Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014

Dispatches from the Tank: March Madness renews excitement for tanking NBA teams (11 items)

By Mitch Kunzler, For the Deseret News

March 21, 2014

With the end of the NBA season only weeks away, time is running short for teams in the league, even those at the bottom of the standings.

March Madness has begun, and NBA prospects from all over the country are competing against each other in the NCAA tournament. As these players showcase their ability and their talent, many of the worst NBA teams are getting a good look at players they may select on draft day.

But before they can draft an élite player, they have to be in a position to do so. Here is a look at the bottom ten teams in the NBA and how their tanking efforts are coming along.

You can follow Mitch Kunzler on Twitter at @MitchKunzler.

1 of 11. Milwaukee Bucks

The Bucks have continued their tanking process this past week by doing exactly what is expected of them — losing games.

Milwaukee has the worst record in the NBA, sliding along the bottom of the standings with a 13-56 record. They have lost six games in a row, four in the past week.

While it may seem they have given up completely, the Bucks have put forth some effort. Each of their last three losses have been by less than 10 points.

So while they are certainly tanking, they are at least attempting to mask it.

In the upcoming week, the Bucks will travel to California to face the Sacramento Kings and the Los Angeles Clippers. They will return home to face the Lakers. They will do so without guard Nate Wolters, who broke his hand against Golden State on Thursday.

Since the Kings and Lakers are also in the tanking sweepstakes, it will be interesting to see how the matchups play out next week.

2 of 11. Philadelphia 76ers

The Sixers have reached an all-time low, which appears to be exactly what they are aiming for.

At 15-53, Philadelphia is on pace to catch Milwaukee for the worst record in the league and is doing so at a rapid pace. Part of the reason is their current 22-game losing streak.

There is no other way to put it, the Sixers are tanking. With a chance to secure two top 10 draft picks, they appear to be doing everything they can to make sure they are in the best position to improve their team in the draft.

In the coming week, the Sixers will have a mountain to climb if they want to win games. But since they don't, it should be more like a ski slope. They will start by hosting the red-hot New York Knicks, who have won seven straight games, followed by a road trip that features playoff caliber opponents in the Chicago Bulls, San Antonio Spurs and Houston Rockets.

By this time next week, the Sixers have a good chance to be riding a 26-game losing streak.

3 of 11. Orlando Magic

The Magic are only three and a half games behind the Sixers, and while they aren't drawing as much attention, they are a threat to steal the number one pick in the draft.

Orlando has a record of 19-50, and has lost seven straight games. This past week, they dropped games to the Washington Wizards, Golden State Warriors and Phoenix Suns, all of which are in playoff contention.

This coming week, the Magic will face two teams that are also in the tanking sweepstakes. They start with the Utah Jazz and then play the Los Angeles Lakers. After Utah and the Lakers, Orlando will host the Portland Trail Blazers.

As the Lakers and Jazz also have a shot at a high draft pick, it will be interesting to see the approach each team takes to the matchups.

4 of 11. Utah Jazz

The Jazz have competed well in the Western Conference for years. With the their young team and coach, a lottery pick would help their quest to return to a position of dominance.

Utah has lost six straight games, their last win coming courtesy of the 76ers. This losing streak, however, is a bit deceiving.

Each of the six losses shave come at the hand of a good team. The Atlanta Hawks, Dallas Mavericks, LA Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, and Memphis Grizzlies are all contending for playoff spots.

So while the Jazz continue losing games, it isn't necessarily on purpose, they have been outmatched talent-wise.

In the coming week, the Jazz will be at home and host the Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons, and Memphis Grizzlies. While they are definitely capable of beating Orlando and Detroit at home, it will be interesting to see if they do.

5 of 11. Los Angeles Lakers

This has been the most difficult season for the Lakers and their fans in recent memory. After suffering injury after injury, and losing game after game, the chance for a lottery pick is the only thing keeping Lakers fans waving the purple and gold flags.

To have a better chance at securing the number one overall pick, Los Angeles has work to do. The Lakers trail the Jazz by one game when it comes to losing, and trail Philadelphia by 10 games.

This past week, the Lakers have faced the top two teams in the Western Conference twice each. The first pair of games came against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Lakers were able to steal the first game, but lost by nearly 30 points in the second. The next pair of games were against the San Antonio Spurs, who brushed aside the Lakers as if they were old newspapers. The Spurs won both games.

The Lakers will have a chance to dip further in the standings in the coming week, but will have to work a little harder to do so. They start with the Washington Wizards, followed by the Magic, Knicks, and Bucks.

With the Magic and Bucks being two of the three worst teams in the league, a loss to either or both, would help Los Angeles gain ground on the other bottom teams in the league. Win would do the opposite.