- Which NBA team will finish with the worst record? Which one has the saddest rebuilding situation? And which non-tanking team should be tanking? The Crossover answers all of these depressing questions.
While the Warriors have generated a superteam arms race among the NBA's elite, they've also triggered a different kind of race around the league: a sprint to the bottom.
Tanking is nothing new when it comes to the NBA (see: 76ers, Philadelphia), but we're only two weeks into the 2017-18 season and there's already a handful of teams that have separated themselves from the pack when it comes to futility. Entering Friday's action, the NBA still has four one–win teams, which doesn't even count the Phoenix Suns, who fired their coach just five days into the new season.
So which NBA team has the saddest rebuilding situation? Which one will finish the season with the worst record? And if you are an NBA player, which franchise would you least wanted to be traded to? The Crossover paneled its NBA experts to answer these depressing questions.
Which team will finish with the worst record?
Chicago Bulls. It won’t take much wrangling to get you to agree. If you don’t think the Bulls will have the worst record in the NBA now, you will soon enough.
The Bulls, who reluctantly entered the rebuilding stage after last year's Three Alphas debacle, somehow perfected the art of tanking without breaking stride. They have all the hallmarks of a terrible team: youth, drama and general confusion. The most significant part of the Bulls’ season centered on a fight that left two of their best players on the sidelines, and there’s little resolution in sight, as Nikola Mirotic has basically refused to come back to the team until Bobby Portis is out of town. With these two feuding, a rookie is leading Chicago in scoring and Robin Lopez is the most competent player on the floor most nights.
Once centered on the bizarre, veteran laden “Big Three” of Jimmy Butler, Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo, the Bulls now turn to Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn to determine their future. If that doesn’t sound grim enough, LaVine, the focal point of the Butler deal, has yet to return from an ACL injury he suffered as a member of the Timberwolves. Even when he does return, don't expect the young Bulls to steal many games. — DeAntae Prince
Which rebuild is the saddest?
Atlanta Hawks. The poor Hawks spent a decade loitering in the middle of the Eastern Conference just to have one empty 60-win season (they were swept by the Cavs in the playoffs) and then watch their good-but-never-great core fall apart. Now, the Hawks are comprised of career backups, a lead guard who elicits enmity as much as excitement, and a couple recent mid-first round draft picks who might only be OK. Finally, a roster worthy of Atlanta’s notoriously insipid home crowds.
By my calculations, the Hawks are the only NBA team without a prospective star (sorry, Dennis Schröder), and they don’t sport a single top-10 selection on the squad. Kent Bazemore, who would make a great eighth man, is their highest-paid player. Sure, they’ll have cap space next summer, but marquee free agents seem allergic to the ATL.
The only good thing about Atlanta’s situation is that the Hawks might actually be awful enough to snag the top spot in the draft. Oh, and John Collins dunks, at least they have those. — Ben Teitelbaum
Which team is accidentally tanking?
Sacramento Kings. I say this mostly just because it’s easy to assume that most of what the Kings are doing is happening by accident. But that said, there were a number of win-now-slash-improve-chemistry moves over the summer—George Hill, Zach Randolph, Vince Carter—that suggested the Kings were at least prepared to try. De’Aaron Fox has looked relatively good coming off the bench, but Hill, the starting point guard, is averaging less than 10 points per game. Not ideal! Skal Labissiere is learning on the fly, and Buddy Hield is chucking about as inefficiently as possible.
The good news is that there’s some talent here now, the bad news is there’s a lot more assembly required. Nailing the Fox pick at least leaves some hope for another strong outcome in next spring's lottery. — Jeremy Woo
Which non-tanking team should be tanking?
New York Knicks. We all assumed the Knicks would embrace a youth movement after trading Carmelo Anthony this summer, but then again, we've all mistakenly assumed a lot of things about the Knicks over the years. Instead of giving big minutes to the kids and playing for the future, Jeff Hornacek has turned to his veterans, trying to squeeze every win out of his current squad in order to keep his job. Yes, that's right, the Knicks are making a ridiculously short-sighted move. Drink.
New York has given an abundance of playing time this season to Jarrett Jack (34 years old, 25.8 MPG), Courtney Lee (32 years old, 31.7 MPG) and Ramon Sessions (31 years old, 21.3 MPG) despite none having any role in the team's future. They've even buried 23-year-old Willy Hernangomez on the bench, and that's before Joakim Noah, the $72 million man, has even suited up.
Kristaps Porzingis has been shredding opponents left and right, but let's remember two things: 1) Zinger is only 22 and the Knicks should be trying to build a team that peaks during his prime. And 2) Running him into the ground in November isn't going to help his development in March.
If the Knicks were smart, they'd go young, put their veterans in complementary roles, and avoid finishing in the middle of the East, which is exactly where they're headed. And if they insist on playing vets that don't make sense, at least sign and give us a reason to watch. — Matt Dollinger
Which team would you least want to be traded to?
Phoenix Suns. Why would you ever want to play for the Suns? Robert Sarver is notoriously cheap and has run most of his good players out of town. GM Ryan McDonough has no problem throwing his players under the bus through the media. And Phoenix's dry heat can't be good for your skin.
Seriously, though, Eric Bledsoe is a perfect test case for why no NBA player should want to head to Phoenix any time soon. The Suns low-balled Bledsoe during contract negotiations, signed too many players at his position, failed to put together a competitive team around him, and then kept him in purgatory at the end of last season in order to tank. Does that sound appealing to you?
The Suns' future isn't entirely bleak. Devin Booker can score, Josh Jackson has potential, and Dragan Bender is showing some flashes this season. (The Suns' gorilla is also a top–five mascot.) But the front office has a long way to go in showing it can cater to players in what is an increasingly player-driven league. Unless you are a friend of LaMarcus Aldridge looking for one last payday (keep getting them checks, Tyson Chandler!), it's probably best to avoid Phoenix until the arena has an "Under New Management" sign out front. — Rohan Nadkarni