The end is in sight. Not just for Kobe Bryant but for the flops of the NBA who are less than 20 games away from being put out of their misery for this season – before they switch attention to the next.
Only the Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers are mathematically out of the Playoff stakes with the Phoenix Suns ready to join the club when they, inevitably, lose to the Golden State Warriors on Saturday.
For the ugly under-achievers, it’s bust not championship. So why are they worth watching? Because it’s time for the annual Tankalooza, that part of the campaign when the rattling of Draft Lottery balls can be heard under the din of title talk, when the question of odds becomes a source of suspicion, especially with two projected superstars in Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram awaiting in this year’s Rookie Class.
Hence, it’s time to lay wagers with caution, especially where legitimate excuses lie for dropping as far down the standings as possible.
Tank Tops: Philadelphia, LA Lakers, Phoenix, Brooklyn Nets, Minnesota Timberwolves
For the Sixers, bar an unfathomable rise from the ashes, their odds in the Simmons Sweepstakes are going to be the shortest of all. Welcome to the Sam Hinkie rebuilding project.
With the Lakers on the Kobe farewell tour, there’s a dash of unpredictability.
But for Phoenix – who have two picks - and especially the T-Wolves, there is no longer any reason to maintain a push. Approach with care.
As for the Nets, they don’t own a draft spot this year so expect them to stink solely for the sake of it, which is why Friday’s trip to the Sixers might be this weekend’s most intriguing clash. Thirteen straight losses but Philadelphia keep fighting, and they’re worth a punt at 2.25 for the win.
Waste Tank: Denver Nuggets, Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, New York Knicks, Milwaukee Bucks, Orlando Magic
It’s the hope that kills you. So near but yet far under the presumption that gaining six games at this stage required something approximating a miracle. Orlando and Sacramento, losers of three straight, are showing signs of giving up. Milwaukee just can’t find their feet.
But the team with most to gain with regression is the Pelicans who have gone backwards this term but who would love to use a high Draft pick to find a running mate for Anthony Davis. Rest AD anyone?
As for surging Denver and the enigmatic Knicks, the Nuggets have high odds regardless, thanks to a pick previously acquired from New York. And since the Knickerbockers have traded their hopes away, this final month has been rendered an utter bust.
Call off the Tanks: Washington Wizards, Chicago Bulls, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks.
It’s post-season or bust. With a slide, only the Jazz and Wizards could conceivably roll back into Lottery territory and on their form lately, let’s not rule that out. But, for a few weeks yet, expect scrapping aplenty.
Best bet: Go under 206.5 points in Philadelphia-Brooklyn at 2.50