Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers have plenty to be thankful for this weekend, what with a pleasantly surprising 13-3 record that places among the league's best. A survey of the rest of the league as we head into November, however, produces a laundry list of disappointments.
In light of Dave's Black Friday shopping piece, the surprising early success of the Blazers and increased trade chatter across Blazer's Edge (including our last Videocast), it seemed appropriate to think about these topics in terms of buyers and sellers -- but through the conversations and attitudes of the SB Nation affiliates.
Many of the potential sellers, it seems, could be motivated by a 2014 draft class that is arguably the best group in at least a decade. Talks about a possible "Tankapalooza" started months before the season and with names like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart and Aaron Gordon all featured at the top of next summer's draft boards, a few teams look to be doing some early prep work for the 2014 draft already.
After a few draft day trades, plus even more in the following weeks, there were plenty of teams that positioned themselves to participate in the lose-now-to-draft-high strategy early on. In addition to those teams that seemed to embrace this approach from the beginning, there are now analysts around SB Nation that are bringing up the subject of scrapping this season to be in position for a high pick.
A simple change in wording turns the "Tanking" conversation into one about "Buyers and Sellers": franchises that are shedding salary and quality players in exchange for lower win totals and more draft picks are obviously the sellers, while teams committed to a "Win Now" approach are the buyers.
Let's take a look at the sites that are having varying levels of talks about their team's commitment to losing or its potential for going in full-on tank mode, as these teams could be candidates for a trade deadline fire sale.
The Obvious Teams
In a recent article about their 11-point loss to Phoenix, SLC Dunk's recap "Jazz gnaw on carpet ... lose by less than 15!" noted that the defense continues to be brutal to watch. Featuring a 2-15 record coming into Saturday, the Jazz are currently the leader in the "Riggin' for Wiggins" sweepstakes. The team doesn't have a whole lot to sell, but whatever they can scrape up to solidify their positioning you have to think is a conversation in Utah.
The views of this season went completely haywire when the Celts traded future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, plus their coach Doc Rivers to start the year. Now on Celticsblog, Jeff Clark is writing, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the rebuild." The obvious name right now being spoken about is Rajon Rondo, though like Utah, you certainly have to think anything that gets the Celts closer to the top of the draft is a discussion worth having.
After trading Dwight Howard, the Magic were in full rebuild mode. This year is no different. Orlando Pinstriped Post has an entire section of their blog devoted to the 2014 draft. Their most recent post gives updates on how the stellar freshman are faring this season, plus others to watch on a week-to-week basis. We knew from the beginning it would be a long year for the Magic, surely making anyone outside of its youngsters available.
The 76ers started the year on a tear, but have since fallen back down to earth. Going 2-8 in their last 10 games entering Saturday, not to mention trading their All-Star Jrue Holiday before the season started, the Sixers are definite candidates for a low win total this year. Liberty Ballers has started conversations about a couple potential players to sell on, including Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young. The way they're stockpiling picks for this year, teams willing to part with draft picks could peak Philadelphia's interest.
Supposed to be good, but selling is soon becoming a reality
The Bulls are the perfect fit for this category. Now that Derrick Rose is hurt, people are not only sending him positive thoughts for a speedy recovery, but the conversation about tanking is creeping onto Blog A Bull. In Ricky O'Donnell's "On tanking and the Chicago Bulls," he implores Bulls fans to understand that Tom Thibodeau consistently motivates and coaches his team to outperform expectations. Plus, even without Rose, their team is quite deep. The big question mark is how they score. Even if the team doesn't blow it up, it's a conversation Bulls fans are having in the wake of Rose's season-ending surgery.
With one of the best young cores in the NBA, plus a [somewhat] healthy Andrew Bynum, Cleveland seemed like a playoff-threat in the weak East. However, things haven't clicked for the Cavs quite yet. In fact, over at Fear the Sword, the biggest fear may instead be that they team they thought could potentially lure a return of LeBron James is just a bad team. After a loss to Boston, the reaction wasn't pretty. In the words of writer Ryan Mourton: "Leave me alone." Reality may soon set in that this team doesn't have it, and they may be willing to shake things up. Whispers of Dion Waitersbeing available are out there, and more may be soon to come.
These teams are together because they're generally in the same boat: Older, high-payroll teams that have been abysmal to start the year. Both have faced injuries as well. The franchises are currently acutely focused on winning this season, but at what point do you decide the team just isn't the right fit? On NetsDaily, a similar question is posed: "Are the '13-14 Nets becoming the '12-13 Lakers?" If so, it may be worth shaking things up. Their salary situation may be difficult to work with, but it will be curious to see what players the teams are married to.
No, the Bucks weren't supposed to be title contenders. But after shelling out big money to Larry Sanders, plus finding seemingly formidable replacements for Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis, they weren't supposed to be this bad. In the words of Tom Ziller in writing about the Bucks, "Sometimes the tank chooses you." If and when they realize selling is the best plan-they have a big head start in the race for the bottom-there could the biggest sale in the league come deadline time. Or sooner.
Could become buyers, but would sell if the deal is right
The Suns continue to amaze the NBA world. Unlike Philadelphia, Phoenix has continued their momentum to start the year, including an above-.500 record against the Western Conference. However, according to Bright Side of the Sun, a few things aren't working in their favor: Eric Bledsoe is fighting a shin injury that doesn't seem to be improving, and Miles Plumlee sustaining his current production is unlikely. If and when they regress to expectations, guys may become available.
Before you chuckle at the Raptors being in this category, keep this in mind: Toronto was leading the Atlantic Division coming into Saturday. With a new GM, and one considered to be pretty savvy, selling seems like the right thing to do. Yet as Braedon Clark of Raptors HQ writes, Toronto has been arguably the most anonymous team in the league for the last decade. A deal that makes them relevant again has to be worth looking at. However, dealing Rudy Gay (or any other non-rookie contract) is probably priority number one for the front office this season, and maybe others if they decide the time is right to sell.
First you think they are in full rebuild mode, then they sign Al Jefferson. Rufus on Fire doesn't have a whole lot to say about what to do with the team, probably because they're just as puzzled what the direction of the franchise is. They are arguably over-achieving at 8-9 so things would likely need to change for them to part with any "core" pieces.
This is a team that could certainly turn it around with the young talent they have, but they are still really thin. ThePistons spent a lot of money this offseason and could try to salvage that by being a deadline buyer, but could potentially be in the running for a similar New York or Brooklyn-style shakeup. If Brandon Jennings turns it around on the court andJosh Smith does off it, they could soon be off this list.
In thinking about what teams the Blazers could buy from, the shopping mall above is another place to look. The question will soon become whether they need a Black Friday sort of steal, or if they'd be willing to pay full price for anyone this year. In any case, if the Blazers do become buyers this year, you have to think the teams above are the most likely partners.