Collapsing NBA Teams

Collapsing NBA Teams

Collapsing NBA Teams
by T.O. Whenham - 02/26/2007

The All-Star Game is over so it's downhill to the end of the season and, for some NBA teams any hope of making the playoffs, or even having a respectable season, is a distant memory. The last 20 or 25 games of the year can be particularly hard for some teams, especially those that are suffering more from bad luck than bad play. It's easy and common for a team to collapse and completely lack effort down the stretch. If you can catch those downward spirals as they happen, you can profit handsomely from them. There is a wealth of teams to choose from this year that are likely to start their off-season break in their minds well before the regular season ends. Here are four that seem like the safest bets to do so:

Memphis Grizzlies - Pau Gasol is this team. He leads the squad in scoring, rebounds, field goal percentage and blocks. Outside of Mike Miller on a good day, the rest of the roster is full of role players that have to be carried by Gasol. That formula hasn't been working well at all this year, as evidenced by the pathetic 14-42 record, which is only better than Boston. Not surprisingly, Gasol has had enough.

There had been tremendous hope for this team, with the magic of Jerry West promising great things for the future. That magic is lost without hope, and the city of Memphis has lost patience, investing their hearts and wallets much more in the impressive University of Memphis squad. Gasol wants out, and it is more than a little surprising that he didn't get moved before the trade deadline. If he's not happy, the rest of the team isn't having any fun, and if no one in the city or state could care less then this team is destined to self destruct even more than they already have. They are an unimpressive 24-32 ATS so far, and they are an even worse 3-6 ATS over the last nine. The next nine could make the last nine look good.

Sacramento Kings - This one could be fun to watch. Though they are only 23-30, they are behind enough teams that the playoffs are at best a remote possibility. The Maloof brothers have been patient owners, but they have to be at the end of their ropes. Mike Bibby's self worth has to be at an all-time low after the team made no secret of their desire to dump him off on any team that would have him. He's not going anywhere, and he can't be expected to be a model citizen now after that episode.

Ron Artest has been remarkably well behaved given that he's Ron Artest, but he obviously has the capability to make life miserable for everyone in Sacramento if he decides to. The team has been incredibly streaky against the spread. They are 22-30-1 ATS, but consistency hasn't been their best trait. They started January by failing to cover in 11 of 12 games. They rebounded from that to go 5-1-1 ATS in their next seven. Before fans and bettors could get too excited, though, the team proceeded to lose four of the next five, and only covered two of the five. The only win was against Boston, so that hardly counts, and there was a disheartening blowout against the unimpressive New Orleans Hornets. It wouldn't take too many more losses like that for this team to completely quit.

Milwaukee Bucks - If you have any compassion at all, you have to feel bad for Milwaukee. They had a reasonably promising season last year, they have an under-recognized star in Michael Redd and they have promising young talents like Charlie Villaneuva and Andrew Bogut. This year could have seen the team climb into the position of not only making the playoffs like they did last year, but actually making some noise once they got there. It wasn't meant to be.

The first bump in the road occurred before the season even started when Bobby Simmons went down for the year with a foot injury. That was a big loss, but is has been far from the only problem. Villanueva has missed 24 games with three different injuries. Redd missed 20 games with a knee problem. Mo Williams, Dan Gadzuric, Brian Skinner and Ruben Patterson are all key role players who have missed big chunks of time. The management team has said repeatedly that they like their roster on paper, they just never got a chance to see it in action on the floor.

You couldn't blame the team if they coasted through the rest of this season, which is a lost cause, with their view on brighter pastures next year. Younger players and marginal players could see significant playing time as an audition for next year. The team has been a dramatically better team against the spread (27-27-1) than they have been straight up (19-36), but there is a good chance that they won't continue overachieving down the stretch.

Orlando Magic - Though the Magic are in seventh place in the conference, their playoff lives aren't particularly secure. Ten days into January they were on top of the world - they were sitting at 22-14, and they hadn't failed to cover in eight games. But then the wheels fell off. They have won only five of 17 games since then, and they have covered just five times over that stretch. To make matters worse, there is nothing specific to blame for the downswing.

Trevor Ariza has missed 19 games, but he's hardly a superstar. He is a very good defender, but he should not be the difference between winning and losing. Grant Hill has missed significant time, but he's Grant Hill, so the team is certainly used to making due without him. The problem is that this is a young and promising team that doesn't seem to be handling adversity very well. Dwight Howard is a super freak, Jameer Nelson is playing well and Darko Milicic is finally realizing his potential. Individual performances aren't the big problem. The problem is that there seems to be no one to put the brakes on as the team rolls downhill. There are no signs that this negative trend is about to end - they have lost six of eight, including a 22 point blowout against Detroit - and the problems could just keep getting worse. Especially if their position in the playoffs becomes threatened.

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