Welcome to the first installment of Posterized’s Tankathon Tracker. Each week we will keep you updated on arguably the most excited post all star storyline of the NBA, the race to the number 1 pick.
Tanking is the hottest topic in the NBA right now and this year may be the most intense tanking season yet. Only last week did the bottom ten teams combine for a cumulative losing streak of 45 games.
8 Teams will be all out tanking in 2018, The Suns, Grizzlies, Kings, Mavs, Hawks, Bulls, Magic and Knicks. The Nets and Lakers will be token participants in this years edition, being without their own picks, but will play an interesting spoiler role. Indeed the impact of the Nets season on the league could be profound if it influences Lebron James’ free agency decision. The Lakers season is equally intriguing, should the pick fall between 2-5 the Celtics will add another young talent to their already stacked playoff roster, outside of those slots the 76ers can add to the yield of the process. The only loser is the Lakers.
In this weekly feature we will explore the bad, the bad and the ugly of the NBA as 8 teams deliberately lose and two others do stuff.
NY 120 – 113 ORL
In their first game back from the break the Knicks, who have lost Kristaps Porzingis for the season, beat the Orlando Magic 120-113 on the back of 23 from Tim Hardaway Jr and 26 from Trey Burke. The Knicks Trailed 69-63 at Half Time in a high scoring affair. Scores were tied at 95-95 with just over nine minutes to go before Trey Burke channeled his inner point god, assisting on three unanswered baskets, before hitting a jumper of his own to take a 6 point lead the Knicks would never relinquish. Hardaway Jr and Burke either scored or assisted on 16 of the teams final 25 points to secure the victory. You will be hard pressed to find a more depressing way for your team to come up big in the 4th.
DAL 109 – 103 IND
Having the vertically challenged JJ Barea come off the bench to lead your team to victory over the playoff bound Pacers with 19 points and 9 assists in 26 minutes is the antithesis of what a tanking team needs at this stage of the season. Why this franchise cannot give Dirk the Kobe send off he deserves whilst playing Dennis Smith Jr 40 minutes a night is beyond this writer. The Mavs finished this game with 7 straight made Free Throws. If that isn’t a chance to tank a game I don’t know what is. Owner Mark Cuban has openly stated his team is best off losing, I think it’s time the players listened.
PHI 116 – 115 CHI
This was the ideal tanking scenario for any team. Two young squads duking it out for the future of the NBA. The Bulls staying competitive on the back of their generational superstar Bobby Portis’ big night, scoring 38 (just shy of 40), and his 1a Zach Lavine (23 points). Round out the squad with the likes of Markennan and Dunn, who wouldn’t want this young up and coming franchise that went toe to toe with the soon to be minted completed process? But don’t let all this positivity fool you, it’s a race to the bottom and you can always count on your vets to stand up and be counted when it counts. In what could be the play of the year in the tankathon, 4 year college man Denzel Valentine showed us he has ice in his veins. With the Bulls leading 115 – 114 with 5 seconds remaining, Valentine executes a clutch turnover on the inbounds pass and then rather than playing defense, Valentine fouls simmons and sends him to the foul line, where he surprisingly hits two free throws and seals the well deserved loss for the Bulls.
LAL 113 – 108 SAC
What a game from the Kings. There is a perfect way to tank. Focus on player development, give your young core plenty of playing time and the freedom to make mistakes, be competitive enough to show your fans and the league there is a future and most importantly lose.
The Kings expertly executed this strategy in this match. Look at these stat lines:
- Bogdanovic 21 pts, 4 3pts, 6 reb, 4 ast, 1 stl, 1 blk.
- Cauley-Stien 18 pts, 15 reb, 2 stl, 2 blk
- Heild 21 pts, 8 reb
- Fox 13 pts, 6 ast
As a Kings fan you have to be happy with that sort of promise, and if you didn’t know better you might guess they won. But luckily they lost and in what fashion. Their game plan of play no defense and let KCP score 34 points worked perfectly. The highlight was to have Bogdanovic convert on a 4 point play to bring the Kings within 1 with 12 seconds to go before handing the game over with a missed layup.
The Lakers have no reason to tank, but still are not good. They do finally seem to have a sense of identity after making their deadline moves, clearing the way for Julius Randle and for Isaiah Thomas and Lonzo Ball to co-exist. At the time of writing the Lakers are 4-0 since the All-Star break and have won 7 of their last 10. The Lakers currently sit 8 wins above the 5th worst Kings and have only a 4% chance of a top 3 pick, so the selection is all but secured for the 76ers. However look for this young team with a volatile superstar to go on a losing streak and shake up the draft order.
The Nets sit 7th in the tank race but only 2 wins above the worst record in the league. Remarkable that this squad is 2-14 over its last 16 considering this team has no reason to lose. The road home is rough for this squad, with plenty of match ups against playoff teams or playoff hopefuls. The Cavs will be licking their lips.
If you haven’t yet visit Tankathon.com, a neat website that will simulate the draft lottery as it presently stands. Each week we will do a simulation and provide a quick assessment of the outcome (Mock Draft based on projected team selections)
Dallas Jump up three spots to claim the number 1 overall selection despite only holding a 9% chance at the top pick. Sacramento also jump up three spots to pick at number 2. Orlando draw the number 3 pick, sliding down two spots from number 1. Memphis and Phoenix both drop 2 spots to pick at 4 and 5 respectively.
The Brooklyn pick conveys to the Caves at 7 and the Lakers pick goes to the 76ers at 10.
1. Dallas – DeAndre Ayton
Dallas add DeAndre Ayton with the first overall pick here. Whilst I believe Doncic is the best prospect on the board, I think Dallas will trust they have made a good selection in ball dominant Smith Jr in 2017 and pair him with a physical phenom at the Center Position. Whilst I wouldn’t be taking Ayton here, you cannot argue with his gifts and with the scary ceiling if it pans out.
2. Sacramento – Marvin Bagley
Sacramento have youth across the board and in this scenario, have a tough choice between Doncic, Bagley, Porter Jr, Mo Bamba and Jaren Jackson Jr. The kings just need to take the best talent here, and it could be any one of them, although Bamba and Jackson Jr do not appear to have the same star potential as the others. I tend to feel as though Ranadive will have trouble staying away from the shiny stats, and may be cautious of overseas talent after their recent experiences. Bagley has limitations and big questions around what position and role he plays in the NBA but he is a very good player with athleticism, energy and elite skills.
3. Orlando – Luka Doncic
Orlando are over the moon here. They get their Ben Simmons style playmaker who could be a generational player. The International wing is having an historic season for Real Madrid averaging 17 points and 5 rebounds as a 18 year old.
4. Memphis – Jaren Jackson Jr
Jackson Jr may not be the guy that is number 1 on a Championship team but he projects to be an outstanding number 2 or 3. Right now it feels as though Jackson Jr has the highest floor of all prospects. His numbers are not as flashy as others, expect the 3.2 blocks and the near 40% 3pt shooting. Jackson is the heir apparent to Marc Gasol in Memphis.
5. Phoenix – Mo Bamba
Outside of selecting Devin Booker 13th which was a master stroke, Phoenix have not drafted too well recently. All things considered, Jackson was an ok pick at 4th, there will be better players who were selected later but it wasn’t a complete muff, Bender at 4 the year before has not worked out, however that was a weak draft beyond the top two. This year they do need to come away with a genuine NBA starter. Taking Mo Bamba at 5 is a great theoretical fit with Devin Booker and a great successor to Tyson Chandler. I don’t view him as a franchise changing superstar like some, however imagine 2017-18 Clint Capela permanently in super saiyan mode. He will finish his career with more than a few first team all defensive seasons.
Title Photo Credit: AP Photo/Matt York