Category Archives: Rankings

The 2017 first-round picks owed, ranked by drama

The NBA season is almost here. Several teams made major tweaks to their rosters over the summer, which makes it feel like there are more teams with playoff hopes in 2016-17. Eventually, though, the playoff race will narrow and be joined by the tankathon and additional excitement thanks to draft picks traded years ago. Going into the 2016-17 season, there are six first-round picks that could change hands, and I ranked them in terms of drama they could generate. That seemed a little goofy, but it made sense after writing this up. The draft pick Golden State owes to Utah, for example, will be as unexciting as it gets, which kicked off the #rankings. A number of sites go into detail about draft picks up in the air because of trades, but I prefer RealGM.

6. Golden State Warriors to Utah Jazz, unprotected

This was part of the July 10, 2013 trade that sent Andre Iguodala from the Denver Nuggets to the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors dumped a lot of salary (most notably Andris Biedrins’ contract and his Magic Beans) and multiple draft picks as the price to open up the necessary cap space to fit in Iguodala.

Since then, Iguodala’s been wonderful. The Warriors have been wonderful. It could’ve gone south whether from Stephen Curry‘s ankles, David Lee preferred over Draymond Green, Green not developing into a freakishy well-rounded player, a possible Kevin Love trade that goes horribly wrong, Mark Jackson, or whatever. Everything’s nice in Golden State, and it turns out that this will very likely be the 30th pick in next summer’s draft. There’s little to sweat over.

Maybe it’s a trade piece for Utah for something huge in the summer, but it’s also cheap enough to keep for what will become an expensive roster soon. Regardless, it feels like Utah’s approaching the one-player-away territory and finding that piece is never easy, but at least they have outs through the draft. Long shots, but still.

5. Los Angeles Clippers to Toronto Raptors, lottery protected

There were two poor trades that involved this pick. In the summer of 2014, Milwaukee initially received it from the Los Angeles Clippers to get Jared Dudley off Roc Divers’ books. A year later, Toronto got this draft pick from Milwaukee (and Norman Powell) in exchange for Greivis Vasquez.

The Clippers could fall off this year, making this a little dramatic by turning a late-20s pick into, well, an early-20s one. Not great, but hey, a good team like Toronto with multiple first-rounders is cool. They have opportunities for sustained success even after Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan are past their peaks. Wild cards lurk on their roster in Norman Powell, Terrence Ross, and Jonas Valanciunas, but it would obviously help if they nail next summer’s picks or use them in a nice trade, whatever that would be.

4. Memphis Grizzlies to Denver Nuggets, top-5 protected

The hidden treasure of a January 2013 trade between the Cavaliers and Grizzlies that involved four future Hall of Famers: Jon Leuer, Wayne Ellington, Marreese Speights, and Josh Selby. The Cavaliers eventually added this pick in a trade to acquire Timofey Mozgov.

This trade probably played a part in Memphis paying huge sums of money to keep Mike Conley and acquire Chandler Parsons. It’s just really hard to tear down a roster in one season and guarantee a top-five pick. Finish the season outside of the worst four records, and it’s a coin flip at best whether top-five protection works its magic. Memphis also owes a top-8 protected 2019 pick to Boston, because of course, Boston. Because of these draft obligations, the Grizzlies didn’t have much of a choice in which direction to go this summer.

For Denver, there’s still some drama here. Memphis could very well win over 50 games and put this pick in the mid-20s, but they could just as likely be a late-lottery team. Conley, Parsons, and Marc Gasol are injury risks thanks to all those body parts in the legs that need to be banned. Even at full health, the wing depth is shaky.

Overall, though, Denver will get few to no lottery balls out of this, but every additional draft pick helps on the rebuilding path.

3. Sacramento Kings to Chicago Bulls, top-10 protected, or to Philadelphia via swap rights

This draft pick changed hands starting at the 2011 Draft, attached with Omri Casspi to Cleveland for J.J. Hickson. Sacramento eventually acquired Casspi through free agency, and this pick has fallen in its protected range every single season. Over time, this draft pick changed hands again, as it was a trade piece to Chicago to acquire Luol Deng.

I flip-flopped between this pick and Memphis’ being third, but this got the nod because it could go down to the last few weeks and would be an amazing hold if it doesn’t convey next summer. Six seasons of Sacramento keeping their pick is possible, instead handing over a 2017 early second-round pick. It’s so hard to be bad for that long. Very, very Timberwolves-like to attach a first-rounder to a dumb trade and then hang onto it for a half-decade. After the Deng trade, which happened in January 2014, I wrote that it was a coin flip whether the Bulls would ever get to use this first-rounder. I mean, really, a coin flip if a top-10 protected pick would convey over the next four seasons. Any other team would be a near lock.

Chicago’s going to need that pick, though. They have nearly $70 million committed this season to players 27 or older. Sooner or later, a rebuild will probably have to happen, and using their pick with an additional one in the ~11 to 16 range would help. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Bulls and Kings with identical records by March, but Chicago making sure they have a worse record by the end of the season. The Kings are going to finish 10th? Nah, the Bulls are getting there and putting Sacramento at 11.

Chicago and Denver could own four of the five picks between 10 and 14, by the way. Fun times.

2. Brooklyn Nets to Boston, swap rights

Brooklyn could’ve made the 2014 Finals after shipping a ton of draft picks (and dead salary, by the way) for Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry. Maybe they were something along the lines of a solid, deep squad like the 1999-00 Blazers, but a bit older. It flamed out almost instantly. Brooklyn eventually found success going “small” in one of the craziest differences in performance from pre-January 1st to after, but it was too late to get very far with it.

That feels like forever ago. Now, the Nets are torn down and Boston’s reaping the benefits, now in the good-team-with-a-high-draft-pick scenario that’s been pretty rare until now. They have too many draft picks to know what to do, so maybe this is when they unload a few for a player who could make a defense that could be the best in the league even stingier. Or, because of Golden State, they play the long game of drafting moar prospects. Either way, it’s hard to go wrong here with Brooklyn in the early stages of rebuilding. They’re on the right track, but Boston’s still headed for a top five pick and possibly another in 2018.

1. Los Angeles Lakers to Philadelphia 76ers, top-3 protected

This obligation finished first because of the pick protection that Lakers and Sixers fans will sweat over all season. Boston’s getting Brooklyn’s pick, but we won’t know until the lottery results whether the Sixers get Los Angeles’. It’s the last piece of the trade with the Phoenix Suns that brought Steve Nash to Los Angeles, then was attached in a trade that brought, among other players, Brandon Knight to Phoenix, Michael Carter-Williams from Philadelphia to Milwaukee, and that draft pick to the Sixers.

And the pick has refused to convey. This will be the second-straight season of top-three protection (it was top-five protected in 2015). Even the worst team in the NBA has a 36 percent chance of finishing fourth in the draft lottery. The Lakers held on last year despite Philadelphia clearly being the worst team last season, giving Los Angeles a 44 percent chance of losing their pick but winding up with Brandon Ingram. The Lakers would’ve no longer been favored to keep their pick if they were third-worst, a 47/53 percent coin flip, but the lottery played out exactly where teams were slotted, so the protection would’ve held up anyway.

The Lakers should be terrible yet again, especially if Deng doesn’t play at power forward, but they will be without Kobe Bryants chucking and Byron Scott’s, well, everything. They will be less frustratingly terrible, though because of the pick protection there’s always a decent chance they hand over their draft pick to Philadelphia, giving the Sixers possibly two top-five picks in what should be a solid draft.

Another layer of drama is if the Lakers lose this year’s draft pick, they’ll have to give Orlando an unprotected 2019 first-rounder as part of the Dwight Howard trade. Both teams need that pick. Neither has been the same since that trade.

There could be a few more draft picks added to the list before the trade deadline, though Cleveland, Miami, Minnesota, and Oklahoma City are unable to trade theirs because of their 2018 firsts going elsewhere.

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Here’s a pie chart of my excitement for the NBA season

nba chart edIT2

Click to enlarge! Very helpful!

Honorable mentionsDirk Nowitzki rampage, the 1% chance Michael Jordan comes back, LeBron James‘ one-handed cross-court no-look passes, Brandon KnightKyrie Irving matchups, Damian Lillard, Marc Gasol and Tony Allen, every trade rumor surrounding Carlos Boozer, Metta World Peace quotes, when Stephen Curry catches fire, Craig Sager’s suits, flat tops, missed layups by Kendrick Perkins, Rasheed Wallace coaching, Al Jefferson chasing a scoring title, the 2013 rookie class, David Stern’s departure, Chris Boshand so much more.

Edit: Carlos Boozer’s And1s appeared twice. As of 7:45 p.m, one of them, with about the same excitement as LARRY SANDERS!, has been replaced by the Bucks’ Greek Freak, Giannis Antetokounmpo.  

NBA predictions–drawn from a hat: Eastern Conference

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If you missed the Western Conference or need an explanation about what the heck’s going on with these predictions, click here.

Yesterday, we looked at the Western Conference and what it would be like if their records were drawn from a hat. Today brings the Eastern Conference and scenarios for each team according to the record they drew. Let’s begin:

Team #1: Chicago Bulls

I’m just assuming my first time playing basketball in over a year will be the same as Derrick Rose’s:

Record from a hat: 46-36

This is a little weird when Chicago, if anything, has been terrific in the regular season compared to the playoffs.

Scenario: In what’s an improved Eastern Conference, coach Thibs swings the other way from his usual allocation of minutes and chooses to rest players to the point of surrendering some tail ends of back-to-backs. Also, Chicago has a little trouble playing around Derrick Rose, who (hopefully) attacks a little less in order to save his body in the long run.

But Carlos Boozer and Luol Deng regress. Their PERs drop by .1 for every trade rumor they’re involved in.

Team #2: Orlando Magic

The winners of the Dwight Howard trade one season later.

Record from a hat: 43-39

So much for tanking with Victor Oladipo at point guard.

Scenario: The front office flirts with benching the starters for lottery picks but screw it, winning is fun. Orlando gets in a trade with Atlanta:

Orlando receives: Al Horford, Lou Williams

Atlanta receives: Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Hedo Turkoglu’s expiring contract

That might be too much to give Atlanta or too little; we won’t know for another season or two when we know more about Harris and Vucevic. Orlando’s offense was terrible without Glen Davis and with Harris though, good for dead last in offensive rating and fifth worst on defense. It’ll be a tad bit better with Al Horford, even if the Hawks were just an average team on offense last season. I’m a pretty terrible trade constructor and player evaluater anyway. It’ll make more sense when Atlanta’s hat drawing comes around.

Oladipo at point guard turns out to be a smart decision via the additional wins versus additional lottery balls, Moe Harkless takes his game to another level, Glen Davis will pass on a few mid-range jumpers for once, and everyone will be dancing like Big Baby at the thought of this team making the playoffs:

Team #3: Milwaukee Bucks

The most mediocre team in the NBA after getting out of Tankapalooza 2014. In the process, they avoided becoming so bad the motto ‘Tears for the Deer’ won’t be reserved until the next time they trade a blue chipper for an above average veteran.

Record from the hat: 33-49

Scenario: The Bucks struggle when Ersan Ilyasova is taken out of games, O.J. Mayo does O.J. Mayo things (play well for one month and erratic for the rest of the season), and Brandon Knight progresses only ever so slightly.

They become a League Pass favorite, however, when John Henson and Larry Sanders wreak havoc on defense and whenever Giannis Antetokounmpo steps onto the floor. It’s mandatory the Greek Freak plays for 40 minutes in the Rookie-Sophomore game.

Team #4: Brooklyn Nets

Quite the contender for my 2014 Time Machine Champion. My next post regarding that fake award will also include 2013’s champ.

Record from a hat: 19-63

Scenario: For all the teams I said would start out bad, Brooklyn actually goes 16-0 before Prokhorov rewards his starting lineup for their strong performance. He gives them a paid vacation around the world. The starting lineup gets lost in South Korea somewhere. All of them become Starcraft whizzes and never return to Brooklyn. The Nets falter. Reggie Evans averages the least-efficient 20 points per game outside of ‘Monta Ball’. Kevin Garnett becomes the most prolific trash talker Starcraft has ever seen.

Meanwhile, Boston and Atlanta lick their chops while looking at the draft picks Brooklyn owes them.

Team #5: Boston Celtics

To tank or not to tank?

Record from a hat: 41-41

Scenario: The Celtics keep Rajon Rondo, Jeff Green becomes more consistent with the added responsibility, Gerald Wallace isn’t awful, and Kris Humphries has an F-U season after hearing the news of Kanye proposing to Kim Kardashian. Also, Jordan Crawford becomes eerily similar to his older brother (not the 2012 version of him while in Portland) and Bill Simmons has 8,472 orgasms at the thought of this team making the playoffs.

In all seriousness, if this happens then Brad Stevens should be a favorite for Coach of the Year. That, or Jeff Green makes the All-Star team or Rondo is a dark horse for the MVP.

Team #6: Charlotte Bobcats

Not sure how they’ll do here, especially without Al Jefferson for some time.

Record from a hat: 40-42

Scenario: EWING THEORY! Not because of missing Jefferson though — they lost Byron Mullens in the off-season.

Also, they get in the trade with Memphis I hinted about in the post concerning the Western Conference.

Memphis receives: Ben Gordon ($13.2M expiring), Cody Zeller, and Charlotte’s second round pick

Charlotte receives: Zach Randolph

Charlotte plays themselves out of their own protected draft pick but they still own Portland’s and Detroit’s. Two first round picks plus Kemba Walker, Bismack Biyombo, MKG, Al Jefferson, Zach Randolph, and Jefferson’s and Randolph’s contracts that could both expire after 2015; that’s not the road to a title but it isn’t a terrible one to take for both the short and long-term.

Giving up their first round pick also kills a lot of potential trades for Chicago.

Team #7: Detroit Pistons

Joe Dumars hopes the free agent splurge of 2013 is more effective than that of 2009.

Record from a hat: 59-23

Success!

Scenario: I mentioned a Dirk Nowitzki trade in the Western Conference post. Detroit jumped in on that. Here’s my terrible trade idea to get them to 59 wins:

Dallas receives: Greg Monroe (assuming he signs an extension), Charlie Villanueva ($8.6M expiring), Rodney Stuckey ($8.5M expiring), Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Jonas Jerebko, Detroit’s 2018 first-round pick.

Detroit receives: Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion

That could be too much for Detroit to give when Dirk’s prime is winding down and Monroe is just getting started, but one’s a former MVP while the other may become an All-Star though not as frequently as Nowitzki. One is a rental for a title run and the other is a building block that’s about to get expensive to keep.

Monroe is looking to get near the max in his next contract, which is kind of a problem if Andre Drummond is in their long term future with Josh Smith. Predicting a trade isn’t that outlandish, though getting Nowitzki in return is a bit of a stretch. But that’s what the hat predicts in order for Detroit to win 59 games and Dallas to win 16.

The Pistons are going to be all right with Monroe, but Dirk makes them a top-5 offense. Fab Melo could start at shooting guard for all I care, but Chauncey Billups may get the nod. Meanwhile, Andre Drummond logs 30 minutes for 75 games and destroys the Rookie-Sophomore game.

And this all works out because Brandon Jennings buys in. If that’s not believable I don’t know what is.

Team #8: Miami Heat

Three straight Finals appearances, back-to-back championships and Mario Chalmers hasn’t even hit his prime.

Record from a hat: 55-27

Scenario: The Heat coast a ton, possibly too much for their own good as they lose home court advantage throughout the playoffs. With a stronger Eastern Conference, winning around 60 games isn’t that big of a stretch.

Dwayne Wade has another 20-5-5 type season, but he’ll play 70 games (good for 75 if he doesn’t rest in April) whereas some may predict more around 60. Chris Bosh and Shane Battier might break in half if Miami plays two straight series versus any combo of Indiana, Chicago or Brooklyn but they’ll survive the regular season.

With the crazy records being predicted, this is the most vulnerable LeBron James has been concerning winning the MVP.

Team #9: Philadelphia 76ers

In the Western Conference post, the hat foresaw a trade sending Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, and Hasheem Thabeet to Philadelphia in exchange for Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, and the Pelicans’ first round pick.

Record from a hat: 55-27

Scenario: Russell Westbrook goes in total F-U mode, flirting with the top five in MVP voting, and Royce White plays every game and is awesome, like a 15-8-4 line every night. That’s just one of several reaches.

Jason Richardson loses 30 pounds when he realizes this team is going to make the playoffs. Also, Nerlens Noel DOES come back to play this season when the Sixers go from tanking to not only chasing the playoffs but nabbing home court for a round or two. A Noel-Thabeet-Perkins rotation somehow doesn’t turn out to be terrible.

But to win 55 games the 76ers will also have to sign a couple players to ten-day contracts who end up as possible all-stars. That’s about as likely as anything else I’ve said about this team.

Team #10: Indiana Pacers

Last season the Pacers had a bench thinner than Rip Hamilton yet were one game away from playing in the Finals. Was it all a fluke?

Record from a hat: 46-36

Scenario: Danny Granger has trouble fitting in with the Pacers’ offense, Roy Hibbert isn’t exactly the one we saw in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Luis Scola—one of their best additions this summer—continues to regress even though he’s not starting anymore.

That all could happen, or there’s this: The Pacers miss Tyler Hansbrough. So much. And just aren’t the same without him.

Team #11: Toronto Raptors

New management and a new global ambassador in, um, Drake. Will it be enough to make the playoffs?

Record from a hat: 60-22

Scenario: Inspired by Drake, the 2016 All-Star bid, and dedicating the season to Raptor, the Raptors come out smoking through a tough November schedule. Struggling early on might lead to Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan being shipped, but both turn into mid-range gods. (With consistent three-point shooting too!)

Rudy Gay has the most notable improvement of the two though as he can, like, finally see the damn hoop now after eye surgery. This leads to his first appearance in the All-Star Game.

Toronto’s starting lineup has been notoriously effective and it will have another huge season, but the bench steps up as well. Terrence Ross continues to be an intriguing talent despite the limited time available to him and another guard Toronto trades for.

That’s where Vince Carter comes in! Getting shipped to Toronto in exchange for Steve Novak. He won’t play much, but is along for the playoff run that Toronto is headed for. Will he jinx the franchise he tanked for in his last season there or will the reigning boos whenever he plays there turn into heaps of joy in the postseason? Is that trade my biggest reach yet despite 90% of these predictions never happening?

Team #12: Atlanta Hawks

After trading Al Horford for Nikola Vucevic, Tobias Harris, Hedo Turkoglu’s expiring and a first round pick, Atlanta scores a record of…

Record from a hat: 28-54

Scenario: Atlanta just can’t go 28-54 without a trade or injury occurring. Because I hate predicting injuries I went with the former. Trading Horford in any scenario is a sign to build towards the future than present. It also helps when Paul Millsap is on such a fair, short deal. He, Harris, Vucevic, and Elton Brand make for some intriguing possibilities in their frontline, at least on offense.

Trading only Horford is pretty generous if the Hawks rebuild. Their entire roster should be on the plate this season regardless if things go south.

Since Atlanta also owns Brooklyn’s pick, the hat’s predictions puts the Hawks in the race for Andrew Wiggins.

Team #13: Washington Wizards

Record from a hat: 28-54

Scenario: It doesn’t help that Emeka Okafor is going to miss a good chunk, if not all of this season with a herniated disc in his neck. And then there’s Nene, whose feet might fall off at any moment. The options to replace them are dicey with Jan Vesely, Kevin Seraphin and Al Harrington (even if he made my 2014 Dream Team).

But there’s major upside in their backcourt. John Wall and Bradley Beal will be terrific with Wall chasing his first All-Star Game, but there’s not much else there if the frontline is depleted with injuries. Randy Wittman will be on the hot seat and probably fired if the Wizards do indeed go just 28-54.

Team #14: Cleveland Cavaliers

(Deep breath.)

Record from a hat: 60-22

!!!

It’s like they won the lottery.

Scenario: Bynum and Irving, lots and lots of healthy Andrew Bynum–the one Shaq thought was the best center in the NBA–and Kyrie Irving.

Tristan Thompson becomes something of a switch hitter: Shooting left-handed jump shots on the right side of the court and righties on the left side. Dion Waiters scores in an odd, efficient way and becomes more of an appetizing prospect than, say, Harrison Barnes. Anthony Bennett makes the best of the times Jarrett Jack passes to him and C.J. Miles makes his threes like he’s paid to do, which has been b a rarity throughout his career.

All of this and the hat’s prediction on the Cavs makes Kyrie Irving a favorite to win MVP.

Team #15: New York Knicks

So many weird ingredients in the hot steamy bowl that is the Knicks.

Record from a hat: 54-28

Scenario: I have to bullet this:

  • Somehow, this whole squad gets along which helps Mike Woodson resist the temptation to have a flask in his inner suit pocket.
  • Tyson Chandler stays healthy and remains a top-three candidate for Defensive Player of the Year.
  • Amar’e Stoudemire plays more than 15 games for 15 minutes per game. His per-36 numbers, at least on offense, will be good stat porn.
  • Every time Andrea Bargnani scores 20 points, every fan at MSG gets free pasta at a nearby, um, pasta restaurant. We’ll find out which one Bargnani stars in a commercial for soon enough.
  • Raymond Felton resists the temptation to eat as many Knicks fan’s pasta bowls as possible, chooses to stay in shape.

Recap

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers 60-22
  2. Toronto Raptors 60-22
  3. Detroit Pistons 59-23
  4. Philadelphia 76ers 55-27
  5. Miami Heat 55-27
  6. New York Knicks 54-28
  7. Chicago Bulls 46-36
  8. Indiana Pacers 44-38
  9. Orlando Magic 43-39
  10. Boston Celtics 41-41
  11. Charlotte Bobcats 40-42   
  12. Milwaukee Bucks 33-49
  13. Atlanta Hawks 28-54
  14. Washington Wizards 28-54 
  15. Brooklyn Nets 19-63

                      

NBA predictions–drawn from a hat: Western Conference

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So many sites are coming out with their own rankings of NBA players and teams. Now, it’s time for Chicken Noodle Hoop to join in.

I did plenty of homework on each team before realizing a more accurate prediction could be done from the drawing of a hat, so that’s what I did. I put 30 different folded pieces of paper with all the teams listed in one hat and 30 different win-loss records in another. Most of the records come from my first stab at the 2014 standings, though those predictions are no match for ones from a couple of hats.

After knowing every record of every team, I created a scenario for how each team’s season would play out according to the record they drew. Most of the time it caused me to throw logic out the window, which was shocking. I had higher hopes. Maybe a simulator from a computer program would’ve been the better choice, maybe not.

It’s too late now. The results from the hats are in and here they are, starting with the Western Conference.

Team #1: Minnesota Timberwolves

How ironic. My local team is drawn first.

Record from a hat: 41-41

Scenario: This is a likely result with their current roster, which is nice because I don’t have to predict any wild trades or injuries right off the bat. The latter is something I hate doing in general. The former is something I flat-out suck at.

But the Wolves should get what looks like a healthy, dominant 23-point 13-rebound Kevin Love back with a collection of wings who can, like, actually shoot the ball. They could perform a handful of wins better or worse depending on:

  • Their health, especially from Love, Ricky Rubio, and Nikola Pekovic.
  • Whether they keep from becoming a bottom-5 defensive unit.
  • Whether or not they score at a top-10 mark.

Even if they only manage an eighth seed, Minnesota should be a pain to take out in the playoffs with their high-octane offense.

Team #2: Oklahoma City Thunder

Heading into 2014, the Thunder find themselves with a depleted bench and an increasingly crowded Western Conference.

Record from a hat: 25-57

Two teams in and the shit hits the fan.

Scenario: Despite a soft schedule without Russell Westbrook, the Thunder stumble. The bench is worse than Portland’s last year, Kendrick Perkins gets eviscerated on both sides of the court, the young upstarts for Oklahoma City take a step back in their progression, and Serge Ibaka takes three steps back in his own progression. The more OKC slumps, the more weight Ibaka gains and he gains A LOT of weight (so does Hasheem Thabeet). He also burns his shooting hand one halftime trying to eat a hot pocket with his bare hands. The mid-range jumpshot he worked so hard to master falters. Oklahoma City goes 8-23 heading into 2014.

The chemistry on this team becomes a mess, a far cry from what it was like two seasons ago. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, who’ve performed just fine, complain to the media about the moves made over the last two years, the lack of a sophisticated offense, and Ibaka’s Get-Heavier-than-Washed-Up-Shaq diet. Management flirts with amnesty candidates until Russell Westbrook requests to be the one let go, even though that’s not really possible. He wants to start all over in Philadelphia, creating this poo-poo trade:

Oklahoma City sends: Russell Westbrook, Kendrick Perkins, Hasheem Thabeet.

Philadelphia sends: Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes, Kwame Brown, and New Orleans’ 2014 first-rounder (top 5-protected). (Miami owns Philly’s protected 2014 first-rounder and Orlando owns their protected #1 in 2016.)

To make the trade somewhat fair, let’s say Turner and Young were pretty damn good with their opportunity in Philadelphia. You’ll see how this all plays out for the 76ers later.

For the Thunder, their offense suffocates. Durant averages 35 per game but on so-so (for him) splits of 46-37-85. Hawes and Ibaka don’t mesh well, Turner and Young can’t adapt to the role as OKC’s sixth and seventh men even with a pick-and-roll partner in Nick Collison, and Scott Brooks elects Kwame Brown to become his assistant coach rather than let him drag his ass up and down the floor 30 seconds per game. When Brooks gets fired for starting both Hawes and Ibaka, Kwame becomes the head coach. It’s a disaster. Well, you already know that since they finish 25-57.

But they do have their draft pick and New Orleans’. Also, there’s a pretty good chance none of this ever happens.

Team #3: Dallas Mavericks

Mark Cuban went through another summer of whiffing on prized free agents but landed a haul that at least wasn’t terrible. Is it enough to put Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavericks back into the postseason?

Record from a hat: 16-66

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Scenario: After a really, really bad start, Dallas decides to blow it up by shopping Dirk Nowitzki and Shawn Marion. A team out East (to be revealed in the Eastern Conference post) will get in a trade, sending a blue chipper, expirings, another young prospect, and a draft pick back to the Mavs. Also, Vince Carter will be shipped to a former team of his in exchange for an aging spot shooter. Unfortunately, nobody bites on Jose Calderon‘s contract.

Tank Mode is engaged as Dallas rests Monroe and Calderon, among others, and emphasizes Monta Ball in order to put them in pole position for Andrew Wiggins. It works. Monta Ball is a resounding “success”.

Team #4: Memphis Grizzlies

Record from a hat: 42-40

The West is going to suck this year.

Scenario: Memphis does have a new coach, and they’re probably asking for too much of Mike Miller at this stage of his career, but that shouldn’t lead to a 14-win drop off. Other explanations could be nagging injuries and/or a desperation trade to get out of a large, guaranteed contract in exchange for expirings and draft picks.

In that case, a trade will go down with a team out East who, over the summer, made a surprising ascension from the bottom of the standings to possibly chasing a playoff bid. For Memphis, it doesn’t work out as planned and it doesn’t put their trading partner in the playoffs either. Shucks. More details about it in the post devoted to the Eastern Conference.

Regardless of Memphis’ trade that emphasizes the future, 42-40 will be just enough to make the playoffs out West.

Team #5: Houston Rockets

Will the Rockets blast off into contention?

Record from a hat: 52-30

They will! Finally, a sane pick from the hat that doesn’t force me to explore trades or stoop low enough to predict injuries.

Scenario: Dwight Howard will get his post ups, but sooner or later will have to run pick & roll. (Just put up with it, Dwight, and you can shoot as many free throws with your eyes closed as you want.) Omer Asik will definitely be trade bait but for the love of God please don’t trade Chandler Parsons he’s so hot right now.

It’s too bad New Orleans is in a race to get good right now. They don’t need a center like Asik right this minute but it’s a good fit if they want to make the playoffs versus rebuilding. More on this when the Pelicans are drawn.

For Houston, 52-30 seems about right in real life, give or take a few wins.

Team #6: Portland Trail Blazers

A (cheaply) revamped bench, two potential all-stars in Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge; where will the hat place them this year?

Record from a hat: 54-28

!!!

Scenario: The Blazers shore up their defense with Lillard and Batum making the most vast improvements on that end. Part of that also comes with an improved bench, even if C.J. McCollum misses a couple months.

Thomas Robinson becomes a candidate for the Sixth Man and Most Improved Player of the Year awards. Pairing him with Aldridge and Dorell Wright in the frontcourt becomes ridiculously effective on offense and not a massacre on defense. Portland also gets more out of Meyers Leonard in his second year, as well as every ounce of Mo Williams that he has left. McCollum comes back from injury and is efficient right off the bat. Also, they benefit from the hat’s predicted downfall of Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Memphis.

In real-life, Portland will be an exciting team to watch. Clearly the hat thinks so too.

Team #7: Sacramento Kings

New ownership, new arena in the future, and new bad contracts!

Record from a hat: 36-46

Scenario: As bad as this team was last year, they still won 28 games. Now, DeMarcus Cousins plays up to his raise. There’s also the addition by subtraction in Tyreke Evans and the progression in Isaiah Thomas that injects some much-needed success from a franchise that hasn’t had much to cheer for since…um…did Metta World Peace really lead this team to the playoffs in 2006?

Team #8: Phoenix Suns

Will Eric Bledsoe trick the hat into believing the Suns are a 64-18 squad?

Record from a hat: 17-65

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Long live the Tat.

Scenario: Eric Bledsoe will be a statistical freak, but it won’t translate to running a team well enough to even get over 20 wins. Also, the Suns keep Goran Dragic. Hm.

Marcin “Too Hot To” Gortat, on the other hand, is a more complicated matter. The teams who need a guy like Gortat don’t have the most desirable players who match up salary-wise. He ends up shipped to New Orleans for Ryan Anderson instead of the Pelicans trading Anderson to Houston. This way, Anderson gets dealt to a rebuilding team versus a contender and the Suns have several picks to offer. I doubt they’d throw one of their first rounders in the deal, but they could pony up a second round pick.

Team #9: Los Angeles Clippers

A favorite of mine to dominate the regular season only to flame out in the second round. Will the hat think the same?

Record from a hat: 56-26

Possibly.

Scenario: Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick fit in just fine and losing Bledsoe isn’t that big of a blow when the Clippers signed Darren Collison on the cheap.

The problems lie in their frontcourt. Who can be trusted in the fourth quarter in a Game 7? Who’s going to stop Marc Gasol, Tim Duncan, or Dwight Howard? B.J. Mullens sure isn’t. DeAndre Jordan had an impressive pre-season, but that’s nothing new. In the hat’s scenario, Doc won’t be able to get more consistency out of Jordan or Mullens, even though it would’ve gone a long way, possibly past the second round.

Team #10: New Orleans Pelicans

Ah, the Pistons of the West as far as crazy off-seasons are concerned. Will their gambles work out?

Record from a hat: 33-49

Bummer. Anthony Davis has been awesome in the pre-season too. The progression to an All-Star from Year 1 to Year 2 is a lot to ask for, but if anyone can do it it’s the lock for the #1 pick in the 2012 Draft before the lottery balls even played out.

But there’s the defense and the backcourt to worry about. If Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon, and Jrue Holiday don’t work out together they could end up with what Chris Paul had to deal with in his last two years: An overpaid, mediocre supporting cast. There’s also the chase for a center when the Pelicans could keep Ryan Anderson and wait another year before searching for a big man to play alongside Davis, but they need to win now.

It’s too bad. There was a lot to be excited for when the Pelicans landed the first pick in the 2012 Draft, but then everything after drafting Anthony Davis happened. They can still be dangerous down the road, but so much needs to go right.

Scenario: The Brow’s progression from Year 1 to Year 2, from Rookie of the Year candidate to All-Star, is just one step in the right direction. However, the hat predicts a step back for Holiday, Evans, and Gordon. I actually think all three of those guys are better than what they’ve shown so far in their careers, but to have them all on the same team could be a bit much.

Team #11: Los Angeles Lakers

Uh oh.

Record from a hat: 45-37

Scenario: Kobe Bryant throws in his best performance since 2006? Wes Johnson resembles something of a basketball player? Nick Young is a candidate for the Sixth Man of the Year? Pau Gasol goes back to being Pau Gasol even with Mike D’Antoni at the helm? Steve Nash excels in D’Antoni’s system? Chris Kaman makes a few jump shots? The Lakers stay out of the bottom five in defensive efficiency? And Kobe remains content around the media and on Twitter? Of course he would if he’s playing like it’s 2006 and they make the playoffs?

Hopefully the hat doesn’t predict a title?

Team #12: Golden State Warriors

Record from a hat: 43-39

This isn’t the most ridiculous prediction ever. The Warriors went 47-35 last year and a lot of this season depends on Bogut’s health. There still isn’t much behind him in terms of solid offense and rim protection, though a Jermaine O’Neal resurgence would be nice.

Scenario: (Sigh) Nagging injuries from both Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut, stalled progression from Harrison Barnes and Klay Thompson, and missing the likes of Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry from last year’s squad is enough for the Warriors to underwhelm in 2014.

But, 43-39 is enough to make the playoffs in the hat’s NBA world. The real-life Warriors should duplicate their 2013 record if not snag home court advantage for at least one round of the playoffs.

Team #13: Denver Nuggets

One of the most unpredictable teams in the league this season thanks to their reliance on JaVale McGee. If only Kenneth Faried was seven feet tall with a jump shot.

Record from a hat: 52-30

Come. On. This is the same team that allowed 36 points to Kevin Durant and then 40 to Chris Paul. It’s only the pre-season, but still.

Clearly, the friggin’ hat disagrees.

Scenario: JaVale makes the major improvements we’ve hoped for all these years, becoming a consistently feared rim protector for 36 minutes in the process. It would also help Denver if they got the really good version of Nate Robinson instead of really bad, but this could be a game-by-game thing.

Team #14: Utah Jazz

The new home for Andris Biedrins and Richard Jefferson!

Record from a hat: 18-64

Scenario: This seems close enough to their real life record, but the Jazz should be better than Phoenix. They’re like the Western Conference’s version of the Orlando Magic: a lot of young intriguing pieces, only the Jazz have to make decisions soon on who they want to keep long-term. They already locked up Derrick Favors. How that dictates how much Enes Kanter makes will be intriguing. Can they keep them both past next season?

Team #15: San Antonio Spurs

Let’s see if the hat is more kind to the Spurs than Ray Allen was to them in the Finals:

Record from a hat: 37-45

Did everyone retire halfway through the season?

Scenario: Everyone retired halfway through the season.

Recap

  1. Los Angeles Clippers (56-26)
  2. Portland Trail Blazers (54-28)
  3. Houston Rockets (52-30)
  4. Denver Nuggets (52-30)
  5. Los Angeles Lakers (45-37)
  6. Golden State Warriors (43-39)
  7. Memphis Grizzlies (42-40)
  8. Minnesota Timberwolves (41-41)
  9. San Antonio Spurs (37-45)
  10. Sacramento Kings (36-46)
  11. New Orleans Pelicans (33-49)
  12. Oklahoma City Thunder (25-57)
  13. Utah Jazz (18-64)
  14. Phoenix Suns (17-65)
  15. Dallas Mavericks (16-66)

Stay tuned for even more bizarre predictions featuring the Eastern Conference.

NBA Tankapalooza Power Rankings 1.0

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The 2014 NBA Draft is to die for. Okay, not really. Why would you want to die before or after watching the NBA Draft? Doesn’t seem logical to me, but the crop of draft picks next year looks that good.

Some teams have already lined up for pegged future all-stars such as Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Marcus Smart. All three are college basketball players who will probably declare for the 2014 NBA Draft. Other teams are one disaster–during the off-season or regular season–away from going into tank mode in hopes of acquiring as many lottery balls as possible.

I ranked the top ten teams in terms of how tank-worthy they’ve become with 1 being total tank-worthy and 10 being, like previously said, a disaster away from joining the lowly Bobcats and Co. The rankings will likely fluctuate as the off-season goes on, but here are my top ten for now:

Tier 1 – Tanking and we know it

1. Philadelphia 76ers

The 76ers could’ve settled for another season of 30 to 40 wins, but took a gamble on trading Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 top-5 protected draft pick from New Orleans. Basically, the 76ers are hoping to have two top-ten picks in a loaded 2014 draft. It’s a near-lock that their own pick will be in the top ten as they’ve chosen to bottom out in the standings. New Orleans looks like they’ll make a run at a lower seed in the Western Conference playoffs unless health takes a toll on their trio of Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, and Anthony Davis.

What’s left for Philly? Andrew Bynum could be re-signed, but he’s a bigger risk than Noel at this point. Evan Turner’s about to have his last chance to prove he’s a piece to rebuild around. If not, he and Thaddeus Young will probably be on the trading block. The same can be said for Spencer Hawes, so they should hang his mustache in the rafters while they still can.

Maybe Philadelphia’s secretly trying to rebuild around Kwame Brown?

2. Boston Celtics

Boston’s cleaning house as they’ve already shopped Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Jason Terry for the Nets poo-poo platter led by Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries. The prize of that trade will come at least a few years from now with the 2016 and 2018 unprotected draft picks Brooklyn sent (along with one from 2014). By 2016, Boston’s hoping Brooklyn will be in a rebuilding phase.

Right now, they’re trying to put the final nail in the coffin of their 2014 season by shopping Rajon Rondo. Even if they keep Rondo, Boston should still be projected to win under 30 games. Their identity without Garnett and Pierce is gone, but Avery Bradley still remains a key rebuilding piece for the Celtics.

3. Phoenix Suns

The Suns were another team who could’ve spent a season letting Nerlens Noel rehabilitate before jumping into the NBA waters (or desert, since it’s Phoenix we’re talking about). Instead, the Suns went with Alex Len who has injury concerns of his own. Obviously, time will tell if they chose wisely in the draft but like Charlotte passing on Noel, I thought it was a head-scratcher. The Suns can also afford to wait on Len though. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon.

Marcin Gortat and Jared Dudley will be trade chips throughout next season, though there’s not much else to look forward to when watching the Suns. Goran Dragic’s another rebuilding piece, but he’s going to ease the tanking process more than turn the Suns into a playoff contender in the future. Check out his per-36-minute numbers at basketball-reference. They haven’t improved or regressed. At 26, Dragic is what he is and he will probably continue to have similar numbers for the next five or so seasons unless an injury occurs or (gasp) a woman comes along.

Other than those players there’s Michael Beasley, Shannon Brown, the Morris twins, Luis Scola, Kendall Marshall, and Hamed Haddadi among others on the Suns roster. Words to describe this roster: cluster****.

Some team will probably take one last chance on Beasley or Brown though, and Scola can be a missing piece off the bench for a contender. If Phoenix can ship those three players for second round picks and/or raw, young players with potential, it wouldn’t be that bad of a return on previous lukewarm investments.

4. Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats lost Anthony Davis to the lottery balls in 2012, then passed on Noel less than a week ago for Cody Zeller. While Zeller will compliment Bismack Biyombo better in the post, the Bobcats probably should’ve gone with Noel when looking at their rebuilding phase. They’ve been rebuilding for what seems like the beginning of life, but why not tank again by acquiring a center who may not even play next season?

Outside of Zeller, the Bobcats will get another year out of Kemba Walker, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Bismack Biyombo. They also have some cap room to fill this summer. Where they use that remains to be seen, but it may decide if Charlotte stays a 15-25 win team or one over 30.

Does Michael Jordan have the patience to tank for one more season?

Tier 2 – Kinda-sorta hiding the Tank Card but we kinda-sorta know they’ll use it

5. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have nearly $30 million coming off the books this summer, though reports have shown that Milwaukee will use up a good chunk of it on re-signing Brandon Jennings. Maybe that’s so they can get pieces back in a future trade involving the shoot-first point guard but, like most teams who passed on Nerlens Noel, Milwaukee isn’t going anywhere with or without Jennings.

The future of the Bucks has shifted instead towards the forwards and centers of Larry Sanders, John Henson, and Ersan Ilyasova. Those aren’t exactly players who can transform a franchise, but they’re nice compliments to a team who could, ahem, snag a future star in the 2014 NBA Draft.

Should the Bucks go into tank mode, Fear the Deer will be no more. It will be replaced by Tears for the Deer.

6. Sacramento Kings

With new ownership, the future for the Kings at least looks brighter than a black hole, but their roster still comes off as one from a fantasy basketball league. The Kings will have to figure out how to distribute the shots around DeMarcus Cousins, Marcus Thornton, Isaiah Thomas, John Salmons, Jason Thompson, and first-round pick Ben McLemore. You could say Ben McLemore will defer to others if he didn’t take the initiative often enough at Kansas, but then why draft him with the seventh overall pick?

This roster will have several chances to change from now until February though. Teams will line up to make offers at restricted free agent Tyreke Evans this summer as well as make trade offers for the troubled DeMarcus Cousins, the latter likely continuing all the way until February. Depending on what the Kings receive in return, they could stay outside the five worst teams in the league or make a move to be included.

Remember though: as dysfunctional as the Kings were last season, they finished with only the seventh overall pick.

7. Toronto Raptors

The Raptors shipped Andrea Bargnani yesterday to the New York Knicks for most notably a 2016 first round pick and two second rounders in the future. The trade’s a win for the Raptors, but we’ll see if they’re done making moves this summer and through the season. Just remember that GM Masai Ujiri has no attachment to the current roster and Rudy Gay–a polarizing talent in front offices across the league–could be trade bait in the near-future.

Ujiri knows better than to be a late-lottery team like Toronto is slated to be. He’ll find a way to either hit bottom or find a diamond in the rough that gives Toronto a head start from other teams on this list.

Edit: The trade involving Bargnani might be held off because Kenyon Martin does not want to be signed and traded to Toronto, via Marc Stein.

Tier 3 – One disaster away from using the Tank Card

8. Los Angeles Lakers

Disaster: Dwight Howard signing with another team.

It almost looks like they’re trying to make Dwight Howard leave and with all but Steve Nash’s contract coming off the books after next season, the Lakers could swallow the tankapalooza pill and join their rival Celtics in the chase for Andrew Wiggins.

If Dwight Howard chooses to come back, the Lakers get either another first round exit in the playoffs or no playoff appearance at all, but not good enough odds to get in the top 3 of the lottery. Drat.

9. Dallas Mavericks

Disaster: Signing no marquee free agents.

Coming up empty-handed for a third summer in a row could mean cutting their losses, shipping Dirk (who has a no-trade clause, worth noting), and building from the bottom up. The Mavericks’ draft pick is currently owed to Oklahoma City, but it’s top-20 protected.

Could Mark Cuban stomach the thought of tanking for a high 2014 draft pick and starting all over for the first time in 15 years?

10. Portland Trail Blazers

Disaster: Trading LaMarcus Aldridge

Trade rumors around LaMarcus Aldridge, legitimate or not, will continue to be discussed throughout the summer and could intensify if Portland gets out to a rough start in the regular season. Even if he leaves, Portland still has Damian Lilliard, C.J. McCollum, and Nicholas Batum to build around. With two of those three under rookie contracts, that’s not a bad start to rebuilding a team into a contender.

Honorable mentions: Atlanta Hawks (disaster: signing no marquee free agents and losing Josh Smith for nothing), Minnesota Timberwolves (disaster: injury Gozilla bites them again next season).

I like the Orlando Magic and Detroit Pistons to consistently stay away from tank-worthy territory. Neither might not make the playoffs though both seem near-locks to stay out of the bottom five in standings. Basically, there will be too much ground between these teams and the likes of Philadelphia and Boston, for example, to tank and get a juicy spot in the lottery.

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