People don't like to tank. Some people don't believe that teams tank. Some other people don't believe that tanking pays off. Yet others don't think anything other than a winning culture helps a franchise rise. And, of course, we also get situations where teams are now tanking in the off-season with the intent of losing games in the regular season. You can argue that this is the more honorable way to tank, the 'stealth tank'. Fingers immediately point to the Philadelphia 76ers here as an example. But let's be real, this is exactly what the Utah Jazz did this last off-season as well. (Really, you don't make the big off-season move to get Andris Biedrins and call yourself as 'trying to win every game.')
Anyway, there are 20 teams we track every night in the "While you were sleeping" section. Some of them are fighting for the worst record in the league. Some are fighting to make the playoffs. And some are fighting for playoff seeding.
These groups of teams are aiming for different goals. Putting them all in one post a day does them all a collective disservice. So let's try to break them down according to these groups:
These are the teams in the playoffs (or close to it) that they are trying to not only win every game for the sake of it, but for the sake of getting good playoff position.
- GSW: Currently 44-27, and with 11 games left to play the 6th seed Warriors have an interesting finial lap here. 10 of their last 11 games are against the West. Of those 10 West games 4 are against West playoff teams (Dal, Mem, Por, and SAS). Those are going to be good games. But they also have a ton of their games against bad teams. They play a lotto team 7 of 11 times to finish the season. There are three gimmies in the games against LAL, UTA, and SAC.
- MEM: Memphis is 2.0 games behind the Warriors right now, and have 13 games left. Yes, 11 of those 13 are against the West, and they play 4 Western Conference playoff teams still (DAL, GSW, POR, SAS) They do play 2 games against the bottom 5 teams though, which were gimmies at this stage, and 10 of their remaining games are against the bottom 20. So their road will be bumpier, but not like they are playing world beaters every night.
- DAL: Dallas plays all of their remaining 11 games against the West. They're also 2.0 games behind the Dubs right now, but they have a harder road as they play 6 times against playoff teams. Of their 5 games against lotto teams, 4 are against the bottom 10 teams (LAL, UTA, and 2x SAC). That's a little solace after having to also face SAC, OKC, MEM, GSW, and LAC x2.
- PHX: I put the Suns here even though they aren't in the playoffs. They're still a good team. They have 12 games left, and 8 of them are against playoffs teams (east + west). They will have a hard finishing schedule where only 3 of their last 12 are against the Bottom 10 teams in the league, and only 4 against lotto teams. Good teams win tough games though. But I think a finishing schedule that has them facing ATL, DAL, LAC, MEM, NOP, NYK, OKC, POR, SAS, and WAS will be tough on them, even with Eric Bledsoe back.
- BKN: Brooklyn is fighting for homecourt in the East right now. They have 14 games left, which is tied for the most with MIN and ATL. They play three Western conference teams still: HOU, MIN, and NOP. Those are not going to be easy, but they just beat DAL last night. So they are peaking at the right time. They also have an amazing schedule as 10 of their last 14 are against lotto teams, 8 of their last 14 are against the bottom 10 records in the league, and 3 are against the bottom 5 teams.
- CHA: Charlotte is in the hunt for avoiding the Pacers or Heat, so they want to win. They play 12 games, 5 against Eastern playoff foes, one against HOU (tonight), and then things get much easier. Bobcats face the worst of the worst 5 times to close the season: BOS, ORL x2, PHI x2. Those are all going to be wins.
- ATL: Hawks would be much higher if they were healthy this year, but that's the case for many teams every season. This season they have 14 more games to finish out, with 6 of them be against East playoff teams. Of their 7 lotto games, 3 are against the bottom 5, and 5 against the bottom 10. Their schedule isn't easy, nor hard. It just is.
- MIN: Effectively, Minny is the best of the rest. They also have 14 games to play to finish this season, and 10 of them are against east or west playoff teams. I expect losses here, as they may get a chance to slip to a better lotto spot. They do play LAL, UTA, ORL, and SAC though. Then it's all darkness.
- DEN: Denver is also another candidate to lose a lot down the stretch. They play 12 more times this year, and 10 of them are against West playoff teams: GSW x2, HOU x2, LAC, MEM x2, OKC, SAS x2. It's brutal.
- NOP: There's good news and bad news. The good news is that they play the Jazz twice, and Anthony Davis is really good. The bad news is that they have to play BKN, HOU x2, LAC, OKC x2, PHX, POR, and SAS. Yikes.
- NYK: The Knicks are most likely not making the playoffs. They are behind by 3.0 games, and have only 12 games to make it up. They play the East 7 times, and the West 5 times. Those East games are all against East playoff teams: BKN x2, CHI, MIA, TOR x2, and WAS. Only one of the West games are against a playoff team, GSW. Also, they are currently on a 5 games in 7 nights road trip. It's not looking good in Gotham.
- CLE: Cleveland plays 11 games, all against the East, and 6 of them are against playoff teams: ATL, BKN x2, CHA, IND, and TOR. They do have games left against ORL and MIL. So that's good. But they are hard to predict, like all the teams in this section -- they can win or lose on any night.
- DET: Detroit is all Charles Dickens right now. They play 13 more games, and they play the good teams: ATL, BKN, CHI, IND, MIA, OKC, and TOR. And they play the bad teams too: BOS, MIL, PHI, and UTA. Four of their games are against the bottom 5, and 6 against the bottom 10. They have a lot of talent, but it's going to be bad basketball all the way.
- MIL: They play 12 games left, and they should lose all of them. They only play 2 games left against teams in the bottom 10. And 9 of the 12 are against playoff teams. Yikes.
- PHI: Philly WILL lose each of their last 12 games. Only 2 are against the bottom 5, and 3 against the bottom 10. Like Milwaukee, 9 are against playoff teams.
- ORL: Orlando only plays 11 more games, 9 against playoff teams. They play no games against the bottom 5, and only 3 against the bottom 10. It's not going to be good.
- UTA: This is us. We play 12 more games, 10 against the West. Only 5 are playoff teams: DAL, GSW, MEM, OKC, and POR. The rest are kinda winnable: DEN, DET, LAL, MIN, NOP x2, and NYK in their 5th game in 7 nights.
- LAL: The Lakers have only 13 games left, 11 against the West. They play 7 games against West playoff teams and should lose each of those. Of the remaining games they play the bottom 5 twice, and the bottom 10 4 times. These are the crazy games to watch: MIL, MIN, NYK, PHX, SAC, and UTA.
- BOS: Boston plays 12 more times, all against the East, and 8 of them are against East playoff teams. The other games are CLE, DET, and PHI x2. They could end up finishing 2-10. That looks like a #4 worst record in the league.
- SAC: The Kings play 12 more games, and 7 are against playoff teams. Of the games remaining they play LAL, MIN, NOP, NYK, and PHX. I could see them being the #5 worst team too. Sucks.
Ideally, the Jazz will snap out of things and start losing more games. I don't know if they will, though.