Dan Favale | Tue 26/12/2017 - 17:52 EST

Let's Talk About Tanking: Hopeless NBA Teams Who Should Throw in the Towel This Season

NBA championship odds come courtesy of TopBet and are accurate as of Tuesday, December 26. Please double-check, as always, to make sure these lines hold true before placing your wagers, as they are prone to shifting throughout the year.

In building this list, we will rank and present teams in order of increasing urgency, which will be determined by asking one simple question: How important is it for them to give up on this year for the sake of the big picture?

And please note, we will not be discussing squads that are already tanking. Teams like the Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks could stand to steer deeper into their nosedives, but they're not actively trying to rattle off wins as of this writing.

7. Memphis Grizzlies (+150000)

grizzlies

The Memphis Grizzlies almost don't belong here. They don't necessarily need to strip their roster of parts to guarantee a thorough tank job.

People want them to deal Mike Conley and Marc Gasol, but the truth is, they can carry on mostly as constructed and lose enough to net top-five lottery odds. Still, they need to recognize that's the right play. After all, there's a chance, however slim, that Mike Conley's eventual return from an Achilles injury sparks a quasi-turnaround.

Does the front office have the stones to shut down him and Gasol if that happens? We may never need to find out. At the same time, though, the Grizzlies cannot be sold on false realities: They have a bottom-five defense and the fourth-worst record in the league. It's time for them to embrace one season's worth of failure for a shot at long-term redemption.

6. Chicago Bulls (+200000)

Bulls

The Chicago Bulls shouldn't have to make this list. They spent the first part of the regular season playing by far and away like the NBA's worst squad and appeared to be on the fast track toward top-place lottery odds.

But then Nikola Mirotic returned from his extended stay on the sidelines, and things started to change. They're 7-3 over their past 10 games with the league's third-best defense and a respectable offense. They're getting nightly detonations from Kris Dunn and David Nwaba, and the Mirotic-Bobby Portis dyad has, surprisingly, inflicted consistent damage unto the opposition. Even Denzel Valentine has joined the small-time-breakout party.

Stand pat, and the Bulls should still lose enough to secure a top-seven pick. But they should have their eyes on more than that—like a top-three selection or better. Landing any higher on the lottery ladder represents a failure, so look for them to be hyper-active at the trade deadline as sellers.

5. Dallas Mavericks (+200000)

mavs

Don't let the Dallas Mavericks' record fool you. They have the second-worst win-loss tally in the Association, behind only the Hawks, but they have the personnel to rack up a few Ws at inopportune times.

Head coach Rick Carlisle has cobbled together a semi-respectable defense, and the Mavericks are getting some nice contributions from bit players such as J.J. Barea. Remain idle, and they, too should lose enough to nab a high draft pick. But dealing away players who don't factor into their future—like Barea, Wesley Matthews, Devin Harris, even Harrison Barnes—gives them a clearer path to the bottom.

Wasting another year of Dirk Nowitzki's twilight won't feel good. Nor should it. But he's not hanging around to contend. He knows Dallas' deal.

4. Orlando Magic (+200000)

magic

The Orlando Magic are not in a good spot for a team that has lived in the top seven of the draft order since trading Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012. 

Add up all those high-end choices, and they should amount to a surefire cornerstone. But the Magic don't have one. Aaron Gordon is the closest they come, and not only is he injured entering the second half of the schedule, but he'll be due a monstrous raise in restricted free agency this summer

Rookie Jonathan Isaac could end up being their franchise lifeline, but he's also injured, and placing all of your eggs in one basket is never a good idea. With the playoffs fast becoming out of reach—the Magic own a bottom-five record—they should look to sell off guys like Nikola Vucevic and Evan Fournier, both of whom are on the sidelines as well, in hopes of loosening up their cap sheet while also improving their odds of snagging the No. 1 pick in this year's draft.

3. New York Knicks (+20000)

knicks

Unlike many of the other teams on this list, the New York Knicks employ the most important part of a rebuild: a 20-something superstar on his first contract, in Kristaps Porzingis.

Knowing this, they could technically continue chasing a low-end playoff berth almost entirely free from consequence. And yet, they need to be smarter than that.

When accounting for the contracts of Enes Kanter, Tim Hardaway Jr. and Joakim Noah, plus Porzingis' inevitable extension, the Knicks don't project to have meaningful cap space until 2020 at the earliest—and that's if they don't take on any big money between now and then. That means they won't have the resources to strike it big in free agency, which in turn means they need to lean on their draft picks for impact acquisitions.

While the front office can hope selecting in the middle of the first round would do the trick, the Knicks are better off selling high on guys like Kyle O'Quinn, Courtney Lee and Lance Thomas ahead of the trade deadline. This way, they can, in theory, grab one last top-end prospect to move forward with before chasing a championship they're not nearly talented enough to compete for at the moment. 

2. Charlotte Hornets (+50000)

hornets

This one's tough. The Charlotte Hornets have traveled great lengths to remain mediocre, locking themselves into this current core without any substantial cap space for at least the next two summers.

But that pursuit of middle-rung success isn't cutting it. They're currently stuck in NBA purgatory. If the season ended today, they'd have the ninth-worst record—not bad enough to hope for a transcendent talent in the draft, yet not good enough to talk themselves into being one minor tweak or two away from a major swing.

With Kemba Walker slated for free agency in 2019, the Hornets should be looking to move him and almost everyone else on their roster. Malik Monk, last year's first-rounder, should be the only untouchable name. Everyone else from Nicolas Batum and Marvin Williams, to Jeremy Lamb and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist needs to be on the chopping block.

Taking a stick of dynamite to the infrastructure won't be an overnight process. The Hornets will lose a lot over the next couple of years. But divesting whatever assets they have into first-round picks and prospects makes for a brighter big picture than the one they're approaching now. 

1. Los Angeles Clippers (+50000)

clips

Milos Teodosic's return from a plantar fascia injury has sparked something within the Los Angeles Clippers. But that's not good enough.

Blake Griffin is still injured. Danilo Gallinari is suffering from a torn glute and won't be back until sometime in 2017. Patrick Beverley is done for the season. They don't have the tools to make up the 3.5-game gap currently standing between them and playoffs.

And even if they do, they shouldn't want to use them. Grabbing a seventh- or eighth-place finish in the Western Conference only assures them of a first-round beatdown at the hands of the Houston Rockets or Golden State Warriors. The Clippers would be smarter to shut down Griffin and Gallinari, trade DeAndre Jordan, flip Lou Williams and Teodosic for whatever they can get and position themselves to acquire a top-flight prospect.

Then, this summer, when their roster is healthier, they can decide whether to embrace a full-scale rebuild that includes dealing Griffin or continue chasing postseason bids as initially planned.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com and are accurate leading into games on Dec. 26.

Category : Sports Betting News

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