Updated Tank Rankings: Feb. 26 - Mar. 4 "A nine-team race"
Every season has moments that either reaffirm one's fandom for a team or make one question why they root for that team in the first place. This season, some notable moments from the Knicks included the comeback win over the Pacers led by Frank and KP, the overtime win against the Lakers in which Frank shut down Lonzo Ball in the second half and KP cooked throughout, as well as Melo's return to the garden, which ended with Beasley torching OKC for 30 points in a rare KP-less win. On Sunday, another moment was added to that list: with three seconds remaining and the game tied, Skal Labissiere, a 6'11 second-year player out of Kentucky, rose up over Kyle O'Quinn and drained a three to give Sacramento the win. The shot was undoubtedly the highlight of the Knicks' tank season, and put them just two games behind Chicago while also proving that this team can hang with the big guns. This is now a nine-team race. Thank you, Hornacek.
1. Memphis Grizzlies (prev. Rank: 5)
It was a monster week for the Grizzlies, who lost to the Suns and Magic and have now lost 14 in a row. Without Marc Gasol, the Grizz are essentially a G-League roster and have no notable talent worth watching. Andrew Harrison had put together some solid performances but will now miss at least a couple weeks with a wrist injury. Tyreke Evans, their biggest threat to swing a game, has missed the last six with a rib injury and doesn't appear to return anytime soon. Everything that could have gone for the Grizzlies this season did, which is unfortunate but was ultimately for the best as it exposed the need for young talent. Over the next three years they're paying a combined $147 million for Chandler Parsons and Mike Conley; Marc Gasol is gonna need a Luka Doncic or Michael Porter Jr. to maintain his sanity.
2. Phoenix Suns (Prev. rank: 1)
Phoenix's 10-game losing streak came to an end last Wednesday with a victory over Memphis. They bounced back on Sunday however, with a narrow loss to the Hawks. The tank is still in excellent shape, and this race is such a shootout that it will likely come down to whoever has the loss last. According to TeamRankings, the Suns have had the third-easiest schedule in the league so far this season, which means if they can allow themselves to get rolled over by competitive teams down the stretch then they'll be in the driver's seat for a top-three spot.
3. Dallas Mavericks (Prev. rank: 3)
Ever since Mark Cuban's tanking comments went public the Mavs have won only one game, which puts away the notion that this group would rally against the taboo act of tanking and enjoy a feel-good, late-season win streak. Instead, the Mavs own the league's third-worst record and are a Harrison Barnes phantom injury away from trotting out a Grizzlies-caliber roster.
4. Sacramento Kings (Prev. Rank: 4)
Skal Labissiere is a tanking cult hero in New York, but the Kings' tank hit a rough patch this week, going 2-3. The Kings are an example of the potential dangers of starting a tank too early: on the one hand, they got a leg up on their competition, but on the flip side it's a mildly talented roster — they're not the 2012 Bobcats or the 2016 Sixers — and NBA players are so competitive that they can only take so much losing for so long. We're seeing the side effects of that with the emergence of Bogdan Bogdanovic and the increasingly steady play of De'Aaron Fox. The Kings know what they need to do this season, but their young, feisty roster could pull put out a couple more wins and significantly alter the team's draft position.
5. Atlanta Hawks (Prev. Rank: 2)
After an 0-4 week, the Hawks are back on their bullshit. The 2-2 curse is back in Atlanta and has dropped the Hawks all the way back to sixth in the standings. One very important silver lining: while the Suns have had the third easiest schedule so far this season the Hawks have had the absolute easiest, meaning stiffer competition and a depleted roster down the stretch could get them back on track.
6. Brooklyn Nets (Prev. Rank: 9)
It's time to take the Nets seriously. Despite not having their pick yet again, the Nets still can't stop losing, and now own the league's fourth-worst record. Since returning from a knee injury, D'Angelo Russell has looked horrible, averaging 12 points and 4 assists on 37% shooting and 29% shooting from three. His decision making at times has been awful, and it's fair to wonder if his future is at point guard. The Knicks are still four games back of them and without the tiebreaker, so catching them won't be easy. The Nets are second in the league in three-pointers attempted, meaning that the Knicks' only hope of catching them is if they turn into Rockets lite for two weeks.
7. Chicago Bulls (Prev. Rank: 6)
The Bulls have been tanking with purpose, but untimely wins over teams like the Mavs on Friday keep them at bay. Bobby Portis has emerged as a dangerous weapon off the bench, and when combined with the LaVine-Dunn backcourt it makes for an intriguing three-man group.
8. New York Knicks (Prev. Rank: 8)
Riding high off the fumes of Sunday's loss, the Knicks are looking to carry that momentum into the final two games of their road trip against the Blazers and Bucks. Frank looked awesome against the Kings, and the five assists that he had make the reports that the Knicks see his future at shooting guard that much more confounding. Having him watch DeMar Derozan film is nice and certainly good for the tank, but can we leave that in 2017-18 please? I'm also all for taking chances on young players with upside like Mudiay, but he's pushing that to the limit. The Knicks have him under contract through all of next year and should consider sending him to the G-League and giving him the Trey Burke treatment to see if that changes his approach. If not, whatever, just give me Point Frank.
9. Orlando Magic (Prev. Rank: 7)
Perhaps the Magic's 4-1 start to the season was not a total fluke in the sense that they're still capable of putting together flashes of competence. They have a talented and now healthy roster with the return of Aaron Gordon and Nikola Vucevic, and managed to put together a 2-2 week. Of all the teams that the Knicks could pass, the Magic stick out as one of the most realistic. They're still four games behind, but play each other once more and a Knicks win would mean picking up a game and getting the tiebreaker. The Magic are still a tanking veteran and should be treated as such, but all it takes is a couple more wins to shake up the standings.
GAME OF THE WEEK: Magic @ Kings, Friday 10:30 p.m. EST