By Rafael Bandayrel
As the NBA regular-season winds down, two races are simultaneously going on in the league. One is the race for playoff positioning, as the superior teams battle it out for home-court advantage.
The other is a race to the bottom of the standings, as mediocre and bad franchises aim for the worse record in hopes of landing a higher spot in the 2018 NBA draft.
And with a stacked projected draft class this year – which would feature star prospects Deandre Ayton, Marvin Bagley III, Luka Doncic, and Trae Young – it is not hard to see why so many teams are shamelessly trying to lose on purpose.
5. Atlanta Hawks
The Hawks shocked the world in 2015 as they snagged the number one spot in the Eastern Conference when the basketball world was expecting them to have a mediocre season.
Despite putting in a terrific effort throughout the season, however, they had to face the painful reality that they just do not have an answer for LeBron James. The Hawks tried to boost their roster by adding eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard but had a lukewarm season which ended in a first-round exit.
This season, the Hawks have a new strategy: play with Dennis Schroder as the main guy, and plummet to the bottom of the East. For the Hawks, building for the future is a better strategy. Any attempt at trying to be a good team will fail as long as teams like the James Harden-led Rockets, LeBron James’ Cavaliers, and the four-headed juggernaut Warriors exist.
4. Brooklyn Nets
If the Nets are tanking on purpose, they are doing a phenomenal job. Unlike the other teams on this list, however, they have nothing to gain from collecting L’s like they have been doing throughout the season.
The Nets have traded their first-round pick to the Celtics which ended up being shipped to Cleveland in a package that included Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder for Kyrie Irving.
Injuries are to blame for the Nets’ lost season. Jeremy Lin went down from a season-ending injury, while D’Angelo Russell missed time as well after getting hurt. If the Cavaliers ended up scoring a franchise-altering player in this year’s draft, they have the Nets to thank.
3. Sacramento Kings
There is no other option for the Kings but to join the tank-fest after they decided to sign a lopsided deal to get rid of notorious All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
The Kings, however, do not have a good track record in taking care of stars. Never once have they made the playoffs even with a player as dominant as Cousins. Also, they had Hassan Whiteside and Isaiah Thomas along with Cousins at one point, but got nowhere with those quality ballers.
Basketball fans, however, should hope and pray that Sacramento stops fumbling once they got their hands at a solid prospect this year. The last thing we want is to see Wendell Carter or Mo Bamba hit a brick wall once one of them starts donning the silver and purple.
2. Memphis Grizzlies
The Grizzlies have a legitimate chance of transforming from tanker to a contender if they are able to pick up a good fit from the drafts.
The main reason why Memphis has been so terrible as of late is the injury suffered by star guard Mike Conley at the beginning of the season. Marc Gasol being a watered-down version of his former self also adds to the problem.
However, having a returning Conley with a decent version Gasol, together with a young stud like Michael Porter or Jaren Jackson Jr., would increase the ceiling of the squad for the next season.
1. Phoenix Suns
Now that Philadelphia has been reaping the fruits of “The Process”, the Suns is the new poster-team of tanking.
It has been very bleak Phoenix for so long, but light at the end of the tunnel may come in the form of this year’s first overall pick.
Landing an ultra-talented player like Ayton should alter the future of the struggling franchise. Having young guns like Devin Booker, Josh Jackson, Dragan Bender, and Marquese Chriss as their core is a positive sign for “Arizona’s Urban Heart”.