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 ESPN Insider, March 17: NBA tank rank: New top 10 in race for best 2017 draft picks

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PostSubject: ESPN Insider, March 17: NBA tank rank: New top 10 in race for best 2017 draft picks   Sat Mar 18, 2017 1:42 pm

March 17, 2017

Chad Ford
ESPN Senior Writer

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The race for the postseason might be the focus of fans for the 22 NBA teams in real contention for a playoff spot. But where do the worst teams -- such as the Lakers, Knicks and Sixers -- stand in their quest for the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft?

Over the course of the next month, we'll offer a look with our weekly tank rank.

1. Brooklyn Nets: Rebuilding

Record: 13-54 (4-6 past 10)

The Nets went 2-2 last week and have won four of their last 10, but for them to pass the Lakers they'd have to go 8-7 the rest of the way while L.A. goes winless. That's not going to happen.

The Celtics (who own the right to swap picks with Brooklyn) will have the best chance of winning the lottery this year.

Last week: No. 1
2. Los Angeles Lakers: Tanking

Record: 20-48 (1-9 past 10)

According to ESPN's Basketball Power Index (BPI), the Lakers are up to a 54.2 percent chance of landing in the top three. They are getting closer to locking down the second-best shot of winning the lottery (19.9 percent).

It's mission critical for the Lakers at this point that they hold on to that spot. If the Suns pass them for the second-worst record in the league, the Lakers' chances of keeping their pick (which goes to Philly if it's outside the top three) drop to 43 percent.

Last week: No. 2
3. Phoenix Suns: Rebuilding

Record: 22-46 (4-6 past 10)

The Suns are still three games "ahead" of the Sixers in the loss column, and that gap isn't expected to narrow anytime soon with Phoenix's decision to sit its best player, Eric Bledsoe, for the rest of the season.

GM Ryan McDonough said the Suns were sitting Bledsoe to get him some rest and to give rookie Tyler Ulis some minutes. While that might be true, landing the second- or third-best shot at the No. 1 pick is a bigger motivating factor.

Last week: No. 4
4. Philadelphia 76ers: Tanking

Record: 24-43 (2-8 past 10)

The Sixers blew a chance to improve their draft odds considerably Monday. Their win over the Lakers not only improved L.A.'s chance of keeping its pick, it also hurt Philadelphia's odds of landing in the top three.

Dario Saric and Jahlil Okafor are playing better of late. That might help their trade value, but the real prize this summer is landing both a top pick and the Lakers' pick.

Last week: No. 3
5. Orlando Magic: Tanking

Record: 24-45 (3-7 past 10)

The Magic went 0-4 for the week and are now seriously challenging the Sixers for the fourth-best shot at winning the lottery.

BPI now gives the Magic slightly better odds than the Sixers at finishing with the fourth-worst record in the league. A tank-tastic matchup with the Suns on Friday should be interesting.

Last week: No. 5
6. New York Knicks: Tanking?

Record: 27-42 (3-7 past 10)

The Knicks lost twice (twice!) to the Nets this week. The loss in Madison Square Garden to Brooklyn ended a 33-game road losing streak for the Nets. It doesn't get any worse than that, Knicks fans.

The good news? It seems as if everyone is checked out now. Based on how motivated the Kings and Pelicans look, I think the Knicks now have the best chance to beat them out for the sixth-best shot at winning the lottery.

Last week: No. 7
7. Sacramento Kings: Trying?

Record: 27-41 (2-8 past 10)

The Kings aren't going to beat good teams, but they're still trying and that led to wins against teams that are totally in the tank -- the Magic and Suns -- this week. The good news is that they are starting to see significant production from rookies Buddy Hield and, perhaps even more important, Skal Labissiere.

Labissiere was once considered a top-three pick in the draft before his freshman season at Kentucky. Lately he has looked worthy of that early draft label. If Labissiere's emergence is the main gain from losing DeMarcus Cousins, the Kings should be in better shape than we thought going forward.

Last week: No. 6
8. New Orleans Pelicans: Trying

Record: 27-41 (4-6 past 10)

The Pels are starting to play better with Cousins in the lineup. They beat both the Hornets and Blazers this week, but I don't think that's necessarily a good thing.

Their chances of landing in the top three (and avoiding sending the pick to the Kings) dropped to 13 percent this week. Their chances of making the playoffs sit at just 0.8 percent, according to BPI. It seems as if the Pelicans are heading in the wrong direction right now.

Last week: No. 8
9. Charlotte Hornets: Trying

Record: 29-39 (4-6 past 10)

The Hornets' chances of getting the last East playoff spot slipped from 19 percent to 2.9 percent this week, according to BPI.

At this point, the goal should be staying ahead of the Mavs for the ninth-worst record in the draft. I don't think they're catching the Heat, Bulls or Bucks for that No. 8 seed.

Last week: No. 10
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