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NBA Tanking Rankings 2013-14: Season Preview

The 2013-14 NBA season is upon us, and the Philadelphia 76ers are set to challenge the laws of watchability on a nightly basis. When power rankings are passed around, get used to seeing them at the very bottom.

With that in mind, two of your favorite Sixer Sense staffers have decided to begin a journey to the depths of the NBA, in order to create a list where the Sixers might reign on top for the duration of the 2013-14 season. Welcome to the NBA Tanking Rankings.

The Tanking Rankings will be issued on a weekly basis throughout the season, assessing the very worst of the worst, monitoring which team is making the most concerted effort to go #WinlessForWiggins. Some examples of actions that will earn teams higher placement in the standings:

  • Having a coach who proclaims you only have six NBA players on your roster
  • Starting Jamaal Tinsley under any circumstances
  • Trading one of your best players for someone with  a herniated disk in their neck

Staffers Kyle Neubeck and Spencer Layman will be talking you through the hard times, assessing the landscape of the league, and lending a shoulder to cry on should you need it. Below are their thoughts going into the year, and the initial rankings for the worst of the worst.

Oct 14, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Brooklyn Nets forward Mirza Teletovic (33) shoots as Philadelphia 76ers guard Evan Turner (12) defends during the third quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Nets defeated the Sixers 127-97. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle: In my eyes, the Sixers have to be number one. Gortat trade aside, Phoenix still has two players (Eric Bledsoe and Goran Dragic) that are currently better than any duo on the Sixers roster. As far as this year, I think the Suns just have more NBA players than the Sixers do.

Going forward, I’d much rather have some of the high-upside guys the Sixers have, but with that comes the strong possibility that none of them will pan out. So what say you? Any factors that are swaying you to pick against our lowly Sixers for the top spot?

Spencer: No. I think as long as you have Darius Morris as a 15+mpg guy, that team will be the worst.

I think the Suns will be bad, but not Sixers bad. I’m not as high on Bledsoe as everyone else it, but he is a good player. Goran Dragic is very underrated. Len should be healthy, the Morris Twins are fine and same goes for Frye.

Their depth worries me; Krastov, Green, Goodwin, Tucker, Christmas, yikes. But those guys are better than Hollis Thompson, Orton, Davies (I like him though, that was an awesome pick-up) and Lavoy (God, why is he still on our team?).

I think the Sixers are in a tier of their own. The Jazz have Hayward/Kanter/Favors/Burks. The Bobcats have Zeller/Jefferson/Walker/MKG/Henderson. Orlando has Dipo/Moe/Big Baby/Afflalo/Nicholson/O’Quinn/Vuc. The Sixers literally have Thad/ET/MCW (I don’t even count Spencer Hawes, he puts all Spencer’s around the world to SHAME!)

Also, the Suns could potentially have 4 picks going into next year. I think I read somewhere where that the Bobcats may have 3 top 22 picks or so (editors note: they do, potentially). Hinkie needs to keep up with them if we’re going to have a battle of the suck-offs.

Kyle: Right. The Sixers and Suns are a clear one-two in the race to the bottom. After that, things get a little murkier.

If I had to project, I’d say Boston is going to end up third. Rondo’s timetable is still a mystery, and I’m not sure he lasts through the season there anyway. Boston aficionado Bill Simmons thinks he’s a lock to get traded at some point this season, and I tend to agree with him there.

Their frontcourt is real shaky defensively. I find it hard to believe that a team with Kelly Olynyk at the pivot is going to be able to get stops, even with guys like Avery Bradley on the wings. Too many defensive liabilities. They’re counting an awful lot on Jeff Green to have a breakout season, something I feel like NBA fans have been waiting for since the Clinton administration.

I feel a little safer with them in the three spot than Charlotte. Al Jefferson at the very least will get his usual 20-10 type numbers and command double teams, which will make it easier for guys like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to score on cuts. Speaking of which, have you seen his jumpshot numbers from last season? Oof. There’s no way he doesn’t improve, and I think Kemba is solid.

Utah is another story, with Trey Burke being out early on and a lot riding on an unproven frontcourt of Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter. I still like them a tad more than Boston, but not by much. Where do you see the Jazz fitting in this conversation?

Spencer: I think the Jazz are basically on the same tier with the Suns. I’m not in love with their roster, I think Gordon Hayward is a good player, not a GREAT player. Favors and Kanter need to prove to me some more that they are a solid front court combo and now they have the minutes to do so.

I’m not real high on Trey Burke, I think I had MCW, Schroeder, McCollum (CJ), Larkin and maybe McCallum (Ray) all in front of him in my rankings. If he can become Jameer Nelson, he’ll be fine but I think that is his ceiling (which isn’t bad).

Sep 30, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz players from left to right forward/center Derrick Favors , guard Alec Burks (10) , forward Gordon Hayward (20), center Enes Kanter(0) and guard Trey Burke (3) pose for a photo at Zions Bank Basketball Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

Alec Burks could be decent, but just haven’t seen a whole lot out of him since he came into the league. I think at some point Brandon Rush is going to be traded because he is the only tradable asset they have (unless you trade Gordo, Kanter or Favors, which they won’t). Some contender will want his shooting. Jamaal Tinsley is probably their opening night starter, which I’m totally fine with.

Marvin Williams, Richard Jefferson and Andres Beidrins are all there…. Poor Utah but that still isn’t equivalent to having Kwame Brown on your roster.

I think a darkhorse for the Tanking Rankings is Denver… /DUCKS AND HIDES FOREVER.

You have injured talent in Gallo and Chandler; Ty Lawson seems to always get hurt, no? He may miss the season opener with a groin injuries and those things linger. He missed 10 games last year I believe. Gallo may not come back till after Christmas, who knows how long Chandler will be out.

So you are left with Nate Rob, Javale, and Kenneth Farried who may not even start. I’m pretty sure JJ Hickson is starting over Farried, which… is quite bad. You have a new head coach, who is trying to install an offense with the wrong personnel. Their bench is solid I guess… Andre and Quincy Miller, J. Ham, Darrell Aurthur, Mozgov, Fournier and Foye.

They may not be top 5, but if things don’t go well for them soon I think they’ll have to weigh their options. I don’t have them making the playoffs FWIW. Losing Iggy and Karl and then Gallo out hurts them a lot more than what people think.

Kyle: That makes two of us – I think Denver (along with the Lakers) will be the team that drops out of the playoffs from last season. I can’t see them  being bad enough to be a consistent presence in the Tanking Rankings, but stranger things have happened.

Oct 22, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kanas guard Andrew Wiggins laughs with teammates during the Big 12 media day at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Another team I think could end up in this conversation is the Toronto Raptors. As currently constructed, I think they’re a fringe playoff team in the East, but I can’t imagine them keeping this group together.

For one, Masai Ujiri doesn’t strike me as a Rudy Gay fanatic. He’s fairly infamous for his emphasis on advanced stats, which have always painted Gay as overrated and inefficient. I think he’ll jump on any deal that can net him picks, young talent, and cap flexibility moving forward.

The added perk there is something I didn’t see talked about enough this offseason: the best prospect in next year’s draft is Canadian! What would make for a better story than Andrew Wiggins coming home to Canada and becoming the biggest star in T. Dot since Vince Carter?

The Raptors have never been able to lure free agents for a lot of different reasons, including fears over getting overtaxed, so getting a game-changer for cheap  in the draft to pair with Jonas Valanciunas (who is primed for a big breakout this year) should be the priority. Making the playoffs and getting slaughtered by one of the East’s top teams is worthless.

If they start out slow, I think Ujiri is going to pull the trigger on some pendulum-swinging moves, and they’ll be right in the conversation for the top spot.

Got any last thoughts before we unveil these?

Spencer: The only other team I can think of is the Bucks, I guess. They’re just so average. You look at their roster and they are all literally all ex-rotation players that never made the jump to serviceable starter (besides Sanders, I guess.) I don’t know if I would necessarily call them a tanking team, but they could potentially be just from being so average.

I agree with you on the Raptors, Masai wants to erase that team starting with Kyle Lowry and Rudy Gay. Demar Derozan/Landry Fields are both overpaid and could be moved to another team. Terrence Ross and Valacunias will probably stick with that team (I like both those guys, Val may win MIP)

Kyle: I think we can both agree on one thing: we’re going to see a lot of bad basketball.

TANKING RANKINGS (Season Preview Edition):

  1. Philadelphia 76ers

  2. Phoenix Suns

  3. Utah Jazz

  4. Charlotte Bobcats

  5. Boston Celtics

  6. Orlando Magic

  7. Sacramento Kings

  8. Milwaukee Bucks

  9. Los Angeles Lakers

  10. Toronto Raptors

If you’re interested in seeing more from the guys who put this thing together, you can find them on Twitter @KyleNeubeck and @NBA_Spen respectively. 

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