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What's left in the tank? Betting on the NBA's worst teams

The art of the tank is a subtle dance, kind of like picking up a woman -- you want to try, but not make it look like you’re trying.

However, when it comes to intentionally losing games to improve your draft position, the shoe is on the other foot – don’t try, but make it look like you’re trying. Some teams have already begun to get their ducks in a row, in hopes of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the upcoming NBA draft lottery.

Last month, we looked at teams who could “Tank for Tony”, in hopes of adding Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, and their percentages for flopping in the final chunk of the schedule.

This month, we revisit some of those clubs and explain which are the best fade bait in the final three weeks of the season:

(Records updated through Monday)

Toronto Raptors (20-37 SU, 31-25-1 ATS)

The feisty Raptors have been a solid wager this season and, with new head coach Dwayne Casey turning the focus to defense, Toronto has also become a great under bet as well. But the Raptors are tired of being the most irrelevant franchise in the NBA.
 
Toronto took a big step in turning on the tank this week, sitting star Andrea Bargnani with a lingering calf injury. Chances are the Italian doesn’t see the floor again this season. Casey also benched James Johnson, one of the few Raptors playing well, last week and didn’t really give a clear explanation why.

"We chose as a staff not to play him,” Casey told the media. “We're going build the program the right way, we're going to do things the right way, and we'll go from there.”

Read between the lines people.

Charlotte Bobcats (7-47 SU, 21-33 ATS)

It’s tough to tank when you’ve won just seven games all season. Owner Michael Jordan has threatened the front office with a sale unless they build a better team. Losing 11 straight games is a step in the right direction, I guess.

The Bobcats are sitting on a powder keg and will be blown to bits this offseason. That should motivate guys not guaranteed a spot in future years.

If there are plans to tank in Charlotte – even worse than what the team is doing already -- Byron Mullens didn’t get the memo. He’s averaging 15 points over the last nine games, making the Bobcats a respectable 4-5 ATS in that span.

Washington Wizards (12-44 SU, 21-34-1 ATS)

The Wizards are, well, wizards at disguising the tank. Washington made some moves at the trade deadline, bringing in a broken Nene to disguise the fact that they’re crapping out on the season. It’s a classic distraction ploy.

Take a look at the Wizards' starting lineup. You’ve got John Wall and four guys whose average player rating in NBA 2K12 is about a 57. Despite fielding a scrub-tastic team and losing 10 of their last 11 games (4-6-1 ATS), the Wizards continue to keep up the facade.

“Try to win them all,” Wall told the Washington Post, when asked about the final 10 games. “I mean, that’s going to be tough to do, but you want win games.”

New Orleans Hornets (15-41 SU, 28-28 ATS)

This one stinks like an inside job worse than the 1985 draft lottery, which gift-wrapped Patrick Ewing to the Knicks. Since the league owns the Hornets, and can subsequently play gatekeeper to moves made around the league, it wouldn’t be a shocker if New Orleans lands the No. 1 overall selection – tank or no tank.

The Bugs are showing fight in recent outings, beating Denver and Minnesota and covering in seven of their last 10 games, and head coach Monty Williams is still giving his team the gears. But New Orleans is doing some undercover tanking. It owns Minnesota’s unprotected first-round pick and improved its chances of another top selection by defeating the Timberwolves Saturday. Sneaky, sneaky.

Sacramento Kings (19-38 SU, 26-31 ATS)

The Kings’ two best players – Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins – combined for 15 points in Sunday’s 17-point loss to Houston. That was Sacramento’s fourth straight defeat and dropped the team to 2-8 SU and ATS in the last 10 contests.

Injuries make a fine excuse for tanking down the stretch, and the Kings have plenty of them. Marcus Thornton is nursing a thigh bruise, Francisco Garcia is out with a concussion and Chuck Hayes had a bout with food poisoning last week. They also haven’t been able to explain the release of J.J. Hickson in March.

Sacramento plays five of its final nine on the road and welcomes Oklahoma City, San Antonio and the Lakers to Power Balance Pavilion before the year ends. Sounds like a perfect tank recipe to us.

New Jersey Nets (21-37 SU, 26-32 ATS)

Too little, too late? How about too much, too late. The Nets are tanking at the tank, winning six of their last nine games and breathing life into a season that has been collecting dust for the past three months. New Jersey took advantage of a chunk of schedule stacked with fellow tankers, defeating Cleveland, Washington, Portland, Sacramento and Golden State.

But while the winning ways are a positive note heading into next season, the Nets have a daunting final stretch that includes Philadelphia (three times), Boston, Miami, New York and Milwaukee. Tank or no tank, the Nets could be destined for a solid shot at the No. 1 overall pick.

Cleveland Cavaliers (18-36 SU, 26-28 ATS)

Tanking for the top pick is old hat to the Cavs. Cleveland didn’t take any chances with a shot at grabbing LeBron James during the 2002-03 season, winning just eight games in the final two and a half months of the schedule.  It worked – until LeBron left town for South Beach seven years later.

Cleveland looked like it was getting over the James fiasco with a promising start to the 66-game season. But things fall apart, including first-overall pick Kyrie Irving. He started to break down with the whole team on his shoulders, which is why he probably won’t see the floor again due to a shoulder injury. The Cavaliers have one win in their last 10 games and have plenty of time to drop even farther, with 12 contests remaining.

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