The Dirtiest Dozen: 12 NBA teams that have no reason to win another game this year
This is not an anti-tanking screed. Fans of most lacking NBA teams would prefer their favorite squads do as much as they can to improve their lottery status, while trying out and seasoning burgeoning young talent along the way. We’re usually not one to fall in lockstep with what the league’s head office dictates, but it’s true that there is a difference between “tanking” and “rebuilding,” and the annoying hand-wringing and kvetching from many a national columnist and too-precious website scribes has truly gotten out of hand.
With that in place, there are a dozen NBA teams that have absolutely no reason to win another game this season, which is a bit of a shame considering that there are over four weeks left before the playoffs start. That’s where we’re at, and here are what these teams have to lose, should they win:
Milwaukee has the worst record in the NBA, working through a miserable season that we’ve sadly had to document several times. The team is in that worst of all spots personnel-wise, fielding a litany of mediocre players either in or past their primes, as the rotation was put together in the hopes that the Bucks could replicate their pointless 2012-13 run to the Eastern Conference’s eighth seed. Barring a historic run of poor play from another team, the Bucks should end up with the worst record in the league, which only gives them a 25 percent chance at the top pick in the 2014 NBA draft. Sweet run, John Hammond.
The Sixers are two games in back of the Bucks for the worst record in the league, if you’re fond of calling such a designation some sort of race, and they remain a columnist’s go-to whipping post when it comes to referencing teams that have given up on 2013-14. Of course, Sixer fans don’t mind this, because the team’s previous front office and coaching administrations gave up on intelligently building a long term winner by securing the rights to solid but limited players in years prior, and with cap space, heaps of draft picks, and four potential high end draft picks in the 2013 and 2014 drafts set to hit the roster in 2014-15, the fact that the 76ers are essentially holding an extended D-League training camp in 2013-14 will be forgotten soon enough.
Magic general manager Rob Hennigan is rightfully credited for “winning” 2012’s Dwight Howard deal, but this truly is slim praise. It’s not to his credit that Kobe Bryant made life miserable for Howard, that Andrew Bynum doesn’t really enjoy basketball in Philadelphia, and that the Golden State Warriors made shrewd win-win deals to acquire cap space for Andre Iguodala. As it stands, Hennigan’s team entered a rebuilding year in 2012-13 without a high end lottery pick, and it had to use the end result of that terrible season on a second overall selection in Victor Oladipo that doesn’t really seem like a star in the making. Rob will have another go in this year’s draft, cap space to work with in the summer, but this really is a slow rebuild. It’s not his fault, Hennigan is paying for the sins of a previous administration that dragged its feet, but the Magic still have a long way to go.
Like the Magic, Boston entered its rebuilding turn without the benefit of a boffo lottery pick, but the team’s upcoming draft lineup is quite enticing. Coach Brad Stevens has done his best to shoo away the tank job doubters, guard Rajon Rondo has let it be known that he wants to stick it out through the rebuilding effort (whether or not this is a good idea, with Rondo in his prime, is up for debate), and the team has heaps of picks to work with in the future. With Brooklyn vaulting ahead of Atlanta in the standings, Boston will take in the Nets’ first rounder alongside its own lottery pick, and it has the right to swap picks with the (presumably declining) Nets in 2017, on top of grabbing Brookyln’s first rounders in 2016 and 2018. They’ll also get the Clippers’ pick next season, alongside all their own first round selections. All while hashing out what has been a pretty competitive rebuilding season in 2013-14.
The Jazz are another go-to sportswriter pick as a team that was built to lose, but the team truly did the right thing in letting both Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson go during the 2013 offseason, even if both players are enjoying career years with their new teams. Though both forwards are at their peak at the moment, and Utah’s replacements (in a way, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter) haven’t exactly blossomed into stars, the franchise wasn’t doing itself any favors by retaining the veterans for another go at the bottom of the Western bracket. Entering the salted earth rebuilding fray with a middling first round pick (Trey Burke), the team has sound upcoming cap, draft, and potential coaching prospects as it initiates yet another turnaround.