Nov 18, 2013; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Utah Jazz power forward Derrick Favors (15) dunks the ball into the basket in the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors at EnergySolutions Arena. Golden State Warriors won 98-87. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Tanking Rankings, Week Three: Down Go The Knicks

Nov 14, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks small forward Carmelo Anthony (7) and fans react after he was fouled late during the fourth quarter of a game against the Houston Rockets at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-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: I think we’d be doing our (very small) group of fans a disservice if we didn’t get right into the dumpster fire that is the New York Knicks. What the hell are they doing? Chandler’s injury is killing them right now, but their front office, more specifically their ownership, is threatening to send this franchise back to horrors we haven’t seen since the Isiah days. As a Sixers fan, I’m totally on board with this, but part of me is kind of sad that a marquee franchise is so poorly run. It’s not like the Yankees where you’re dealing with a nationwide, even worldwide fan base, a la the Dallas Cowboys.

Now that I think about it, this is something I’ve wondered for a long time: how the hell are the Knicks a marquee franchise? They’re one of the charter members of what eventually became the NBA, and they’ve got two titles in their entire history, each of which came in the early 1970’s. Most of the guys in the league today weren’t even alive the last time they won a championship. The size of the media market and the aura of MSG can only carry you so far. To that end, I hesitate to say that James Dolan runs this team like he’s playing NBA 2K14, but that’s essentially what he’s doing. Unfortunately, you can’t pick a save point and restart when the simulation goes awry, and those first round picks you traded for guys who can put up POINTZZZZZ aren’t just throwaway assets.

With the way the new CBA is structured, getting young talent on cheap contracts is not just helpful, but a requirement in today’s NBA. And now they’re trying to trade away Shumpert?! It’s madness. There’s not much they can even do to fix the problems here. They don’t have a first-round pick they can trade anytime in the near future, and they are pretty much in gridlocks with all their contracts. It feels like this the basketball Titanic – glitz and glam everywhere, but no “break glass in case of emergency” option that can save them in dire straits. When does Melo leaving become a real possibility, if ever?

Spencer: The Knicks are bad. Say what you want, but I can’t stand JR Smith. I blame him for the demise of the franchise (ok, that’s a little harsh. But we have to blame someone and he seems like the most blamable guy around). The Knicks are the Knicks basically because of New York City being their home. They have had big time players come through like Ewing, Frazier, Houston, SPREWELL (had to get a troll in), Reed and Melo. But their front office is horrific. They literally have no picks till 2018 or something. My advice to the Knicks: You already suck, just tank. Just have the front office play Russian Roulette and whoever is the last one standing makes all the shots (let’s just hope that isn’t Dolan).

Nov 16, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard Iman Shumpert (21) drives the lane during the third quarter against the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. Atlanta Hawks won 110-90. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

For what it’s worth, I would love.. L-U-V.. for the Sixers to somehow get in on a Shump-Shump trade. Bring that Will Smith West Philadelphian flat-top to Philly, we’ll embrace you, Iman! I have trade to find a way to trade for Iman on the trade machine, but basically improbably until that December 15th mark when free agents that signed in the off-season and re-signees can be traded. I have thought Melo leaving has been a possibility for a while. The Knicks are not set-up to win in his career-time and he may as well move on. I also think that Melo is going to have to give up the lead-dog role and team up with somebody that can maybe lead the way for him to get a championship. Now, let me be clear: Carmelo Anthony is one of my favorite players. I am a Syracuse fan, I have followed his career since he was there. But pure scorers, like Melo, don’t typically win championships being the lead guy. I loved Melo in his role with Team USA. LeBron and him were so dangerous. That is the type of role I want to see Melo in. Will he do that? Eh… probably not. But, one can dream. So how ‘bout the Cavs, though?

Kyle: Kyrie is like Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde this year. I was at the first Sixers-Cleveland game a.k.a. Bynum Bowl and he was totally off the whole night. Couldn’t hit water if he was on a boat in the middle of the Pacific. He’s counted on to create almost everything on that team, which is dangerous with how erratic his play has been.

Of more interest to me as a Sixers fan is their absolute failure in the draft the past few years. Normally I don’t like to play armchair GM and look back at picks in retrospect, but people openly derided their past couple selections from the jump. As much of a shock as the Bennett pick was, I was even more perplexed by the Waiters choice. Let’s say they select Harrison Barnes instead, opening the door for them to select Oladipo with their pick this year. Isn’t Irving-Dipo-Barnes-Thompson a solid quartet going forward, and better than what they have right now? More importantly, wasn’t Barnes a straight up better prospect at the time of that selection?

Cleveland is a reminder that the Thunder are the standard bearers for draft excellence, but they are far from the rule. Thankfully, I have faith in Hinkie and whoever he sees fit to scout and take care of business on that end. Regardless of where the Sixers end up selecting, I think they can’t really lose with the talent that’s out there this year. Do you think we should send a memo to the Bucks owner that they need to embrace tanking instead of just being bad? They’re never going to lure big names to Milwaukee, unless you think OJ Mayo (snicker) is a big name.

Spencer: I think at the time, a lot of people still had questions about Harrison Barnes. He “under-achieved” in college but mainly due to spacing issues. Harrison has long been one of my favorite players, dating back to the first time I saw him in high-school. BUT, Dion had the mysteriousness around him during draft time. Remember how he was held out of workouts after only a couple of days because a team promised him a pick? He was brought off the bench at Syracuse and still dropped 15 nightly. He offered a lot of slashing that Barnes didn’t necessarily have at the time.

Nov 11, 2013; Chicago, IL, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters (3) dribbles the ball as Chicago Bulls shooting guard Jimmy Butler (21) defends during the second half at the United Center. The Bulls won 96-81. Mandatory Credit: Rob Grabowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Cavs needed both SG/SF positions at the time, but I think SG was more of a need with Gee/Caspi/Twan there at the wings. I’m not trying to justify what the Cavs did, but I can see why they picked Dion. And for what it’s worth, I really like Dion. I don’t like how he is being used by Mike Brown (when is he going to get fired?)

I really have no idea who runs the Bucks, but they have been sniffing that deer antler spray far too long. The people they signed in the off-season were legitimately all mediocre, middle of the pack guys. I like Giannis, Ilyasova, Wolters and Middleton but after that, I’m not a huge fan of the rest of their guys. They are just good enough to be in that 9th/10th spot, but not make the playoffs or tank too hard. I think their owner is living in the “Bucks in 6″ twilight zone a little too much. Oh, I forgot Zaza was there too, I like him as well. I’m not a huge fan of Larry Sanders like others are. Same goes for Henson, Butler and Knight (but no one is really a fan of Brandon Knight)

What’s the over/under for the Kings to blow it up and finally let a team #PickTheBoogie away from them? February 12th is what I’m setting it at. What do you think? I say under. It’s only a matter of time right? They’re 2-7 and look worse than that.

This really has nothing to do with Tanking Rankings, but I just want to say that I called the East being horrific this summer. I saw a couple of good teams up top but then after that, bleh. And people gave me shit for it. I hate being that guy, but right now is one of those times I am embracing being THAT guy. SUCK IT BLOGGER OVERLORDS! Want to talk about the tanktastical team that is the Jazz?

Kyle: As weird as this sounds, I actually don’t totally hate the way the Jazz are constructed. Derrick Favors, even though it seems like he has been around for about 10 years at this point, is only 22 years old. 13 points, 10 rebounds and almost two blocks per game isn’t flashy, but he’s getting more reps and finally starting to establish some semblance of consistency.

One of their main issues is the lack of shot creators on the team, and despite our lukewarm opinion of Trey Burke, his return from injury will help in that regard. Anytime you can go from Jamaal Tinsley to just about anyone else, you’re making a big upgrade. Paired with Hayward, who has actually been pretty good this year, and you at least have a team that’s going to be competitive. They smartly balked at giving Hayward a bunch of money prior to the season starting, and it’d be wise to not overspend to keep him next summer. They don’t seem to be in any hurry to compete, and that’s the right move. Stick one of the studs from the upcoming draft on this team and I think you have a nice core.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Waiters, but fourth overall was a major reach. The thing that confuses me about their draft strategy is that it was advertised as trying to get the best players to win now, upside thrown out of the equation. To me, that’s always an enormous red flag, and they didn’t even get the best guys! You have to be thinking beyond your immediate future. Look at the Rockets for example – they had approximately 15 power forwards a couple years ago, and ended up turning that glut into two of the top 15 or so players in basketball. That’s the difference between a guy like Darryl Morey and an owner who writes his email in Comic Sans.

I’m actually less convinced than ever that Boogie will get moved. Unless somebody bowls them over with an offer, which I can’t really see happening, I think he’s their guy, for better or for worse. Cue to a month from now and we’ll be watching Boogie in Celtics green alongside Kelly Olynyk, creating a vortex of defensive ineptitude that none of us will make it out alive from.

One last team we should get to before we wrap this up: the Pelicans, who have been mercurial in the early stages of the season, and whom the Sixers have a vested interest in. Can they be as good as they looked against the Sixers on Saturday night, or was that just an aberration?

Spencer: I didn’t get to watch the Pelicans against the Sixers the other night. What I can say is that the Sixers were coming off a back to back loss to the Hawks the night before and were playing without MCW and Kwame Brown; those are key losses. One of the Sixers weaknesses is being able to guard the 3-pointer and the Pelicans went 13-28 from 3 and shot 60 from the field.

No offense to Pierre, but I don’t see the Pelicans putting up those type of points on most nights (PLEASE LET ME LIVE, PIERRE!) That said, I still think the glaring weakness on this Pelicans team is their defense. Without getting to statty (that’s a word) I have read/heard about how atrocious their defense looks on most nights. I still think the Pelicans will end up in that 10th spot in the draft and I hope it’s more like 6.

Nov 8, 2013; New Orleans, LA, USA; New Orleans Pelicans mascot Pierre the Pelican performs for the crowd during the fourth quarter of a game at New Orleans Arena. The Pelicans defeated the Lakers 96-85. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Kyle: As someone who has followed the Pelicans semi-religiously this season, I am a little more bullish on their team than most. Mostly because Anthony Davis’ human octopus routine is just marvelous. Guy has arms for days. In theory I would love for their pick to hover around six, but I have no interest in sweating the ping-pong balls when it comes time for the lottery. Let’s shoot for top 12, so my blood pressure doesn’t go through the roof next summer. Damn lottery, you scary! (You too, Pierre.)

Tanking Rankings: Week Three

  1. Utah Jazz

  2. Sacramento Kings

  3. Milwaukee Bucks

  4. Washington Wizards

  5. Cleveland Cavaliers

  6. New York Knicks

  7. Boston Celtics

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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