Nov 3, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Minnesota Timberwolves center Nikola Pekovic (14) is fouled by New York Knicks center Tyson Chandler (6) in the first quarter at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Tanking Rankings Week Two: What's With Denver?

Brian Shaw’s rotation in Denver is looking a little strange.
Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

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 worst teams in basketball on a long and short-term basis. You can view their already obsolete preview here.

Kyle: The Denver Nuggets fascinate me for a few reasons. This is a weird roster outside of Ty Lawson, and the decision to trade Koufos looks stranger by the day. I get that they wanted to get McGee more minutes to develop / see what they have there, but solid bigs on cheap contracts are a premium asset.

Beyond the surface stuff with their roster, I’m almost positive Brian Shaw has no idea what he’s doing.

Just a cursory look at the minutes distribution is infuriating. Through five games, they have 11 guys playing at least 15 minutes a night. 11! How are you supposed to figure out what your best lineups are without giving them extended time together on the court?

He looks like a guy just throwing stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. I’m not one to overreact to a seven-game stretch, and I think coaching often gets overrated anyway, but how was this guy the name in coaching rumors for the past couple summers?

In that same vein, it looks like Brett Brown was severely overlooked. Mike Budenholzer was seen as the Spurs “top” assistant and the better candidate, but Brown looks like a miracle worker right now.

Spencer: JaVale is out indefinitely with a stress fracture in his Tibia, which is a weight-bearing bone. If he is out for a while, they are going to suck. Their defensive rating is already bottom 10 and they have a differential percentage of -7.1 percent. Nobody really knows when Gallo or Chandler will be back and this team is on the way down. I like Brian Shaw, and he did a terrific job in LAL/Indy with a system that was already there. But he is trying to come in and change a culture that has been around for years into a half-court based offense, which is a no-no.

I’m not really sure what the Nuggets are going to do from here on out, but if I were them, I call other GMs seeing what I could get for Lawson/Gallo/Faried/Chandler and hope to salvage something from this year. Yes, I am already throwing the towel in on them.

Oct 14, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Nuggets center JaVale McGee (34) during the first half against the San Antonio Spurs at Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Can we take a second to praise Brett Brown for all the greatness he is? He is so damn good. We’re so fortunate to have him and the great thing about him is that he and the players connect. Especially Wroten. Brett Brown will do wonders for Tony Wroten.

I really don’t get the Kings; just looking at their roster, you’d feel like they may be just a little bit better, no? It’s that defense. they are giving up a league worst 107 DRTG. I’m hoping they can get DMC and McLemore some talent on that team. DMC deserves much better than this.

Jazz are the worst team in the league right now, no doubt about it. They could get their first win tomorrow against the Nuggets but then after that they could be in the L-column for quite some time. I really thought Favors/Kanter/Hayward/Burks would be able to maybe get them a couple wins so far, but doesn’t look like it.

I think we need to clarify something here. The Knicks are sucking, they are not tanking. They have no draft pick to tank for. They just flat out suck. And they are going to be even worse without Tyson Chandler being out for the next month or so. They are going to be in a pretty big hole by the time he gets back. I’m not going to say they are going to miss the playoffs… But that’s a team to really be concerned about.

Kyle: Unfortunately for the Knicks, we don’t have enough room in the title to call it “Tanking Rankings (And Teams That Suck Without Trying To)”. And man, do they suck.

Their defense has actually been passable so far, but Chandler is the most irreplaceable part on that team; that injury is an absolute killer. Even without any setbacks, he’s going to miss 20-ish games, which could really put them in a hole unless Melo goes into Super Sayian mode and J.R. gives them a big boost with his return. The defense is going to be bad, it’s just a matter of if their offense can be good enough to offset it.

Part of the solution in Sacramento might just be giving Isaiah Thomas more minutes. He’s not going to solve any problems defensively, but he has been significantly better than Vasquez thus far. Vasquez is a sieve on defense anyway, so I think you stand to gain a lot more playing Thomas, who is much more dynamic than Vasquez.

If they’re still in the same situation a month from now, I’m going to head up a #FreeBoogie campaign. Let me know if you’re interested in joining.

To offset this tanking talk a bit, a little Brett Brown love is certainly called for. Is there a coach in the league doing more with less?

The success of the Sixers this season only makes me angrier at Doug Collins, which I didn’t think was possible. It’s the small things that stick out the most; there was a play on Friday night where Spencer had an open long two, only to take a step back to attempt (and make!) a three. That would’ve seemed impossible just a year ago, when we were all caught in the soul-sucking vortex also known as Doug Collins’ offense.

It’s amazing that the margin between success and failure can be something more simple, but the increased focus on shots from behind the arc is a welcome and necessary change.

The guy benefiting the most from this philosophy is actually the team’s worst shooter from deep: Evan Turner. Having guys around the perimeter ready to fire puts a lot of strain on the defense, and it’s leaving a guy like Turner a lot more room to work with in the paint. The improved conditioning has been a big help as well – have to believe the muscle he added over the summer is a big factor in his improving percentage around the rim.

What are the odds that Trey Burke’s return gives Utah a boost? 20/1? 50/1? I don’t know if you could set them high enough. That team’s offense is putrid.

Spencer: As I have made it clear time and time again, I’m not a Trey Burke fan. When he does come back, it will take him a while to get back in the swing of things. I really don’t know what the Jazz are going to do for the rest of the year, but looking at their roster, they’re not very deep on the wings. They could end up with the worst record, them or the Celtics (I wanted to put them at 2, is that too late?).

Nov 8, 2013; Portland, OR, USA; Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins (15) reacts to an official

I am totally down for the #FreeBoogie campaign, however I vote we call it #PickBoogieAway campaign… get it? (PUNZ) Wasn’t there a rumor that Boogie was on the way to Philly this summer? I could have sworn that something like that popped up on draft night. I would still welcome a trade for him. Spencer and Evan. Make it happen, Hinkie. (That would never happen, FWIW. DMC is their franchise. It would take a lot more than that.)

Hey! The Sixers have a chance to get the belt back today. They play the Spurs who currently have it. Think they can put their tanking aside and beat the Spurs (who are on a back-to-back). Brett Brown going up against his former is also something that is going unnoticed I feel like. I think it should be a pretty good game but we shall see.

(editor’s note: for those unfamiliar with “the belt”, see this handy post for details.) 

Kyle: Did you miss Boston’s three straight W’s?! They were on fire this week. Pretty sure that Jeff Green is trying to personally spite me for slandering him in back-to-back weeks in this column. I agree that they’re still in the conversation though, plays like this aside:

The rumor that I remember being floated was Thad and the Sixers pick (which ended up being MCW) for Boogie and the No. 8 pick. I’m drooling imagining a Boogie-Nerlens frontcourt pairing, but alas it was not meant to be.

It’s kind of strange that they undersell coaches going against old teams in the NBA. In the NFL you hear too much about it. Even if the last coaching experience together two opponents have was at Pop Warner, the story still gets driven into the dirt. Maybe that’s just a symptom of the grandeur that is the NFL, but one would think Brown might have some Spurs secrets he could use to his advantage. I’m sure he’ll be fired up to play the his former team, but preparation is going to be the same either way. He (seems) like a very process-oriented guy.

We’re starting to really get rolling with this season, and I think we’ll have a clearer vision of our front-runners in the weeks to come. Any final thoughts?

Spencer: I saw all that. I was even watching the play when it happened. I was so happy when Dwyane Wade missed those free throws like he did (Note: Not a Wade fan at all).

And thanks for the clarification on Boogie. I wonder if both trades went down, we would be looking at a MCW-Noel-Boogie future? DROOOLLZZZZZ. But yes, alas… wasn’t meant to be.

And to sum up, I really don’t have anything left to add. This week was a fun week in the NBA world, and just looking at the matchups over the next couple nights, it will be just as good. Last night’s game between the Thunder and Wizards was a lot of fun.

Just out of curiosity, who are your top prospects for next year? Rank ‘em if you got the cojones!

Kyle: 1. Andrew Wiggins. 2. Everyone else. Any more questions?

Spencer: That works for me.


  1. Utah Jazz

  2. Sacramento Kings

  3. Denver Nuggets

  4. Boston Celtics

  5. Charlotte Bobcats

  6. Orlando Magic

  7. Milwaukee Bucks

  8. New York Knicks

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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