Sink Or Swim? Breaking Down The NBA Playoff Chances For 10 Potential Tanking Teams

By: 12.12.13
DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan (photo. Gary Land)

In basketball, one thing is guaranteed: someone will win and someone will lose. This season, it appears the entire Eastern Conference (save Indiana and Miami) are playing Twisted Metal and driving tanks, trying to see which team can blow up the quickest. That wasn’t anymore evident than when Toronto shipped away Rudy Gay and received a McDonald’s value meal in return.

To bring this into perspective, the culumitive record for the Eastern Conference is 140-185, while the Western Conference is sporting a record of 185-140. Besides the Utah Jazz, who are giving Richard Jefferson 28 minutes per game, the West is stacked with a plethora of teams that seem ready to compete for a playoff spot. But, in the East, can anyone really name anyone outside of Indiana and Miami that can be a threat to any playoff contending team in the West? I mean, Atlanta is the No. 3 seed right now with a record of 11-11 and Boston comes in at No. 4 with a record of 10-14.

Honestly, things will change and the East can’t be THIS bad, can it? And what about in the West, where the worst of the bunch have to face a barrage of competent teams all year? I know just the names of Andrew Wiggins (who looked amazing Tuesday night with 26 points and 11 boards) and Jabari Parker make everyone salivate like a famined dog, but really? Whatever the case is, some of these teams that appear lottery-bound need to be examined and see if we can articulate how close these teams are to the playoffs. So let’s play CSI: Tanking Edition and see if we can make sense out of some of these teams.

Here are 10 of the worst teams in the NBA… and their chances of making the playoffs.

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When a team trades away their best player, it usually happens for a reason. The Raptors just acquired Rudy Gay last season and less than a season later, he’s changing uniforms once again. Having Rudy Gay as the best player on your team just screams mediocrity, something the Raptors have been labeled as their whole existence.

According to, the Raptors payroll this season (2013-2014) is $70,914,043. The Raptors payroll in 2014-2015 looks to be around $41,000,000 and it will be around 13,250,000 in 2015-16. Three of the players the Raptors received in the Rudy Gay trade have options for next season (Vasquez, Patterson and Salmons). The Raptors decided Rudy Gay and DeMar DeRozan weren’t going to bring a Larry O’Brien trophy to Canada so they blew up the roster and filled it with stop-gaps that won’t be in Toronto for long.

Seen with the Philadelphia 76ers this offseason, the Raptors finally realized mediocrity is a death sentence. A team must go all the way to the bottom to rise back up, which is exactly what the Raptors are attempting. Even with losing Rudy Gay, the Raptors still have a solid player in DeMar DeRozan, who is averaging 21.5 PPG on 43 percent shooting this season. DeRozan can be used as a building block or the future, or a hefty casino chip to be cashed in before the trade deadline.

The Raptors play in possibly the worst division in basketball history (record-wise) this season in the Atlantic Division. I’m sure the Knicks, Nets and Celtics (when Rondo returns) will improve as the season progresses, but right now it’s ugly. With the Raptors in perpetual “tanking” mode, they will have to lose a lot of games against teams that might be worse than them. This could all backfire on the Raptors, especially in the Eastern Conference where it’s not unheard of for a team under .500 to make the playoffs. The Raptors might have to consider trading DeRozan to ensure their lottery chances are safe. Poor Raptors fans, it never gets any better.

So how close are the Raptors to the playoffs? Well, with DeRozan still in the fold, I’d say pretty close. With the makeup of this team right now and considering how putrid the East is, they may still be contending for an 8th seed near the end of the season. The Raptors are relatively close to the playoffs and only a piece or two away from actually making the playoffs. It would have been interesting to see how Gay and DeRozan would play together for a whole season and how many wins they could accumulate. The Raptors will definitely need to blow this team up a little more if they are looking to wins the right to a Wiggins, Parker or Randle.

The best thing about the Orlando Magic is that no one envisioned this team would be the winners of the Bynum/Howard/Iguodala trade two seasons ago. Instead of reaching for immediate success like the Lakers, Sixers and Nuggets did in that trade, the Magic took a backseat and collected young raw talent that these teams were throwing away. Now some of these players (Vucevic, Harkless, Nicholson) are actually resembling legitimate NBA talent. Let’s not discredit Arron Afflalo, who is averaging 21.6 points, four assists and 4.6 boards this season and even torched the Sixers for 43 points earlier this month. Even if Afflalo doesn’t fit into the long-term plans of the Magic, he’s certainly raising his trade value. The Magic have so much young talent on their roster, including Victor Oladipo, who looks more and more like a future star each game. The future is extremely bright in Orlando and with already having two lottery picks in the star studded 2014 NBA Draft, start to lookout for the Magic.

Still, the Orlando Magic are still paying Gilbert Arenas $22,346,536 this season to do… well I’m not sure what he’s doing. When asked if he will ever play in the NBA again by TMZ, Arenas responded “Hell no” and then said he’s done playing basketball. Apparently, he’s still playing at the local YMCA however.

Oh yeah, the Magic are also paying Hedo Turkoglu $12,000,000 to not play basketball. So, there’s that. But, let’s get back to reality. The bad news is that the young core in Orlando will still need a couple years of development to really start looking like a team that can compete, even in the East. With that being said, Arron Afflalo might actually be a decent enough NBA player to tether the Magic toward playoff contention instead of the ping-pong balls, so the Magic might look to cut ties with him before the wins start to accumulate.

The Magic are still a couple years from playoff contention. The young core still needs a few years to develop and they are still missing a point guard, with Jameer Nelson getting older by the second. The young talent is there, but there isn’t necessarily a superstar in that group. Vucevic looks like one of the best big men in the game (14.6 points and 11.1 boards this season) and if Oladipo is the player we all expect him to be, the things are on the right track. The jury is still out on players like Harkless, Tobias Harris and Andrew Nicholson, but all three have shown promise. The Magic need a few more seasons for their extremely raw talent to develop and draft a couple studs in this season’s draft before the playoffs should even be discussed.

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