Most people are accusing the Lakers of all-out tanking these days, which misses the point. Timofey Mozgov and Luol Deng weren't helping the team anyway, and Los Angeles is pretty much locked into the second-worst record in the NBA. Losing more games won't help, since they're not going to catch the Nets.
So really, the Lakers are experimenting to see what might work for the future. It's an important distinction, we swear.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Philadelphia 76ers (30)
Dario Saric is the one upside in a depressing season for the Sixers — and the likely Rookie of the Year. His marquee performance in Philly's near-win against the Warriors should have locked up that award.
Brooklyn Nets (29)
Brook Lopez's name came up in trade rumors at the deadline, but it sounds like he's a big part of Brooklyn's future. Coach Kenny Atkinson marveled at the big man's ability to take coaching and criticism, as well as his leadership in the locker room.
When you're this low as a franchise, a guy like Lopez can make all the difference in keeping the young guys focused on the bigger picture.
Getty ImagesGetty Images
Phoenix Suns (26)
Unlike the Lakers, the Suns are definitely tanking — they're just really bad at it. At least we get to see Tyler Ulis play significant minutes over the final month of the season, though.
Chuck CookChuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
New Orleans Pelicans (25)
The Pelicans have a DeMarcus Cousins problem.
Or, more precisely, they have an Alvin Gentry problem, as the New Orleans coach has struggled to get the most out of the Boogie-Brow pairing. For a deeper dive into what ails the Pels, check out our look at every one of their offensive possessions since the All-Star break.
Kim KlementKim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Orlando Magic (24)
Part of the reason the Magic struggled to win — or even establish an identity — this season is how much the NBA has changed in just a few short years. Frank Vogel admitted this week much of what he thought about defense in the Association no longer applies, and he's having to completely rethink his approach to the game. As a result, Orlando flounders.
New York Knicks (23)
Jeff Hornacek drew a round of ridicule when he said the Triangle Offense can be an actual selling point to free agents this offseason, but our own Brett Pollakoff succinctly explained how Phil Jackson's beloved system benefits role players, assuming the stars buy in.
Jennifer StewartJennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sport
Sacramento Kings (27)
While the Pelicans struggle, Kings like Skal Labissiere are thriving in the post-Cousins world. He gives Sacramento fans reason for hope in the future, even as Buddy Hield struggles to find his footing as the next Stephen Curry.
Copyright The Associated Press. All rights reserved.AP
Chicago Bulls (21)
Dwyane Wade's season-ending elbow injury is a major bummer. In basketball terms, though, it should be the catalyst for both Wade and the Bulls to admit this experiment in playoff contention didn't work out and go their separate ways.
Charlotte Hornets (19)
The hits just keep on coming for the Hornets, as Nicolas Batum underwent CT scans this week to figure out why he's suffering chronic migraines. There's nothing to say about basketball here. We just hope Batum gets healthy soon.
Dallas Mavericks (15)
The 82-game regular season offers a lot of really strange stories. Few can top the Dirk Nowitzki potato saga. The CliffsNotes version: Two businessmen pitched a company that sends personalized potato messages on Shark Tank, and Mark Cuban laughed at them. The twist, though, is the business has succeeded. So to troll Cuban a bit (we assume), Dirk got his own personalized potato. As one does.
Let this be a lesson to Cuban: What you do on your television show can have a big effect on your basketball team.
Detroit Pistons (18)
Stan Van Gundy rarely offers effusive praise, so drink it in, Tobias Harris: “I think our guys have great respect for Tobias and what he brings, what kind of pro he is and what kind of team guy he is and everything else,’’ Van Gundy said recently.
Of course, since we're talking about SVG, there was a caveat: “(Harris’) basketball character and the fact he’ll keep getting better he will, he’ll continue to improve offensively. The challenge for him is what he’s going to do at the defensive end of the floor."
Portland Trail Blazers (22)
Although you never want to make too much of one game, there's little doubt the Blazers were at their best in Wednesday's win over the Spurs. Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum roasted the San Antonio wings and guards, and Jusuf Nurkic looked like a man with something to prove. If the Blazers keep it up, they should wind up with the eighth seed in the West.
Our friends over at 8 Points, 9 Seconds broke down just how vital this offseason is for the Pacers. Really, the wooing of Paul George begins now with Indiana's playoff push and continues into the summer. Suffice it to say Larry Bird has to treat George like he's a free agent and go hard after an extension, even if he's unlikely to get PG-13's signature on the dotted line.
“A loss is a loss,” Millsap said. “At the end of the day we have to do better down the stretch, especially in their building.”
With the Hawks two games out of the four-seed and two games ahead of sixth-seeded Indiana, Millsap is 100 percent right.
Denver Nuggets (14)
Denver's shot at the eighth seed in the West depends largely on the schedule, as the Nuggets face nine would-be playoff teams over their final 15 games. The good news for Denver: Kenneth Faried and his unending appetite for rebounds are back. Mike Malone's team will need all the depth it can get over the last four weeks of the season.
Milwaukee Bucks (13)
Even without Jabari Parker, the Bucks have quietly become a scary playoff sleeper this year. They could do some major damage against any of the Eastern Conference contenders ... other than the Cavs, that is. Avoiding the eighth seed and a first-round matchup with Cleveland will be the key to the final month for Milwaukee.
Erik WilliamsErik Williams-USA TODAY Sports
Memphis Grizzlies (12)
Memphis had struggled since the All-Star break, especially on the defensive end, and Tony Allen isn't happy about it: “I’m gonna harp on the defensive end as much as I can, and you could see it. A guy gets back-doored or a guy gets blown by and no one steps up. We go over something in the shootaround, we don’t do it in the game. It took a toll on us.”
The Grizzlies' response? A three-game win streak over playoff-contending teams, with two of those victories coming by double digits.
Steve MitchellSteve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Miami Heat (11)
Way too many NBA players receive "MVP!" chants when they step to the free-throw line -- because fans lack creativity yet love to show their adoration. Goran Dragic had the best response to those chants in Miami that we've seen:
“Like D-Wade was here,” Dragic said with a grin. “I immediately looked around. That’s great [to hear the MVP chants]. But I’m just here to play.”
That kind of focus is a big reason the Heat are one of the hottest teams in the NBA.
Brad PennerBrad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Toronto Raptors (9)
The Kyle Lowry injury update is that there is no Kyle Lowry injury update. The Raptors announced this week their point guard is progressing nicely but without a timetable for a potential return. After Toronto got roasted by Russell Westbrook and the Thunder on Thursday night, DeMar DeRozan & Co. probably can't wait for Lowry to be back.
"It’s a long shot. Nobody would think about it the way we started. Like I always say, you never know what can happen. It’s all about being healthy. It’s all about being the hot team," Wall said.
"Our main goal is to get to the conference finals. We feel like we should have been there before if nobody got injured. Our goal is to get there. In seven games [in a playoff series], let’s see who can win four games first."
The MVP race is getting all the attention this year, but the Coach of the Year competition is pretty tight, as well. Quin Snyder, Scott Brooks, David Fizdale, Gregg Popovich and Michael Malone all have compelling cases to take home the hardware.
In reality, though, there's only one choice for the award. The Rockets' decision to hire Mike D'Antoni this summer was met with almost universal ridicule.
Yet D'Antoni elevated Houston into the NBA's elite tier, and he unleashed James Harden as the evolved version of Steve Nash. Although the Rockets will likely falter in the postseason, we can't count them out in the chase for a championship. Shoot enough 3s, and you never know what might happen.
So congrats to D'Antoni and the Rockets. We can't wait to see what you have to offer in the postseason.