Friday, November 29, 2013

NBA Power Tankings Through November

With the 2014 NBA Draft expected to be filled with potential franchise-changers in Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, and Jabari Parker (among more), many teams have jumped at the opportunity to tank their way to a high draft pick and therefore one of the college stars. The problem is, of course, the lottery, which is designed to prevent tanking, as the chart below displays (Courtesy of SB Nation). So, these rankings are based on which teams have the best chance of earning the most lottery balls, giving them the highest chance at the first pick.

1.  Utah Jazz (2-14): The Jazz had a really good thing going last year with Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap in the front court along with Derrick Favors, Gordon Hayward, and Mo Williams as complementary pieces. Now, with Big Al, Millsap, and Williams all gone, Favors and Hayward have had to become go-to guys, both of whom are not best suited for that role. Also, Enes Kanter and Trey Burke have had to step up prematurely. With no superstar, the Jazz are in all-out tanking, and currently have the best chance at the #1 pick.

2.  Milwaukee Bucks (2-12): The Bucks traded their best prospect in Tobias Harris last season for J.J. Reddick, who was traded to the Clippers in the offseason. They signed O.J. Mayo this offeason. These two moves make the Bucks seem committed to putting together a competitive team, but then they draft Giannis Antetokounmpo (who?!?) with their first round pick and you remember their best player is Larry Sanders. Now it looks like they're tanking. The answer is probably somewhere in between, but the bottom line is that the Bucks have a great chance of drafting Wiggins, Randle, or Parker, so if they know what is best for them they will not change a thing.

3.  Philadelphia 76ers (6-10): After starting off 4-0, many thought the 76ers would be a surprise playoff team in the extremely-weak Eastern Conference, but they have since gone 2-10. This fall back down to earth is exactly along the lines of what everyone thought there season would be like.  Michael Carter-Williams should win Rookie of the Year, and he will develop into a solid player for them. Their plan seems perfect, as Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young, and Spencer Hawes will be able to complement Nerlens Noel and the two first rounders that the Sixers have in the draft this year (one from the Pelicans). If they keep losing, their future will continue to grow brighter.

4.  Cleveland Cavaliers (4-11): The Cavaliers have had the #1 overall pick 2 out of the last three years, and have very little to show for it. Kyrie Irving has underperformed, Anthony Bennett is clearly not ready for the NBA, and Andrew Bynum will never be what he was with the Lakers. If the Cavs get the #1 pick these year, however, they are almost certain to draft a franchise-changer. Tanking is the best option for this team, as three former #1 overall picks along with Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, and Anderson Varejao would surely be able to entice one of the elite free agents this offseason. They may be trying to win, but they are failing, but this year losing is in their best interest.

5.  Sacramento Kings (4-9): DeMarcus Cousins is the only real star on the Kings. However, he can only do so much by himself, especially without any real complementary pieces besides Isaiah Thomas. The Kings are not awful in any statistical category, but being too average in the NBA will lead you to where the Kings are: too often stuck in the middle of the draft because they are not good enough to win but still have good enough players that they never get one of the top 3 picks. Hopefully for them, that will change this year, but if Cousins keeps averaging career highs in points per game (21.3), rebounds per game (10.5) and blocks per game (1.2), then they will end up with a pick in the 5-10 range.

6.  Boston Celtics (6-11): The Celtics are another team with no real star. Jeff Green is not capable of being "The Guy" for them, and the rest of their roster, in Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, Gerald Wallace, Jordan Crawford, Kelley Olynyk, Brandon Bass, Courtney Lee, and Kris Humphries are all best-suited for bench roles but have started off-and-on this year. The Celtics best option, which appears to be their goal, is to tank while giving their young guys playing time to develop. However, with an up-and-coming coach in Brad Stevens who is looking to make a name for himself in the NBA, the Celtics may win a few too many games this year.

7.  New York Knicks (3-11): How are the Knicks where they are with perennial all-star Carmelo Anthony leading a team of Tyson Chandler, Amare Stoudemire, Iman Shumpert, and Andrea Bargnani? No matter how many "bad days" they have had, there is no way the Knicks should only have three wins on the season. Lack of defense and extremely low shooting percentages from Anthony (42.6% of 312 shooting attempts - 2nd most in the league) and Bargnani (46.1%) are finally catching up to them. The only reason why they are this low in the rankings despite their record is because they have so much talent- they just need to play up to it. If the Knicks are on this list by the end of the season, serious changes will have to be made.

8.  Brooklyn Nets (4-11): Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Brook Lopez. All their starters are all-stars, yet they are 7 games under .500. This has to be a case of too much talent on one team in a sport where it is just not possible to get enough touches to that many great players. Jason Kidd seems to not be ready to coach in the NBA, the aforementioned starting 5 all take bad shots because they feel they need to make something happen when they get the ball because their touches are limited. However, even if their unlikely struggles continue for the entire season, they owe their draft pick to either the Celtics or the Hawks (the Celtics own their pick but the Hawks have the right to trade picks with Brooklyn first), they would not reap the benefits via the draft of such horrific basketball. The Nets have no other option but to improve, and for their sake, they better do it fast.

9.  Orlando Magic (6-9): The Magic are like the 76ers. They have a lot of young talent in Tobias Harris, Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic, Mo Harkless, and Andrew Nicholson, all of whom are under 23 years-old, and all will have the playing time this season to improve- but without producing wins. It is the perfect blueprint for the post-Howard Magic, and they are off to a great start, currently 3 games under .500. It sure seems likely that, in at least two years, the Magic will be a contender in the East. They only have to hope that their plethora of young talent does not rack up too many wins this season that they don't end up with a realistic shot at a Top 3 pick.

10.  Detroit Pistons (6-9): The Pistons signed Josh Smith and Brandon Jennings in order to be a contender in the weak Eastern Conference. The scary thing is, even being 3 games under .500, they are tied with Magic for the 8th playoff spot. Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond have improved immensely since their respective rookie years and seem to be perennial all-star big men, but as Smith and Jennings have not reached expectations, the Pistons have snagged the final spot in these rankings. However, the Piston's are definitely NOT tanking, so with the effort and talent they are putting out there for every game, they should not be listed here for long, and instead may even get to the "On the Verge" mark of the Power Rankings.

On the Verge: Washington Wizards (7-8), Toronto Raptors (6-8), New Orleans Pelicans (6-8), Charlotte Bobcats (7-9).

Team by record
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