and Phoenix Suns the first two games of the season. Every loss since has been by double digits.
There are a few problems for Utah right now. First, they don't have an adequate point guard because Trey Burke is still out. Second, they're shooting 23.6 percent from 3-point range. Derrick Favors is shooting 41.7 percent from the field and can't make anything on the left side of the restricted area (38.9 percent). Things are all bad for the Jazz right now and they need Burke back (and to be really good) in a hurry.
|2. Sacramento Kings|
Record: 1-5 (0-3 this week), Net Rating: -9.1 points per 100 possessions
The Kings started off their new season riding a ton of emotions for the opening night in Sacramento, celebrating the team staying after a tumultuous two years of not knowing the future address of the franchise. After beating a bad Denver Nuggets team that night, they've managed to drop five straight and are starting to look like the Kings of old. Not all of their losses have been blowouts. They had a close one to the Los Angeles Clippers and a close loss to the Atlanta Hawks. But the numbers are skewing away from them being a competitive team right now.
The Kings are feeding DeMarcus Cousins early and often, which can be a good and bad thing at the same time. Cousins has an astronomical usage rate of 36.0 percent right now. To put that in perspective, he would be just the sixth player (ninth time) in NBA history to have a usage rate that high if it holds. The team has clearly decided if they're going to tank, they're going to tank by turning Cousins into the gluttony victim in Se7en. As Method Man once said, "keep feeding you and feeding you, and feeding you, and feeding you."
|3. Philadelphia 76ers|
Record: 4-3 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -1.4 points per 100 possessions
That's more like it, fellas! I get it; I really do. You messed up the first week. You're professional athletes and you didn't want to be embarrassed. When you stepped onto the hardwood court, you felt a little sting out there. That was pride messing with you. Forget pride. Pride only hurts; it never helps. Michael Carter-Williams wanted to prove the doubters that watched him play poorly in the preseason wrong. Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner are playing to get traded to a contender. Spencer Hawes is ... well, you never know what his motivations might be.
This week, we didn't really see teams taking the Sixers as lightly as they did the first week. Word got out that you have to come to play against a chaotic bunch and that's probably the most flattering standard you could set for yourself in the first week of a season when you're expected to be historically bad. Now just ease into those losses and start counting lottery combinations.
|4. Boston Celtics|
Record: 3-4 (3-1 this week), Net Rating: -3.8 points per 100 possessions
The Jeff Green game-winner in Miami was the NBA Finals for the Celtics and their fans this season. Now that they've had their moment, they can really start falling apart to try to secure a high draft position. We'll see just how serious this team is this week with the upcoming schedule. Usually when you say that about a team, it means they have a tough road ahead of them and get to prove how good they are.
With the Celtics' week, we get to see if they're really as bad as most power rankings and preseason prognostications are making them out to be. They have a three-game homestand with the Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers (not bad but should be able to compete in Boston against them). Then they fly to Minnesota for a road game against the Timberwolves. A bad team goes 1-3 or 0-4 against such a mediocre schedule.
|5. Orlando Magic|
Record: 3-4 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: +3.5 points per 100 possessions
There is still an unhealthy amount of positivity in that net rating there, but that's probably not going to go away unless a major injury happens to this team. While the Magic should be tanking and trying to figure out how to grab either Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker or Julius Randle, it looks like they're trying to figure out how to be the next Oklahoma City Thunder. If this net rating doesn't fall significantly in the next week or two, the Magic may have a disappearing act in Power Tankings.
Do you get it? Because a disappearing act is like a magic trick. Abracadabra!
|Keeping an eye on: Denver Nuggets|
Record: 1-4 (1-2 this week), Net Rating: -7.1 points per 100 possessions
This team sucks right now and with JaVale McGee out indefinitely, they may suck even more if JJ Hickson becomes the starting center. We saw this experiment with the Blazers last season except Kenneth Faried is no LaMarcus Aldridge. The Nuggets can't stop anybody right now and Brian Shaw doesn't seem to have a clue on what his rotation should be. Until forwards Wilson Chandler and Danilo Gallinari return, this could get into tanking territory.
|Honorable mention: Cleveland Cavaliers|
How you got here: 94-79 loss to the Sixers
I know the Cavaliers are struggling to score here but against the Philadelphia 76ers, you should be able to get into a rhythm that allows you to crack 80. They came back the next game against the same Sixers and won a double-overtime thriller thanks to point guard Kyrie Irving finally playing like himself again.
|We have to say goodbye: Phoenix Suns|
Record: 5-2 (3-1 this week), Net Rating: +5.0 points per 100 possessions
I can't in good conscience continue to keep the Phoenix Suns in Power Tankings while they're playing the way they are. Their only two losses of the season were to the Thunder and Spurs, and both games were pretty close. They've looked unbeatable at home (4-0, net rating of +9.7) and the team isn't even being hurt anymore when Gerald Green is on the floor (+0.6). Barring a total collapse against the Blazers and Nets this week, the Suns have set in Power Tankings.
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