Expert NBA Betting Advice: Handicapping Tanking Teams
There seem to be three truly elite players in the NBA Draft - the top two from Duke, and Ja Morant - and several others who could be very useful. So, it's a good year to have a high draft pick - especially if you can land the top pick and bring in Zion Williamson to save your team. There is a good incentive to tank, then, and some teams are doing a very good job of committing to a tank. This is a good time to check in on some of the biggest tankers in the league to see where they are at and what bettors might expect from them down the stretch:
Knicks: New York had been doing a textbook job of tanking, losing 18 straight. But then they showed dangerous amounts of pride, winning three of four. Luckily, they got right back onto track with their tanking last time out, coming from 14 points ahead to lose to Cleveland. This team got a good haul - at least in the short term - from Dallas at the deadline, and it is having a positive impact. But they have the second-worst record in the league right now. And despite showing some extra pride, they are a long way from good or particularly talented. They still feel like a good bet to finish last in the East. As dumb as this organization has repeatedly proven to be, though, they probably aren't particularly focused on the lottery since they feel like they are a lock to sign two max free agents this summer. Why any superstar would want anything to do with this franchise is way beyond me, but that's what they seem to think.
Cavaliers: On the surface, it looks like this team has turned a small corner since the trade deadline. They have won four of their last six, and their point guard-heavy rotation - they have four point guards playing decent minutes - is putting up numbers. Don't be fooled, though - those wins have come against Phoenix, Memphis, and New York twice. So, all they have done is beat up on teams that are perhaps even more committed to tanking than the Cavs are. There is even less incentive than you might expect for this team to play well down the stretch, though, They owe Atlanta a first-round pick, but it is Top 10 protected both this year and next year, and turns into two second-round picks after that. So, Cleveland wants to stay bad enough that they get to keep their own pick. And given the gaping holes in their roster, they absolutely need a high lottery type of player - or five.
Bulls: Despite not having a permanent head coach, things are trending the right way for this team right now. They made a great deadline deal to bring in Otto Porter Jr. at a very reasonable cost. He has settled in really nicely and is playing well. At the same time, Zach LaVine is having a strong year. They have won four of their last five and have a swagger right now that you don't typically see from a 17-45 teams. They are playing the best of any tanking team right now and have the potential to keep doing so the rest of the way. But they are in no danger of playing themselves out of a high pick.
Suns: This is the only team that has officially been eliminated from the playoffs. To accomplish that in February is a special kind of impressive. But when you look at the roster and the general state of the organization, you realize that this is what they were built to do. They won last time out, but that broke a 17-game losing streak. Devin Booker is a superstar, but he is struggling to stay healthy this year. No. 1 overall pick Deandre Ayton is slowly trending in the right direction, but there just isn't a lot of talent here and very little depth. There are a lot of bad teams in this league right now, but I would pick Phoenix to finish last without even a little hesitation. It almost seems a shame to waste the top pick on this team, though - it is hard to believe they can make good use of it any more than they have with all the other good picks they have had over the years.
Grizzlies: Memphis has twice as many wins as the Suns, so they aren't truly committed to tanking this year. And they clearly don't want a top pick badly enough - they sold off Marc Gasol at the deadline but held on to their other cornerstone in Mike Conley. He really needed to go if this team was serious about tanking. They really should be more focused on struggling than they are - they owe a first-round pick to Boston, but it is Top 8 protected this year. They have already traded away their second pick and have a second-round pick from Boston that isn't likely to wind up with them because it is heavily protected. So, if they blow it and don't end up with their first-round pick then they'll have a very quiet draft in a time when they could use a ton of help. They have lost five of their last six, including two to Chicago and one to Cleveland, so they are doing a much better job of tanking lately. But they need to keep it up.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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