With the All-Star break in the rearview, it’s time for every NBA diehard’s favorite time of the year. While the rest of the plebes closely monitor the race for better playoff seeding, the real basketball nerds get to geek out over how great the NBA’s worst teams are at losing games. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s tanking SZN! This is one of the tightest races to the bottom we’ve ever had, as the bottom eight teams in the league are separated by a mere two and a half games. Here’s the breakdown of how all eight are fighting for those ever-so important ping-pong balls.
Chicago Bulls (20-41): The Bulls have merely scratched the surface of their tanking potential. Despite being an actual NBA team, they only have like six actual NBA players on the active roster. Going to the bench early and often will keep them out of striking distance in most games. Chicago has three key matchups over the next couple weeks, with two games against Memphis and one against Atlanta. Losing all three will solidify their place in the hunt for the first pick.
Brooklyn Nets (20-42): Someone should tell the Nets that they don’t even have their first round pick in the upcoming draft, because with the way they’re tanking Cleveland is going to end up in the top-5. Brooklyn has lost nine of their last ten, with the only win coming against the aforementioned Bulls. The only upside I can see to being this bad without a pick is so they can deter free agents from coming in the offseason and tank again next year?
Dallas Mavericks (19-42): The Mavericks were losing at a remarkable rate until Mark Cuban broke the first rule of tanking: don’t talk about tanking. They were forced to beat the playoff bound Indiana Pacers to appease Adam Silver, and every game counts when the stakes are this high.
Memphis Grizzlies (18-41): Memphis is one of the hottest teams in basketball, as they have lost their last ten games in a row and have yet to win a game in the month of February. Plus, they were able to lose four of those games by single digits, keeping the commissioner’s office off the scent. If they keep playing like this, the Grizzlies will have as good a chance as any at securing a top-three pick.
Orlando Magic (18-42): The Magic have done a phenomenal job assembling a group of players that all deserve to be in the league without adding any that would actually help them win games. They should really consider a coaching change, as Frank Vogel has this group winning far more often than they should (which is never). I’m sure Byron Scott or another tank friendly replacement is available.
Atlanta Hawks (18-43): Just three short years ago, four Atlanta Hawks were selected to the All-Star team. Now, all four are gone and the best thing you can say about this team is that John Collins III can clearly dunk at the NBA level. Life comes at you fast. The Hawks have taken it in stride though, and have somehow tanked their way to last place in the East, no small feat. It’s their race to lose and they certainly have the talent (or lack thereof) to get it done.
Sacramento Kings (18-43): Vivek Ranadive is my favorite owner in the NBA, because his very ideas about basketball are tanking. The guy traded DeMarcus Cousins, a four time all-star and the best center in the league, for Buddy Hield, a couple picks, 74 cents in pennies and nickels, and a half eaten bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. His reasoning? “Buddy has Steph Curry potential.” Holy crap. I want Ranadive to become the GM and coach too just to see what insanity the man comes up with next. Their leading scorer is thirty-six year old Zach Randolph, who’s averaging a whopping 14.9 PPG, and they play Vince Carter SEVENTEEN MINUTES A GAME. HE’S FORTY-ONE YEARS OLD. In other words, the Kings are tanking just fine and look primed to draft another young star to put next to De’Aaron Fox. That is, unless Ranadive decides Grayson Allen is the second coming of Jerry West.
Phoenix Suns (18-44): The owners of the NBA’s worst record are almost unfathomably bad. The Suns have lost ten straight, peaking with a forty-six point loss to Golden State while the PLAYERS COACHED THE TEAM. The sheer incompetence of his teammates has left Devin Booker looking like a looter in a riot. It really seems like Phoenix had a meeting to implement their tanking strategy and forget to invite Booker. This team has the potential to lose every game remaining on their schedule, and they probably should, as it would secure the highest odds to get the number one pick.
New York Knicks (24-38): Since losing Kristaps Porzingis to injury on February 6th, the Knicks are 0-7 and appear to have entered full tank mode. They’ve got some catching up to do, but key matchups against the Kings, Mavericks, and Bulls in March will give them a chance to get back in the hunt.