What the hell, Celtics.
After bottoming out Wednesday night with yet another fourth quarter collapse in Atlanta, the Celtics went to great lengths on Friday and Saturday to screw up their season long quest to finish in the bottom-five of the lottery.
After briefly tying the Magic for the third worst record in the league, consecutive wins against the Bobcats and Cavs have dropped the Cs into a tie for the fifth worst record.
To put that in perspective, while tied with Orlando the Celtics had a 13.8% chance at landing the first pick, and a 42.4% chance at landing in the top-three. Now? Those odds have dropped to 7.5% and 25.4% respectively.
In short: this sucks.
But as frustrating as it is, I can't quite bring myself to be angry. The Celtics benched Rajon Rondo for the last two games (and likely tonight) with a sore shin. Jerryd Bayless, Kris Humphries and Jared Sullinger are also sitting out with minor injuries. The team has eight players, two of whom started the year in the D-league, and one of whom is Joel Anthony. They're starting an undrafted rookie free agent at point guard, and Kelly Olynyk is protecting the paint for the majority of the game. This is the equivalent to starting your whole team, playing your ass off and yet losing when you're trying to win. It's hard to get too angry when a team is pulling out all of the stops to get the desired result, yet can't quite close the deal.
And then there's the theory that Danny Ainge should have dumped more talent at the deadline. I'm not saying that this was impossible, but take a look at the players moved this season, and tell me how many average players with bad contracts were dumped at this year's deadline? I'm a huge Brandon Bass fan, but I don't think any GM offered an expiring deal for him, or else he would be gone (ala Courtney Lee). Jeff Green is due $18 million over the next two seasons..can you imagine any GM pulling the trigger on that without offering a similarly bad contract in return? Humphries' deal is expiring, but his $12 million deal made it hard to find a taker. You would have needed a contending team with a whole bunch of expiring money and a need down low to make things work.
Trading overpaid role players is one of the hardest things in the league to do, so I don't blame DA much for that. Signing these guys (especially Green) is a different story, and criticism is certainly warranted there (the fact that he tried to build around an aging core and make a final run was a calculated risk, and one that required role players to make it work, which made some of the deals signed seem ok back then. Obviously the plan failed though, and that's on Ainge).
And despite the last two wins, Boston is still only 3-14 in their last 17 games, 6-21 in their last 27, 13-41 in their last 54 and 25-55 overall. When you stop to consider that this team was predicted by Vegas to win 29-30 games, Rondo's return at the halfway point and a guy viewed as a very good coach at the helm -- how much worse could we have expected?
It sucks and it stinks and it sucks -- but if you had told me at the beginning of the season that they'd be 25-55..I would not have been overly devastated. Therefore it's hard for me to get too worked up now that that's the outcome. But that doesn't mean it isn't disappointing that they built our hopes up only to tear them down with back-to-back wins. Total tease by the Cs.
But the Celtics aren't the only team in the running, lets count down the top ten tank contenders for the final time.
Note: The rankings are in terms of record, but I also will list the Hollinger lottery odds, former ESPN columnist (and current Grizzlies front office executive) John Hollinger's simulation system which predicts teams records based on their season thus far and upcoming schedule. The number you see after the Hollinger lottery odds is what place they rank in his system.
1. Bucks, 15-65 (Hollinger lottery odds: 24.8% - 1st)
The Bucks season long odyssey to get the #1 lottery spot is nearly complete. With one more loss, or one more Sixers win, Milwaukee will lock themselves into the #1 spot, and the 25% odds at the first pick that come with it.
It's just funny how things work out. Milwaukee gave decent money to players like O.J. Mayo, Zaza Pachulia and Gary Neal while agreeing to trade for Caron Butler and his $8 million deal in the hopes of making a playoff run, only to end up with the worst record in basketball. Once again proving that it's not all that easy to get the worst record in the league. Sometimes you just need a certain level of mis-management and a plan that goes horribly wrong.
Magic number is one to be #1, can't fall below #2
2. 76ers, 17-63 (HLO: 19.7% - 2nd)
Crazy fact: Philadelphia is 3-35 in their last 38 games, yet 2-1 vs the Celtics in that time. So the next time you hear someone bemoan the Celtics wins vs Miami or Brooklyn as reasons they may fall a spot or two, remind them that they've somehow lost two games to Philly in the midst of the worst run many of us have ever seen. Further proof that basketball is a weird game.
However, unless the Bucks can win two games in a row for the first time all year, the Sixers efforts over the last three months will come up a little short of landing them the #1 tank spot. Not that they're in a bad place, the #2 spot still gives them a 56% chance at being in the top-three and a 100% chance to be in the top-five.
Can't fall lower than #2, could tie for #1 with two losses and two Bucks' wins
3. Magic, 23-57 (HLO: 15.2% - 3rd)
The Magic did not like falling into a tie for third with the Celtics, so much so that they shutdown Nikola Vucevic for the season and benched Jameer Nelson yesterday. The Magic have lost two in a row to help stabilize their hold on the #3 spot, but are only a game clear of the Jazz.
The good news for Magic fans? Orlando's last two tilts are against teams playing for seeds in Chicago and Indiana. As pesky as the young Magic have been of late, it's hard to imagine them winning either without Vucevic.
Clinch #3 with two losses, could fall into a two-way tie for #3 with one win, and worst case is a four-way tie for #3 with two wins
4. Jazz, 24-56 (HLO: 9.8% - 4th)
The last great tank match-up of the season goes down tonight in Utah, as the Jazz and Lakers stare each other down for the #4 spot in these rankings. Both teams have been horrible of late, but the Jazz' awfulness has extended for over six weeks, with Utah winning only three of their last 23 games.
On paper the Jazz have much more talent than the Lakers, but that talent just hasn't translated of late. It'll be interesting to see if Utah makes any line-up changes tonight, but with their run of late, they may not have to.
Could climb to #3 with two losses and two wins by Orlando, clinch #4 with two losses, could also fall as low as sixth if they win both games
T-5. Lakers, 25-55 (HLO: 9.3% - 5th)
For awhile the Lakers were actually playing somewhat decent basketball despite a roster full of cast-offs and has beens, but that mini-run has been over for some time. LA has lost seven straight games, with six of those losses coming by double-figures, allowing them to tie the Celtics for the #5 spot.
The Lakers are down to nine healthy players, and if they can lose tonight to Utah, look for them to finish the season with 25 wins and on a nine-game skid.
@ San Antonio
Can finish tied for third with two losses and two Magic wins, could also finish alone in fourth, fifth, or sixth
T-5. Celtics, 25-55 (HLO: 7.9% - 6th)
What more needs to be said that I didn't say above? Boston was painfully close to entering the final two games tied for third, and now they enter them with a realistic chance of finishing sixth.
What I do know though, is this: thank god it's almost over. 80 games of rooting against your team is tough, and it's agonizing to think we may have to do it again next season. That's why I won't. One of these seasons every ten years or so is all I can stomach, and I don't think I'm alone. Getting infuriated at wins, hoping for collapses and counting down the days until the end of the season is no way to go through a season. Hopefully enough goes down this summer between the draft and free agency where we can go into next year at least with the possibility of rooting for a solid basketball team.
Tanking is a sometimes necessary evil to root for, but man is it painful to sit through.
Can finish tied for third with two losses and two Magic wins, could also finish alone in fourth, fifth, or sixth
7. Kings, 28-53 (HLO: 4.1% - 7th)
A small silver lining for Celtics fans appeared last night when the Kings beat Minnesota, clinching the fact that Boston will finish beneath Sacramento in the standings. And it's a good thing it did, as both of the Celtics remaining two games are winnable, and the only game left on the docket for the Kings is against the Suns, who are fighting for their playoff lives.
As an aside, the Kings are the one team in these rankings I could see as viable suitors for Rajon Rondo this summer. If they end up with the seventh pick, that pick, the rights to Isaiah Thomas and one more asset (Ben McLemore? Taking Gerald Wallace?) could be a nice package for Rondo, and could also give SacTown a Rondo-Rudy Gay-DeMarcus Cousins trio that could excite a fan base that hasn't had much to cheer for the past half decade or so.
So many options this summer for Ainge, and I for one cannot wait to see which one he chooses.
Clinch #7 with loss in final game, could finish in tie for seventh with win and Pistons loss
8. Pistons, 29-52 (HLO: 3.4% - 8th)
Joe Dumars is finally done in Detroit, and it's completely insane to look back at his tenure. Ten years ago he successfully built a title winner basically from scratch, dealing for Rip Hamilton, Ben Wallace and Rasheed Wallace, drafting Tayshaun Prince 23rd overall and signing Chauncey Billups off the scrapheap.
But he also drafted Darko over Melo, Wade and Bosh, signed Josh Smith, Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon, traded Arron Afflalo for a second round pick, extended Rip, Rodney Stuckey and Prince to big deals, and dealt Billups for Allen Iverson, ending a run of six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals reached with the same core.
A magical run of moves to earn a ring, only to be followed by consistent awfulness in trying to get back to that level. A bizarre run that has finally come to an end.
As for their pick this year, they're going to be in the #8 spot unless the Kings can beat the Suns. Hopefully for them they're able to land in the top-eight, allowing themselves to avoid paying up on another Dumars mistake: dealing Ben Gordon's deal along with this year's draft pick (top-eight protected) for Corey Maggette.
@ Oklahoma City
Tie for seventh if they lose and the Kings win, finish eighth if they lose or the Kings win
9. Cavs, 32-49 (HLO: 1.6% - 10th)
The Cavs should be embarrassed about the effort they gave against the Celtics D-team on Saturday night, trailing by as many as 31 before losing by 12. But the loss did allow them to remain in ninth in the tank standings as we enter the final week. But it can't be much of a consolation after a lost season in which they expected to make the playoffs for the first time in the post-LeBron era.
10. Pelicans, 32-48 (HLO: 1.3% - 11th)
Too little too late.
That's the best way to describe the Pelicans eight game losing streak, which has allowed them to slide from 12th to 10th in the tank standings, but is very unlikely to result in them keeping their draft pick (owed to Philly, top-five protected). But hey, the Sixers appreciate you shutting down Anthony Davis and finishing on a ten game skid.
vs Oklahoma City
Finish alone in ninth with two losses and a Cavs win, tied for ninth with two losses and a Cavs loss, or a 1-1 finish and a Cavs win, finish alone in tenth with two wins or a 1-1 finish and a Cavs
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For more of my articles, click here Michael Dyer 4/14/2014 05:32:00 PM Tweet