Power Tankings: We can only count on three teams to tank now
The Week 8 Power Tankings shows us a new No. 2 as we keep our eyes on pseudo-playoff hopefuls in the East.
The Boston Celtics are competitive enough to win the apocalyptic Atlantic Division. The Brooklyn Nets are finally getting healthy enough to right the ship. The New York Knicks tanking doesn't even matter because it would be tanking for the Denver Nuggets. It's kind of like waiting in line in sub-zero temperatures outside of a Best Buy to buy your son a PS4 while he vacations with his wife in Hawaii in December (I actually witnessed a woman in her 60's doing this on Sunday). The Cleveland Cavaliers and Orlando Magic might not be in the tanking business for much longer with their health looking positive.
As for now, we don't have many more days of five teams playing the tanking game -- at least it may not be that extensive until we get to late February. Then the trade deadline combined with the realization that the playoffs aren't for you (yes, even in the East we'll get to that point) could lead to some "Mark Madsen takes seven 3-pointers in two overtime periods on the final day of the season" type moments. However, we might get that for a couple of weeks.
Until then, we can count on the Milwaukee Bucks, Philadelphia 76ers and Utah Jazz to satiate our desire to complain/champion tanking in the NBA this year. The Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls may even join the party at some point.
Here are the Week 8 Power Tankings:
|1. Milwaukee Bucks|
Record: 5-19 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -10.3 points per 100 possessions
I rarely make demands about playing time for a young player. I believe in the process of earning your minutes over a veteran because it forces a young guy to learn how to play a more intelligent game right off the bat. Even if the veteran is only a couple years ahead of the young player we want to see more of, earning your spot instead of having it being given to you is something I like seeing. That goes even for most of the bad teams out there.
Where I have an issue is when a team is so bad that it clearly doesn't have a shot to win games and it doesn't look like it has assembled a roster to even attempt that. I think that's what we currently have with the Milwaukee Bucks. Sure, Larry Sanders is injured and Caron Butler is banged up. Carlos Delfino is out for months on months. But this team can't be designed to win all that much considering it can't score. Since that's the case, John Henson needs to be higher than fifth in usage on the team. Giannis Antetokounmpo can't be second to last on the team in usage. Get the young guys some run and start developing them early, even if you're not going to be around long-term, Larry Drew.
|2. Philadelphia 76ers|
Record: 7-18 (0-4 this week), Net Rating: -8.2 points per 100 possessions
The record and net rating for the Jazz are both worse than what we're seeing out of the Philadelphia 76ers. So why do the Sixers move up into the second spot in Power Tankings? This team is trending downward in a big way. Philly is just 1-10 in its past 11 games with the only victory coming in a double-OT win over the Orlando Magic at home. In the Sixers' current six-game losing streak, they lost by double digits to the Bobcats, Nuggets and Clippers then blew a 19-point lead to the Wolves before being competitive against the Raptors and then getting annihilated by the Blazers.
There are a lot of acceptable losses in there, even with the big numbers. The thing is just that we're starting to see what this team was designed to do. Furthermore, we may be seeing Thaddeus Young traded for Omer Asik in some type of deal in the near future. Sure, the Sixers need defense in the worst way but they also can't afford to give up much on offense. You know ... if we were pretending that the organization wants to win games this year. Sam Hinkie is kind of a genius.
|3. Utah Jazz|
Record: 6-20 (2-2 this week), Net Rating: -10.0 points per 100 possessions
The Jazz had a fun week. Their two losses came at home to the Trail Blazers (who isn't losing to the Blazers right now?) and the Spurs. No shame in any of that. Their two wins came in blowout fashion over the Kings in Sacramento and a gritty victory over the Nuggets in Denver. Ever since Trey Burke returned, they've been oddly competitive. Before he made his debut, the team was 1-11 with an offensive rating of 92.2 and a defensive rating of 105.4. They had the worst net rating in the league at -13.2. Since his debut?
They're 5-9 with an offensive rating of 103.0 and a defensive rating of 110.3. That's a net rating of -7.3, which isn't good but it's certainly more exciting (with the bumped-up offense) and more competitive than what we saw before Burke was on the court. This is probably around what the Jazz want to be -- top 3 in the lottery odds with the team learning how to be a pain in the backcourt.
|4. Orlando Magic|
Record: 7-17 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -3.9 points per 100 possessions
This probably isn't very fair to the Magic because they've fallen off their nice start since enduring a bunch of injuries. They're still just 1-8 in their past nine games though, which has shot them from being scrappy competitive to sliding toward the bottom of the league. Their net rating doesn't warrant them such a low spot, but this is a little precautionary with the idea that they may make some moves with some of their better veterans. If the Magic aren't in Power Tankings next week or even for the next month, it wouldn't shock me.
My biggest question going forward for the Magic is where does their rotation shake out? Tobias Harris coming off the bench doesn't seem like a beneficial role for him after what we saw last year. But can you start him over Glen Davis right now? Should you move Davis to make room for Harris in the rotation? Should you move Arron Afflalo to maximize his trade value? Why did they ever sign Jason Maxiell? These are the questions I have about the short term of this team, which could impact the long term.
|5. Cleveland Cavaliers|
Record: 9-14 (2-1 this week), Net Rating: -6.0 points per 100 possessions
They still have the fourth-worst net rating in the NBA but they look like they're starting to turn things around to where we won't be able to playfully accuse them of tanking. At least not until they let another random attendee run on the court for 20 seconds and go ask a player if they like his new t-shirt. The Cavs had a quality win over the Knicks (well, as quality as you can call that so far this season) and backed that up with a nice win over the Magic. More important, Kyrie Irving had 68 points on 26-of-47 shooting to go with 16 assists in those two wins. Their only loss came in Miami against the Heat. You can live with that.
If Irving is back on track and the team is relatively healthy, they'll make the playoffs in the East because it's essentially playing the board game Operation while you're completely sober. You can only touch the metal sides if you're trying to touch the metal sides. I wouldn't put it past them to start buzzing themselves to watch the red nose light up. If Irving has another injury that takes him out for 20 games, they'll tank like Dajuan Wagner is on the roster. As of right now, things seem to be correcting themselves.
|Still keeping an eye on: Toronto Raptors|
Record: 9-13 (2-1 this week), Net Rating: +0.4 points per 100 possessions
As if you couldn't add more hilarity to the Rudy Gay vs. Advanced Stats federal court case, the Raptors are 3-1 since dealing away the expensive small forward. Sometimes, you'll see a nice surge in a roster and game plan after a big player has been dealt. Regardless of what we think of said player, playing without the "restrictions" of getting that guy his touches can be liberating for a team. However, eight of their next 11 games are on the road and we'll see if this team is truly improved. They had a nice win over the Lakers after Gay was first traded, then lost to the Spurs before back-to-back wins over the Raptors and the hapless Bulls. Speaking of the hapless Bulls ...
|Keeping an eye on: Chicago Bulls|
Record: 9-13 (1-3 this week), Net Rating: -2.1 points per 100 possessions
Thibs, I know I can't convince you to start tanking but I also may not have to. Your style coupled with this current roster isn't built for what you like to see on the court. Signing D.J. Augustin to steady an offensive attack also isn't going to help you, even though he was once mistakenly a lottery pick. If anything, it's setting you up to lose a bunch of games, which is more than respectable. You'll try to put up a fight. Some nights you'll be able to rally against the Miami Heat you hate so much; some nights it will take a miracle for you to beat the Bucks.
What's important is that your fans have hope. And that's exactly what Jabari Parker is right now for you; he's hope. Chicago kid. High profile one-and-done star prospect. Unlikely scenario you end up with the pick that nets drafting him. Sound familiar? I've seen this movie before and I've been waiting for a sequel. Your fans are already in line for advanced ticket sales. Green light the movie, Thibs!
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