A look at the other end of the standings, and the race for the most ping pong balls in June's lottery.
While early December is generally too early to look at the NBA standings and potential playoff seedings, the races for the top spots in each conference are heated. However, the teams that are not participating in the race for the top are involved in a race of their own:
The Great Tank of 2018
Until the current draft format is revised, bottom feeders will occasionally, seemingly, lose on purpose. The players won’t, but management makes it happen. Key players will get nights off. “Injuries” will occur. Rotations and playing time will be out of whack. All of it to ensure a greater chance of obtaining a Top-10, better yet a Top-3, pick in the draft at the conclusion of the season. This season’s tanking efforts will be rewarded with what is shaping up to be a very talented draft. Names like Porter, Bagley, and Doncic are already solidifying the top of mock drafts, and fanbases are already working out how they’d fit on their squad. ’Tis the season.
We will be providing weekly/bi-weekly updates on Tank 2018, including current standings, relevant games, and general tank information.
Current Standings (December 5th)
The Chicago Bulls have done their due diligence in maintaining their spot at the bottom. They’ve lost eight in a row, most notably two huge losses to Phoenix and Sacramento last week. Chicago holds a solid 1.5 game lead over Atlanta for the worst record.
After an eleven-game losing streak put them right in the mix, the Memphis Grizzlies are a Marc Gasol trade away from being fully committed. They fired their second-year head coach and did everyone a favor by losing to Dallas the day before Thanksgiving. They’ve played good teams as of late and will continue to do so until the week before Christmas. Look for Memphis to rack up the losses in the upcoming weeks.
The Dallas Mavericks didn’t do themselves any favors last week. They enjoyed back-to-back victories for their sixth and seventh wins of the season, pushing them further away from idols Chicago and Atlanta. One of those Maverick victories came against the Clippers, who find themselves right in the mix. Dallas is 5-5 over their last ten games, the best record for anyone in the bottom-11.
Relevant Games (Last week)
Suns 104, Bulls 99
Kings 107, Bulls 106
These two games were huge for Chicago this week. Both losses came at home against West Coast teams who are each on 7+ day road trips. The wins pushed the Suns 3.5 games back, and the Kings three games.
Hawks 114, Nets 102
Nets 110, Hawks 90
The victory by the Hawks in the first game of their home-and-home series with the Nets meant significantly more in terms of the tank than the win by the Nets in the second game. Atlanta’s win is a loss for them, giving the Bulls a solid 1.5 game cushion instead of just a half game. The Hawks victory would have meant more for the Mavericks had Dallas not won its last two games.
Mavericks 108, Clippers 82
The Clippers, who joined the tank in November thanks to a nine-game losing streak, fell victim to the Dallas Mavericks who enjoyed their sixth win of the season. The gap between the two teams in the standings dropped to 3 games, and another two nights later when the Mavericks won their second game in a row. Their two victories last week will push the Mavs out of any top-2 conversation, for now.
Relevant Games (Next week)
Hawks @ Magic - 12/6
Magic @ Hawks - 12/9
The Hawks play yet another home-and-home this week, this time against the Orlando Magic. There are only four games separating these teams, who currently hold the 2nd and 10th picks. A win by Atlanta in either game could stir up some movement.
Knicks @ Bulls - 12/9
Barring a big upset along the way, this is one of the only games that Chicago has a shot at winning before January.
Suns @ Kings - 12/12
Two teams who are veteran tankers collide in Sacramento, which may give the Kings an edge. Both teams are sandwiched in the mess that are spots 4 through 14, which are separated by just four games. The Suns won the first matchup 117-115 back in October.
If the Lakers pick falls in the 3 to 5 range, it is conveyed to the Celtics. LA is tied with Memphis for the 5th spot, meaning a coin toss would currently decide whether the Celtics would add another weapon in the possibly-loaded upcoming draft.
Despite the injuries, I don’t think the Clippers are in full-on tank mode. They will be if the DeAndre Jordan trade rumors come to fruition, but until then you can count on LA trying to pull themselves out of that bottom-10