Nov 2, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Michael Carter-Williams (1) is defended by Chicago Bulls guard Derrick Rose (1) during the first quarter at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Bulls 107-104. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Tanking Rankings, Week One: 76ers Ascend

The Tanking Rankings are a summary of the NBA’s worst teams on a week-to-week basis, compiled by Kyle Neubeck and Spencer Layman. They will attempt to rank and write about the ten worst teams in basketball on a long and short-term basis. You can view their already obsolete preview here.

Kyle: Banner debut for the Tanking Rankings last week. Our number one team in the season preview went 3-0, winning against two of the favorites in the Eastern Conference, and Brett Brown did everything short of walking on water.

I still have to say it: NO SIXERS IN YOUR TOP 10?!? (editor’s note: Kyle still had them ranked 5th)

This is an outrage. I’m all for giving them more respect than we did in our preview, because the whole team came out playing like they had something to prove. And who could blame those guys? They got dumped on for months, and even reportedly drew the ire of commissioner-in-waiting Adam Silver for their blatant attempt to exploit the lottery system.

I’m also super encourage by Michael Carter-Williams. The kid looks way ahead of schedule, and more encouraging than his hot-shooting start is the form on his jumper; he’s way more upright than he was last year at Syracuse. That’s without touching on his obvious physical tools and the chaos he can create on defense. Brown has given them the license to take risks and push tempo, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

But I still don’t think this team is good. Spencer Hawes is not White Howard, and I’m so beaten down by years of the Evan Turner roller-coaster that I refuse to believe that he can be a consistent source of production for this team. My love affair with Coach Brown’s prerogatives notwithstanding, I still think this is one of the league’s worst teams. Eventually the chaos they’re creating will work against them, and they’ll regress to their (bad) mean.

So sell me on the Sixers outside of our Tanking Rankings top 10. What could possess you to believe this? Are you drinking the Kool Aid? Did they kidnap the tank-driving Spencer? I NEED ANSWERS.

Spencer: I know this is a long season but as for right now there is nothing that is proving to me that they are as bad as a team as we want/thought they would be. Now eventually, will they? Probably. But I’m going to do my rankings on who was the worst teams during the past week. With that said, they played much better than some of the teams I listed. As Derek Bodner pointed out over the summer, the Sixers actually executed very well in pre-season. The problem was the talent. That should tell us how good of a coach Brett Brown truly is.

Hinkie is probably working the phones right now, trying to move some of these guys. And by these guys, I mean Darius Morris and Daniel Orton. THOSE GUYS HAVE BEEN KILLAS! But really, I didn’t expect this at all. If somehow they win against the Warriors tonight, Thad/ET/Hawes will have undisclosed mysterious injuries.

I am happy they are winning right now because if this season turns out the way we all thought it would go, this stretch will be our bright spot of the season. And it’s been an awesome start of exciting games. Let’s look at other teams though, shall we?

Nov 1, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics head coach Brad Stevens during the first half of a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

What the hell is wrong with Denver? Many “experts” pegged these guys as playoff contenders. I thought these guys were going to be bad. But I never imagined this bad. It’s only a matter of time before Faried is traded, right? Hasn’t started yet and is only playing 19 mpg, down 10 from last year.

Also, I overrated Boston. I thought they would be better than how they’re playing. I don’t know if I overrated their players or Brad Stevens, but I overrated them for sure.

I didn’t really want to put the Kings in the rankings because they don’t look half bad, they have just played some tough opponents between the Clips and Warriors. I’m all on-board the Cousins bandwagon (have been for awhile).

I’ll let you talk some now.

Kyle: The Celtics are an absolute mess. I expressed in our preview that I thought the reliance on Jeff Green scared me, and I’m not backing away from that now. He’s a really talented player, but if you’re relying on him to give you sustained bouts of offense, good luck.

The thing that gives me pause about the Sixers is the breakneck pace they’re working at. It’s a smart strategy from Brown – when you play at such a fast tempo, you’re creating an environment of chaos. The Sixers are goading teams into running and playing a more high-variance style. It’s the type of thing you need to do to overcome the talent gap they’re going to face on most nights, but eventually those things even out. Tonight’s game against Golden State will be interesting because the Warriors love to get out in transition; it could get ugly quick.

I can firmly say that I’m in the Boogie Cousins camp. He has his moments of knuckleheadness (did I just make up a word?) but he is so, so talented. I really hope he cuts down on the extracurricular stuff, though I think part of that falls on the refs too. He gets a lot of reputation calls much like Rasheed Wallace used to, so he’s stuck to an extent.

Nov 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts after being called for a foul against the Golden State Warriors during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The team I’m confused by is the Wizards. The Gortat trade was just puzzling. They couldn’t get someone better than him for a top-12 protected first? I find that hard to believe. I know they’re in playoff push mode, but if that’s the move you think is putting you over the top, your franchise is in big trouble. Hinkie should have been banging down their door trying to offload one of their vets if there was a first-round pick to be had.

Big takeaway: there are a lot of bad basketball teams, but I’m not sure we can tell who they are yet. The Heat and Bulls have both looked beatable, and the Sixers have looked like world-beaters, but I don’t see those trends lasting.

Who do you see breaking out of this group?

Spencer: I think for the Sixers and the fan base, they’re going to get quite a shock from the way the Warriors play. But hypothetically, if MCW locks down Steph, can we just give him MVP? That’s fair, right? (editor’s note: right!)

As for Knuckleheadedness, I’m pretty sure that’s a word. And if it is not, it needs to be pronto. He got a taunting call the other night ONLY because Chris Paul whined to the refs for it. The atmosphere in Sacramento has been awesome too. I don’t know if you have caught any of their games so far, but it is insanely loud. I’m happy those fans got to keep their team.

I was never high on the Wizards, there seemed to be no magic there. (DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?) Ok, but seriously… Marcin isn’t THAT bad but I don’t know if I would have traded away a first for him. But at least the Wizards are in win-now mode. Closest they have been to the playoffs in awhile. In the long run, I think Wall and Beal will be fine and Marcin and Nene should work. That’s not a bad group of players to have but so far they just look bad. I have heard some rumblings that the Wizards have their sights set on George Karl.

Out of those teams we just named, which on do I see breaking out? The Wizards I guess. No the Kings. No the Wiz. Kings. Wiz… I don’t know. It’s a toss up. Ask me something else, my head is going to blow.

Kyle: We have to get back to the Sixers. After watching these first few games, where do you think they end up in the league hierarchy?

After week one, Yahoo’s Marc J. Spears has them at No. 1 (!!!!) in his power rankings. I still find it hard to believe this is real life. Chad Ford is calling Carter-Williams an “anchor” in his mock drafts, Brett Brown is possibly a coaching genius, the world is in total chaos.

I still think that regression is coming. As much as I want to jump on the Carter-Williams bandwagon, three games do not make a career. I love the improved form on his jumper, but it’s hard to believe that it’s magically fixed. There’s one thing I’ll say with certainty: there is no possible way Spencer Hawes plays this well all season. 19 points and 11 rebounds on 65 percent shooting?! Preposterous. I think Doug Collins was holding these guys back a little bit, but not by this much.

At the very least, there was more excitement in the first three games than I thought we would get in half of a season. And this division is B-A-D. We haven’t even touched on the Knicks, who have looked like a train-wreck early on. I think Andrea Bargnani is in pole position for Most Likely To Recieve Death Threats From His Fan Base award.

I think the Sixers end up around 22-60, good enough to hit the over in regards to Vegas, but bad enough that we’re lurking in the Riggin for Wiggins sweepstakes. What say you, Spenstradamus?

Spencer: I saw those Power Rankings too. If you just look at how they played this past week, then yes, they are probably #1. However, is that sustainable? Let me answer this with another question. Do you really think a team can sustain winning like they have with Darius Morris, Daniel Orton and Lavoy Allen as key bench guys? You tell me.

Chad was always high on MCW if I remember correctly. I disagree with Chad on a lot of things, but he thought MCW slipping to 11 was a steal for the Sixers. I sound like a broken record player, but MCW was one of my highest ranked players for this past draft. I saw every game he played at Syracuse and thought he would be special. His instincts and length give him tons of opportunities other players don’t have.

I’ll agree with you on Spencer Hawes, but it is good he is playing like this because he is just boosting the hell out of his trade stock. He is only 25 with a very team friendly contract. And while we’re on the topic, [Doug Collins insult redacted for the sake of the children].

Oct 30, 2013; Philadelphia, PA, USA; Philadelphia 76ers center Spencer Hawes (00) shoots a jump shot during the fourth quarter against the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers defeated the Heat 114-110. Mandatory Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Bargs looks horrible. He airballed a reverse-dunk last night. ‘Twas terrific. And yes, the division is horrible and could possibly get worse with the Raps trying to tank and the Celts playing like they are. I think the Knicks will get it together eventually. They just have too much talent not to.

The Sixers have definitely started out hot. Can they keep it up? Well let’s look at their next 10 upcoming games. Warriors, Wizards, Cavs, Cavs, Spurs Rockets, Hawks, Pelicans, Mavs. Over that stretch, they could go 0-10 or 4-6 (beating the Wiz, Cavs once, Hawks and Pelicans), which is super optimistic. I think the best way to look at what their record is by the end of the year is by doing it in 10s and trends. I think this team will be streaky and going too far into the future is just nonsense.

They have no back to backs during that 10 game window, so they could be well rested for each game. The up and down style Brown loves to do may hurt teams, but I think eventually teams will gameplan to it and adapt.

The other thing to look at, is will the Sixers be conditioned enough to play this run n’ gun style all year? Brett Brown preached about conditioning all off-season, and I understand why now. But over an 82-game season will that last? We’ll see.

I still think the Sixers have good odds in the Wiggins’ sweepstakes, but I don’t see it as a loss if they land a top 5 pick. If it’s anything below pick eight or 10, I think that’s when this season is at a loss. They took too many steps back to land a pick that low. I know this isn’t a one year plan but this draft, in theory, is a lot stronger and deeper than the 2015 draft.

Kyle: That we’re even having this conversation is a testament to Brett Brown and the players, as well as Hinkie’s drafting. You and Ford may have been high on MCW, but there were plenty of people out there who thought his jumper was broken to the point that it would derail his chances at being a contributor. He made a big gamble dealing Jrue Holiday and replacing him with Carter-Williams, but they haven’t missed a beat yet.

Congratulations to the Boston Celtics, proud owners of an 0-3 record, pole position in the quest for ping-pong balls, and the number one spot in the inagural Tanking Rankings.

We’re still in the early stages here, so I think it’s best that we hold off on having too concrete an opinion yet. Can you believe we ranked the Sixers as the most tank-tastic team in the preview?

Spencer: You sure we can’t delete that?

TANKING RANKINGS – WEEK 1

  1. Boston Celtics

  2. Utah Jazz

  3. Washington Wizards

  4. Denver Nuggets

  5. Charlotte Bobcats

  6. Sacramento Kings

  7. Milwaukee Bucks

  8. Orlando Magic

Honorable Mention: Philadelphia 76ers, Phoenix Suns, Los Angeles Lakers 

For more from the guys who watch the bad basketball it takes to put this thing together, find them on Twitter @KyleNeubeck and @NBA_Spen respectively. 

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Tags: Michael Carter-Williams Philadelphia 76ers Power Rankings Tanking

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