Archive for the ‘Tank Nation’ Category

Memories of Tank Nation

Memories of Tank Nation

With Andrea Bargnani finally gone (as of July 10, anyway) and a ridiculous offer reportedly out there for Rudy Gay, Drew and I got together to discuss “The Trade” and to once again ask the question, ‘to tank or not to tank?’

And for all of you Oliver fans out there, don’t worry, The Big O even sent us a prepared statement to read on air in lieu of him being away.

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Toronto Raptors v Charlotte Bobcats

I don’t think anyone thought the 2012-13 Raptors were going to contend for anything more than a low seeded playoff berth, but most of us thought they’d still be playing meaningful basketball in late March. Even despite the torturous 4-19 start to the season, the Raps still managed to get within 2.5 games of a playoff spot in early January and within four games of the top-eight in late February after an impressive run over Rudy Gay’s first few weeks in Toronto.

Unfortunately, a week of losses to teams like the Wizards and Cavs immediately following that run sent the Raptors crash-landing back to earth, and for the most part, they’ve been playing pretty meaningless games since then. Throw in the fact that Andrea Bargnani is done for the season (though we’re still not sure when he even checked in) and the recent news that Rudy Gay is a candidate to be shut down with some nagging back issues and the final three or four weeks of this season are going to be painful to watch.

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Game No. 66: Raptors 98, Nets 67

18,161 people packed the Air Canada Centre to watch the 2011-2012 season finale between the Raptors and Nets. The loser would still have an outside chance to finish tied for the third worst record. The winner would finish seventh-worst or in a tie for eighth-worst.

Once the ball was tipped, the Nets gave new meaning to the word “tank” and the Raptors’ scrubs were made to look like an NBA powerhouse.

Now here are some thoughts on the game, for the last time this season:

1-For the Raptors, Ed Davis, Gary Forbes, Alan Anderson, Ben Uzoh and Solomon Alabi all played at least 40 minutes. Jamaal Magloire started. For the Nets, Johan Petro, Armon Johnson, Jordan Williams and Sundiata Gaines played major roles. Those lineups pretty much tell you all you need to know about what this game was all about.

2- The one thing you can say for the Raptors is that the players who saw action on Thursday night at least played with pride. I’m not sure you can say the same about the Nets’ sad sack of a rotation in this game. They were chucking shots, turning the ball over, running into each other, bumbling, stumbling and just doing their best to cause some in the stands to wonder how much Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z paid these guys to take a dive.

3- The combination of blatant Nets tanking and some solid efforts from Toronto’s players led to some inflated numbers for certain Raptors. Most notably, Ben Uzoh recorded the first triple-double by a Raptor (12 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds) since Alvin Williams did it way back on March 23, 2001. Until Uzoh achieved the feat, the Raps had the longest triple-double drought in the NBA. Uzoh added four steals for good measure in 46 minutes of playing time. Ben seemed to do everything asked of a 10-day guy and then some in his time as a Raptor this season, and as I’ve said recently, I’d like to see him brought back as the team’s third string point guard next season.

4- Ed Davis got a preview of the Summer League competition he’ll see this off-season and made good with the practice, posting 24 points on a ridiculous 10-of-15 shooting to go along with 12 rebounds, two assists, a block and a steal. But perhaps the biggest indication of the type of team the Nets fielded tonight was the statline put up by Davis’ frontcourt partner, seldom used Solomon Alabi. Solo, who hasn’t even played 150 total minutes in his NBA career, finished with 11 points, 19 rebounds and three blocks in 40 minutes of floor time.

5- A quick word on the Nets. I know it’s been said before, but if this team doesn’t land a top-three pick, the franchise will be in a world of hurt for the forseeable future. They were bad enough as is. Take away Deron Williams, take away the possibility of acquiring Dwight Howard, and keep them without a lottery pick this summer, and Brooklyn might be getting the worst team in the NBA next season. If there really is an NBA conspiracy to “fix” the lottery, then my money would be on the Nets, for the simple premise that anything outside of the top-three (and therefore a pick that would move to Portland) could be a death blow for the franchise before they even pack up and move. Us Raptors fans think we have a lot riding on this year’s lottery and draft, but no team has as much at stake on lottery night as the Nets.

6-Before the game, Jamaal Magloire took the mic at centre court on behalf of the organization to thank the fans for another season. Magloire mentioned the “p” word for next season (he pretty much guaranteed it), which I thought was ballsy, and probably not something the organization wants to start doing. While I think the opportunity is there if the right moves are made, if the team gets some lottery luck and if Jonas Valanciunas can make an impact, I still don’t think the Raptors should give fans the impression that a playoff trip is expected for next season. I feel like that’s welcoming disappointment and possible disaster. Plus, while I do like the bold statement, I’d prefer it if a player who will have more of a say in whether it happens or not makes the bold statement.

Raptors Player of the Game: Ben Uzoh – 46 Min, 12 Pts, 6-19 FG, 11 Reb, 12 Ast, 4 Stl, 1 Blk, 2 TO

Nets Player of the Game: N/A (I picked a player of the game for both teams in every game I shared my thoughts on this season. I think I’m entitled to this one, especially considering there really wasn’t a Nets player worthy of the honour. If you want to praise Armon Johnson, Johan Petro or Jordan Williams, then go ahead.)

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A quick reminder. If the Warriors beat the Spurs by the time you read this, then the Raptors will finish with the seventh-worst record, which brings with it 43 lottery combinations and a 4.3 per cent chance to win the Draft Lottery. If the Warriors lose, the Raps finish tied for seventh and eighth-worst, which will bring either 35 or 36 combinations on lottery night (to be determined by a coin flip), and about a 3.5 per cent chance.

While this is the last time I’ll “foul out” with six personal thoughts until October, we here at RaptorBlog will continue to have you covered throughout the off-season with pre-lottery coverage, pre-draft coverage, player evaluations and the rest of the usual summer stuff, along with some episodes of RaptorBlog Radio along the way. As long as nothing breaks this weekend while I’m recovering from having my wisdom teeth removed, then you’ll be able to find all of your Raptors-related off-season material here.

The races at the top of the conferences and battles for playoff positioning haven’t left us with much to get excited about on the final day of the lockout-shortened 2011-2012 NBA regular season.

But for fans in New Orleans, Sacramento, Cleveland, New Jersey Brooklyn, Golden State and Toronto, what happens on the final day of the regular season could shape the future of each franchise.

Heading into Thursday’s slate of 13 games, the Bobcats and their potentially worst record of all time have locked up the NBA’s 30th seed, and a 25 per cent chance of winning the Draft Anthony Davis lottery. The Wizards, meanwhile, are locked into the 29th spot, and a 19.9 per cent chance of winning the Unibrow sweepstakes.

Where it gets interesting is that the Hornets, Kings, Cavaliers, Raptors and Nets are separated by just one total game between third-worst and seventh-worst in the league standings. In terms of lottery percentages, that’s the difference between a 15.6 per cent chance and a 4.3 per cent chance.

The Raps, Nets and Warriors are separated by just one game between sixth-worst and eighth-worst, which would be the difference between a 6.3 per cent chance of winning the lottery and a 2.8 per cent chance.

From a Toronto perspective, the Raptors and Nets head into their season finale matchup tied at 22-43. Whichever team wins that game will either finish seventh-worst or in a tie with the Warriors for seventh and eighth-worst. The losing team, on the other hand, would still have an outside chance at a four-way tie for the league’s third-worst record.

If you’re wondering, in the event of a tie in the “lottery standings,” the tied teams would share the total number of combinations that the positions take up. So, for example, if the third-worst team gets 156 combinations, the fourth-worst gets 119 combinations, the fifth-worst gets 88 and the sixth-worst gets 63 combinations, that’s 426 total combos to be shared among four teams (106.5 each).

However, according to the NBA Draft Lottery’s wiki page, “Should the average number not be an integer, a coin flip is then used to determine which team or teams receive the extra combination(s). The result of the coin flip is also used to determine who receives the earlier pick in the event that neither of the tied teams wins one of the first three picks via the lottery.

Based on how confusing some of this can become, the fact that certain slottings may come down to a coin flip, and the fact that we don’t really know which combination will come up on lottery night, I’m not going to come out and start talking about how this is a “must-lose” game for the Raptors (or Nets).

Example, imagine the Raptors win tonight, finish with the seventh-worst record, but then end up with some lottery luck and snag a top-three pick. Well anything outside of a top-three pick means New Jersey’s pick goes to Portland (because of the Gerald Wallace deadline day trade), so the Nets would then be left to think about how a win in game no. 82 actually would have saved their pick.

The point being that while I obviously want the Raptors to finish with the best possible chance at winning the lottery, or at the very least moving up, I’m just as worried about being careful what I wish for when at the end of the day, we’re dealing with a lottery.

Here’s how the schedule looks for the teams Raptors fans should be keeping an eye on tonight:

Nets @ Raptors (22 wins each) 7 p.m.

Hornets: 21 wins, @ Houston 8 p.m.

Kings: 21 wins, hosting the Lakers 10:30 p.m.

Cavs: 21 wins, @ Chicago 8:00 p.m.

Warriors: 23 wins, hosting the Spurs 10:30 p.m.

And here’s the breakdown of the lottery percentages for the positions the Raptors can finish in:

3rd-worst: 156 combinations, 15.6% chance

4th-worst: 119 combinations, 11.9% chance

5th-worst: 88 combinations, 8.8% chance

6th-worst: 63 combinations, 6.3% chance

7th-worst: 43 combinations, 4.3% chance

8th-worst: 28 combinations, 2.8% chance

Best case scenario, if the Raptors lose to the Nets and get wins from New Orleans, Sacramento and Cleveland, they’ll end up with a 10.65 % chance to win the lottery.

Worst case scenario, if the Raps win and the Warriors lose to the Spurs, they’ll end up with a 3.55 % chance.

I heard History Television may televise these games tonight instead of running an episode of Greatest Tank Battles.

Start time: 6:00 p.m. ET

Channel: Sportsnet One

Probable starting lineups

Toronto: Ben Uzoh, DeMar DeRozan, Alan Anderson, Amir Johnson, Aaron Gray

Detroit: Brandon Knight, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Jason Maxiell

Injury Report

Toronto: Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza are questionable, Andrea Bargnani and Jerryd Bayless are done for the season.

Detroit: No injuries to report.

In case you haven’t heard, this seemingly meaningless game is actually kind of a big deal…in the Tank Nation standings.

With teams like the Warriors, Cavaliers, etc. tanking like nobody’s business, and Dwane Casey keeping the Raptors respectable over the last month or so, the Raps now sit tied with Golden State for the seventh and eighth worst records in the league at 22-41. The Pistons, meanwhile, are just one game ahead of Toronto in the standings, so a Raptors win today would actually move the Raps up (or down, depending on how you think of it) into a tie for the NBA’s eighth and ninth worst records.

While we’ve seen time and time again that any team in the bottom eight or so has a chance on lottery night, we’re also aware of the percentages, and the fact that finishing that “high” brings the chance of falling out of the top-10 in the draft, which would be devastating for a rebuilding team like the Raptors.

I’m not saying to expect a game between two organizations that are trying to lose, but I’m not exactly giving this game a ringing endorsement either.

While the Raptors are banged up and come into this game at 10-21 on the road, the Pistons appear to be healthy and surprisingly, have a winning record at home (16-15), so Detroit can probably help Toronto’s lottery chances tonight.

On a sidenote, it may have been a tough season for us Raptors fans, but I’d be a hell of a lot more depressed if I was a Pistons fan right now. The Pistons have some nice young pieces in Brandon Knight, Greg Monroe and Jonas Jerebko, but they need a ton of extra talent and youth if they are going to build this thing the right way, and as it stands, the organization seems confused as to how to go about those building plans.

Detroit already has about $50 million committed for next season, with $40 million tied to veterans like Ben Gordon, Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Charlie Villanueva and Jason Maxiell. I’m assuming they’ll use the amnesty clause to get out from one of their bad contracts, but this has “mess” written all over it unless the Pistons get some lottery luck or can hit a home run on Draft night.

Just so you know, Scott and I aren’t available to post our thoughts on this game, but we’ll be back with a thread and recap for Monday’s game in Milwaukee.

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Lastly, if you need any more indication that this game is basically a Tank-fest, I just read on twitter that MC Hammer will be performing at halftime in Detroit.

P.S. - Jonas Valanciunas’ Lietuvos Rytas team won a big game yesterday to advance to the VTB United League (think of it like a basketball champions league for teams in Northeastern Europe) semifinals. Valanciunas posted 20 points (on 6-of-9 shooting) to go along with nine rebounds, two assists and a couple of blocks (plus three fouls) in about 27 minutes of action.