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Could a Carmelo Trade Benefit Bulls and Knicks?

The New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls would both benefit from a Carmelo Anthony trade. Here’s a deal that works, and why.

Tommy Beer

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After posting this piece last week, which advocated the New York Knicks making the risky decision to trade their best player, one of the most common responses we received was some variation of: “What could the Knicks realistically hope to get in return for Carmelo Anthony?”

So, today we’ll examine one potential deal that might make sense for both parties involved. (We will also examine a few other possible destinations in a follow-up piece.)

Again, as was detailed in the original story, if the Knicks decide to deal Anthony, they will have to enter trade talks with the full understanding that they’ll likely have to accept far less than market value in return. This is because Anthony holds a player option next summer that will allow him to become a free agent on July 1 and all indications point toward Anthony opting out.

Thus, any team trading for Anthony would be fully aware they may only be renting him for the final few months of this current season. However, if a team does trade for ‘Melo, they would hold a major trump card when it comes time to re-sign him, even if this new city is not necessarily Anthony’s preferred destination. If, after he opts out on July 1, he signs with the team that has his Bird Rights (the team that he was a member of on the final day of this 2013-14 season) he would be eligible to receive a five-year deal worth $129.1 million. If he instead chose to sign with any other team in the NBA, the max that team could offer would be a four-year deal at approximately $95.9 million.

Assuming his new team is willing to offer the full max, would Anthony really be willing to leave $33.2 million and an extra year on the table?

Keep in mind, Anthony will be 30 years old on the day he signs his new pact. He is fully aware this will likely be his final opportunity to cash in on a huge guaranteed contract.

This is a chip the Knicks can use to their advantage in negotiations. A team that trades for ‘Melo, even if they aren’t comfortable offering a maximum deal, can still offer far more (with more guaranteed years) than any other team in the NBA. This greatly increases the chances that Anthony would be a long-term cornerstone as opposed to a three-month rental. This reality could (and should) up New York’s asking price.

Another fact that could increase Anthony’s value is the fact that he is currently playing at an extremely high level. He put on a performance for the ages last Friday night, pouring in a jaw-dropping 62 points, setting an all-time MSG record. Anthony’s star-power, as evidenced by Friday night’s virtuoso performance, is an obvious reason why Knicks management, specifically owner Jim Dolan, would likely have a very hard time trading away Anthony.

However, if we look at the big picture from a basketball perspective, moving ‘Melo is the right decision for the Knicks franchise. Even after winning two straight home games against mediocre opponents, the Knicks are still a dreadful 17-27, 10 games under .500, and 5.5 games behind the Toronto Raptors in the Atlantic Division. No one has ever doubted Anthony’s ability to score, but the question remains: Can the Knicks realistically compete (let alone win) a title over the next five seasons if Anthony accounts for upwards of 40 percent of the Knicks’ salary cap?

One record-setting performance, and a couple wins, doesn’t change the fact that trading Anthony now puts the Knicks in the best situation long-term.

Moreover, the Knicks, as far as we know, have no guarantees from Anthony that he will re-sign with the Knicks this summer, even if New York wants to pay him the max. Anthony’s wife La La recently said that she fully expects him to re-sign with the Knicks, but a that’s hardly enough of a guarantee to bank on. Thus, keeping him past February’s trade deadline is inherently risky.

Safely assuming the Knicks won’t get back equal value in terms of talent, New York’s top priorities in any Anthony trade should be kick-starting the rebuilding process by targeting three commodities in particular:

1) Quality draft picks (as many as possible)
2) Young, promising players locked into affordable contracts
3) Veteran players whose contracts expire by 2015

Per the previous column: New York will shed major salary from their books in July of 2015. The 2014-15 season is the final year on the contracts of Amar’e Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani. New York will clear a whopping $49.6 million in salary in one fell swoop. As a result, the Knicks could potentially enter July of 2015 as major players in the free-agent market – when such stars as Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Rajon Rondo, Paul Millsap, Marc Gasol, Al Jefferson, Tony Parker, Goran Dragic, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan, etc. may be up for grabs as unrestricted free agents.

If Anthony is not taking up $24.1 million, New York could be looking upwards of $45 million in cap space, which would allow them to go on quite the shopping spree that summer.

As it stands today, there are only four players that will likely be on the Knicks’ books past the 2014-15 season: Pablo Prigioni ($1.7 million), Tim Hardaway Jr. ($1.3 million), Raymond Felton ($4.5 million player option) and J.R. Smith ($6.4 million player option). There is also a $3.8 million qualifying offer for Iman Shumpert that the Knicks will have to make a decision on. As we now know, the Knicks wouldn’t be opposed to including Shumpert in a trade if the return was right.

It could be argued that the most logical landing spot for Anthony could be Chicago. Over the weekend, Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed that, according to a source, “Chicago is much more in play for him than L.A.” If the Bulls are in fact keen on the idea of luring Anthony to the Windy City, though, a deadline deal would benefit both parties.

So, here’s the question: Would either the Bulls or the Knicks say “no” to this hypothetical deal?

New York sends: Carmelo Anthony, Raymond Felton, Iman Shumpert and $2 million in cash

Chicago sends: Jimmy Butler, Tony Snell, Carlos Boozer, Kirk Hinrich, Chicago’s 2014 first-round draft pick and their 2015 second-round pick.

(Yes, this trade works under the salary cap)

Why it makes sense for the Knicks: New York would jump start their rebuilding process by adding a solid young player in Jimmy Butler, who starred for Chicago in the 2013 postseason. Butler, 24 years old, is set to make just $2.2 million next season, and has a $3.1 million qualifying offer for the 2015-16 season. Although he has been dinged up this season by nagging injuries, Butler has an undeniably bright future in the league. He is a valuable two-way player a team can build around.

Tony Snell, the 20th pick in the 2013 NBA Draft out of New Mexico, is a solid all-around player and profiles as a solid rotation player. He’s a versatile wing off the bench and, just as importantly, he is also locked into a very affordable rookie contract that runs through 2017-18.

Because the Knicks will be well over the cap next year, they would have no issue taking back the additional year left on Carlos Boozer’s contract (whom the Bulls are purportedly considering amnestying this summer anyway). The Knicks would not be able to amnesty Boozer, but they wouldn’t need to. Again, the new focus would be maximizing cap space for 2015, and that’s when Boozer’s deal comes off the books.

The other major benefit to New York in this deal is moving Raymond Felton and the $4.5 million he is set to earn in 2015-16, which lines up with the goal of creating the most cap space in 2015.

The Bulls’ 2014 first-rounder would likely land somewhere in the teens. In a draft as deep and talented as this, this pick would be extremely valuable and could yield a very promising young player.

From the Knicks’ perspective, this deal is obviously not about short-term success. It’s about creating flexibility, adding assets, and re-charting a new course. Once an Anthony trade is completed, the Knicks could then put Tyson Chandler on the open market as well, and should bring back more picks and players (while also possibly being a conduit to dumping J.R. Smith’s 2015-16 salary). An Anthony deal would be just the first, crucial step in a full-scale rebuild. The good news is, if handled correctly, New York could successfully re-shape their entire roster in a relatively short period of time (only about 16 months).

Here’s why it makes sense for Chicago: A starting five of Derrick Rose, Iman Shumpert, Carmelo Anthony, Taj Gibson and Joakim Noah would be an awfully intriguing starting unit. Assuming Rose comes relatively healthy, that would be an extremely exciting and dangerous squad.

Shumpert was born and raised outside Chicago, and although he has struggled with inconsistency during his tenure with the Knicks, he has also shown flashes of incredible upside. During the Knicks’ second-round defeat to the Indiana Pacers in last year’s postseason, Shumpert was arguably the Knicks’ second-best all-around player. Could a homecoming to Chicago revive his career and increase the chances he reaches his immense potential?

Felton would serve as insurance for Rose, in case the former MVP has any hiccups in his return from injury. And once Rose is back and completely healthy, Felton would be a solid back-up point guard, and could also, at times, play alongside Rose in the same backcourt. Chicago would also still have Mike Dunleavy to bring off the bench as well.

As far as the first-round pick is concerned, the Bulls could have as many as three picks in the loaded 2014 draft. Chicago will own the Bobcats’ pick if Charlotte doesn’t finish the season with one of the 10 worst records in the NBA. The Sacramento Kings also owe a first-round pick to the Bulls, but that pick is protected for selections one through 12. It is safe to assume the Kings won’t have to convey that pick this year. However, the Bobcats would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today, so there is a decent chance that the Bulls will end up with Charlotte’s first rounder. Moreover, the Bulls currently don’t owe a single pick (first or second round) to any team through 2019. Thus, they obviously have the necessary picks in their pocket to sweeten a potential deal with New York.

Letting go of Butler would be a bitter pill to swallow, but, thinking ahead, if the Bulls inked Melo to a massive contract, they likely would be unable to match offers for Butler once he became a restricted free agent. When viewed through that prism, it makes losing Butler much more palatable.

Of course, the big unknown here is whether or not the Chicago front office believes Anthony would be worth the immense salary he’d request. The Bulls have previously intimated they would prefer to be south of the luxury tax and avoid the repeater tax at all costs. But would the formation of a new ‘Big Three’ of Rose, Anthony and Noah in Chicago be enough for them to invest heavily in Anthony? ‘Melo has shown a preference for big cities, and Chicago is one of the biggest markets in the country. Either way, the Bulls would have his Bird Rights, and would consequently be able to pay more him than any other NBA team.

Might Anthony to Chicago be an ideal fit for everybody?

Tommy Beer is a Senior NBA Analyst and the Fantasy Sports Editor of Basketball Insiders, having covered the NBA for the last nine seasons.

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NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Path Back to the NBA Finals

In the wake of Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Bobby Krivitsky examines the Los Angeles Lakers’ path back to the NBA Finals.

Bobby Krivitsky

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It’s been 15 games since a high ankle sprain sidelined LeBron James. 

With the Western Conference standings congested and Anthony Davis already out due to a right calf strain and a re-aggravation of his right Achilles tendinosis, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the threat of a fall that would require their participation in the play-in tournament.

However, the Lakers have fought admirably in the absence of their two stars, going seven and eight. As a result, their fall in the standings has been painless, going from third at the time of James’ injury to now occupying fifth place in the West.

The primary reason the Lakers have been able to tread water without their two stars is they’ve remained stingy on defense. Since James’ injury, they have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league. That’s despite facing four teams who rank in the top five in offensive rating and six of the categories’ top-10 members.

Right now, the Lakers are 2.5 games ahead of the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with a 4.5-game cushion between them and the Dallas Mavericks, who are seventh in the conference. That should be a large enough gap to keep Los Angeles out of the play-in tournament, but the two teams are going to converge for a two-game series starting Thursday. For the Lakers, getting swept would re-open the possibility of having to compete in the play-in tournament.

Fortunately for them, even splitting that series would make it unlikely the Mavericks finish ahead of the Lakers in the standings. And help might be on the way for the Lakers: Davis may soon rejoin the lineup, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, meaning there’s a distinct possibility he’s active for at least one of those two matchups. As for James, he’s on track to return in three weeks.

While Los Angeles’ stars are getting closer to making their returns, the Denver Nuggets got dealt a more severe blow when Jamal Murray tore his ACL in a recent game against the Golden State Warriors. Denver is 10-2 since acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline and looked the part of a legitimate title contender prior to Murray’s injury. 

Denver is fourth in the West, 1.5 games ahead of Los Angeles. But even if the Nuggets have home-court advantage, they’re the preferable opening-round opponent, not just for Los Angeles, but any team with a legitimate chance at the fourth or fifth seed.

Fortunately for the Lakers, that’s the place in the Western Conference pecking order where they’re most likely to finish this season. So long as the Nuggets don’t freefall in Murray’s absence, Los Angeles will likely start the playoffs against an opponent that’s gone from having the potential to present the greatest challenge to the defending champions’ quest to get back to the Finals to becoming a desirable first-round matchup.

After that, the Lakers may have to get past the Utah Jazz and or the Los Angeles Clippers to make a return trip to the NBA Finals. The former has the best record in the league this season, but locking horns with the defending champions in a best of seven series is a far more challenging and potentially rewarding proving ground.

The Jazz have a deep, reliable rotation, they have the best net rating in the NBA, they’re in the top five in points for and against per 100 possessions, and they’re attempting the most threes per game, but also rank in the top five in three-point shooting percentage. However, the Lakers would have the two best players in a series against Utah. Usually, an opponent doesn’t overcome that disadvantage.  

As for the Clippers, Rajon Rondo has quickly proven to be an impactful acquisition. Los Angeles is seven and one with him in the lineup, generating the highest net rating in the league during that span. Last season, the Lakers saw first-hand how impactful playoff Rondo can be. Now, the Clippers are hoping he can bring structure to their offense, something they sorely lacked last postseason and was at the forefront of them blowing a 3-1 series lead over the Nuggets. Doing so would go a long way towards maximizing the production of a team that has the talent to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history.

If this is the year the battle of LA takes place in the postseason, it figures to be a slugfest. Still, the Clippers have their doubters after last year’s meltdown in the playoffs. There’s also a large contingency who are skeptical about how far the Jazz can go in the postseason, given their lack of a top-tier superstar. Despite the validity of those concerns, both teams can beat the Lakers in a best of seven series. That no longer appears to be the case for the Nuggets, which is a shame for them and people who want to see the best possible matchups in the playoffs. But Murray’s injury, as unfortunate an occurrence as it is, makes it easier for the Lakers to get through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference and have a chance to claim an 18th championship, which would break their tie with the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history.

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NBA

NBA AM: The Play-In Game – West

With the season winding down, Ariel Pacheco takes a look at how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Western Conference.

Ariel Pacheco

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With the regular season’s end in sight, teams are making their last push to make the playoffs in what has been a condensed season. But the new play-in tournament is providing more teams than ever a chance at a coveted playoff spot.

Here is what the new play-in tournament will look like: Teams that finish with the Nos 7 and 8 seeds will face off against each other. The winner of this game will be No. 7. The Nos. 9 and 10 seeds will also play and the winner will play the loser of the first game. The winner of this game will be the No. 8 seed. 

The play-in tournament provides intrigue and adds pressure on teams in both conferences to finish in the top six and avoid the play-in altogether. The Western Conference, in particular, is shaping up to have a rather exciting finish. There are a number of teams who could find themselves fighting for their playoff lives in this year’s tournament – all below in tiers.

Teams Likely To Avoid Play-In

Portland Trail Blazers (32-24)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 11

The Trail Blazers are currently the sixth seed in the West meaning, for now, they are safe from the play-in tournament. However, they are just two games above the Mavericks from possibly dropping down a place. They’re the team most likely to secure that sixth seed because they have more talent than the teams below them – hello, Dame – and they also have an elite offense. However, the defensive concerns are very real and if they were to slip, it would likely be because of their struggles on that side of the ball.

Likely Play-In Teams

Dallas Mavericks

Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 5
Games Against West: 8

On paper, the Mavs have a really easy schedule as the season winds down. They have just five games against teams over .500 and two against the Los Angeles Lakers, who may be without their two stars for those games. However, they are just 10-12 this season against sub .500 teams and are coming off a disappointing loss to the Sacramento Kings. There’s still a pretty good chance they get the sixth seed and avoid the play-in, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them in it as well.

Memphis Grizzlies
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 7
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 12

The Grizzlies are often overlooked, but they are about as well-coached as any other team in the NBA. It is likely they will be in the play-in game, but don’t be surprised if they are able to sneak into the sixth seed. They lost last year’s play-in game in the Bubble to the Blazers, so they do have experience in this type of setting. They may be getting Jaren Jackson Jr. back soon which should help. 

Golden State Warriors
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 6
Games Against West: 13

The Warriors are getting just other-worldly performances from Stephen Curry on an almost nightly basis at this point. However, they continue to struggle to win games, in large part due to the struggles when he sits on the bench. Their schedule is pretty light to close the season, which bolsters their chances. The talent on this team isn’t great, but Curry’s play should be enough to get them in the play-in tournament. 

San Antonio Spurs
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 7

The Spurs have struggled of late, especially after the All-Star break. Their defense has dropped off badly, but if there’s any reason to be positive, it’s that they are still coached by Gregg Popovich and their young guys continue to show improvement. They have been really good on the road this season and a majority of their games are on the road. It won’t be easy, but the Spurs should find themselves in the play-in tournament.

Outside Looking In

New Orleans Pelicans
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 9
Games Against West: 11

The Pelicans have been hit with the injury bug of late, but their inconsistent play this season continues to be a huge problem. Their defense continues to bleed three-pointers and while point Zion Williamson has worked, there just isn’t enough shooting to maximize him just yet. It seems unlikely the Pelicans make a late-season run to the play-in game.

Sacramento Kings

Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 14

The Kings are the least likely team to make the play-in tournament. Their defense is still problematic and they just recently ended their 9-game losing streak. It’ll take a huge late-season push and the Kings just haven’t shown that they are capable of putting it all together for a long enough stretch. 

The play-in tournament adds a new layer of competition that will bring excitement at the end of the season. Be sure to check out how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Eastern Conference.

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NBA

NBA Daily: The Play-In Game — East

With the play-in tournament just around the corner, Matt John previews who in the Eastern Conference might qualify for it.

Matt John

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It’s official: we’re entering the regular season’s endgame. Every game from here on out will have much bigger consequences, a statement even truer in 2021 than perhaps any other season thanks to the NBA’s new play-in tournament.

If you’re not familiar, the play-in tournament will consist of two matchups within each conference. The seventh and eighth seeds of both conferences will face off against one another, while the ninth and 10th seeds shall do the same. The winner of the seven-eight matchup will take their conference’s seventh seed, while the winner of the nine-10 game will face the aforementioned match’s loser for the eighth and final spot in the postseason. It’ll serve as a nice appetizer before the playoffs get underway.

So, now that we have 15 games left give or take, it’s time to get a full scope of who we’re most likely to see in this year’s play-in, starting with the Eastern Conference. There’s really no need to go over teams that have all but clinched their playoff spots like Philadelphia, Brooklyn, or Milwaukee. Just like there’s no need to mention teams that are way too out of a reach for a playoff spot like Detroit and Orlando.

But that does leave ten teams in the Eastern Conference that we could potentially see in the play-in. At first glance, it would sound ridiculous to say that Boston and Cleveland could be in the play-in seeing how they are separated by ten and a half games, but Boston is only two and a half games ahead of Miami for that seventh seed while Cleveland is only three games behind Chicago for the tenth seed.

The best way to evaluate is to divide these into tiers. One for playoff teams who are likely to avoid the play-in, one for teams that are most likely to be in the play-in, and those that are likely to miss out on the play-in.

Likely to Avoid

Atlanta Hawks (30-26)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 11
Games Against Teams Over .500: Six
Games Against East: 13

Replacing Lloyd Pierce with Nate McMillan proved to be a genius move by Atlanta’s front office, as the Hawks have won 16 of their last 23 games. They may have had that stretch where they lost four of five, but that was on a West Coast Trip. Seeing how almost 75 percent of their remaining games will be at home, it’s hard to see Atlanta collapsing. They may be decimated by injuries right now, but the schedule seems a little too easy for them to blow this.

Boston Celtics (31-26)
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Four
Games Against East: 10

Much like Atlanta, Boston’s really hit their stride over the past few weeks. Getting healthy and making a few roster changes have helped them rediscover the team that started out so well at the beginning of the season. It’s hard seeing Boston folding down the stretch primarily because they won’t be facing too many strong opponents from here until the regular season’s end. Given their recent strong play, don’t expect an appearance at the play-in tournament.

Likely Play-In Teams

New York Knicks (30-27)
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: Nine
Games Against Teams Over .500: Eight
Games Against East: Six

Give credit where credit is due. The Knickerbockers are not going away. They’ve stayed the course when many thought this was going to be another wasted year for them. They’ve given no reason to indicate that they’re stopping now. The reason they’re not as sure of a thing as Atlanta or Boston is because, over this last stretch, they’re going to face off against several Western Conference contenders looking for the highest seeding possible. As tough as that’s going to be, the Knicks are going to make each one of them earn those wins, guaranteed.

Miami HEAT (28-28)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Seven
Games Against East: 11

It’s been difficult to get a read on the reigning Eastern Conference champions. They go on stretches that basically even out each other. After starting out 11-17, they win 12 of their next 13, then follow that up by losing their next six games, then win six of their next seven, then finally and most recently, they lose their next three games. No one really knows what Miami’s ceiling is right now. Odds are, the HEAT will probably be in the play-in. It’s just a matter of where. Also, why have we still not gotten any updates on Victor Oladipo?

Charlotte Hornets (27-28)
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 11
Games Against Teams Over .500: Eight
Games Against East: 13

What’s happened to the Hornets over the past few weeks is just straight up not fair. If LaMelo Ball and Gordon Hayward were playing, they’d solidly be in the same tier as Boston and Atlanta. With their squad fully healthy, Charlotte’s a playoff team, but being down their two best players definitely takes them down a peg. They deserve props that they haven’t rolled over since losing those two, but sadly they’re nowhere near as good as they were with their whole squad. Their schedule is easy enough that it shouldn’t knock them out of the play-in. If LaMelo and Hayward are back by then, then it’s hard not seeing the Hornets get into the postseason.

Indiana Pacers (26-29)
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 11
Games Against Teams Over .500: Seven
Games Against East Teams: 11

It hasn’t been talked about enough how injuries have really shaken up Indiana’s season. TJ Warren’s foot injury was a substantial season-long setback and Caris Levert’s cancer, as miraculous of a story as that was, was another prolonged absence. Overall, Indiana’s injuries have led to a rather underachieving season compared to past results. Luckily their schedule for the rest of the season shouldn’t be too tough, so making the play-in seems realistic.

Outside Looking In

*One of these teams will get the play-in as the 10th seed.

Toronto Raptors (23-34)
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Nine
Games Against East Teams: Seven

That’s right, the same Raptors, who only weeks ago were in serious talks to trade Kyle Lowry to the highest bidder, have suddenly found themselves in the fight for the final spot for the play-in. It’s not that they’ve suddenly turned it all around. It’s that the competition is too weak for them to bow out completely. Their schedule may allow them to go all-in on the tank, but maybe one last hurrah with the franchise’s greatest player isn’t the worst way to go.

Chicago Bulls (23-33)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Seven
Games Against Teams Over .500: Nine
Games Against East Teams: 16

Good news: Nikola Vucevic looks like he’s fitting in splendidly. Bad news: The team has been on a downward spiral since his (and others) acquisition. Chicago has only won four of their last 13 games since the trade deadline and their remaining schedule is not going to be a breeze. On paper, they should be a shoo-in for the 10th seed, but the roster holes right now appear to be too glaring for Chicago to take the next step. If they don’t at the very least make the play-in, that’s not going to be a good look after all the moves they made.

Washington Wizards (23-33)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Eight
Games Against Teams Over .500: Five
Games Against East Teams: 10

Remember when Washington was one of the worst teams in the league record-wise? And how they managed to only slightly improve themselves over the course of the season? Well, apparently that was enough to get them into the conversation for the play-in because, lo and behold, they’re now tied with Chicago for that 10th seed. It gets better too. They only face two tough challenges from here on out – Lakers and Bucks – but after that, it’s honestly easy enough that they might be the favorite to get that last play-in spot.

Cleveland Cavaliers (20-36)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: Nine
Games Against Teams over .500: Six
Games Against East Teams: 12

This sounds the most ludicrous seeing how the Cavs are currently the East’s 13th seed, but being three games behind Chicago while facing only six teams over .500 gives them a fighting chance. If the Cavaliers are actually able to get the play-in, that’s a big stepping stone for their future. It’s an accomplishment to build off of in an era with no LeBron James to speak of, which they haven’t been able to do since Friends was on the air.

As you can see, the play-in has, in a way, brought a new dimension to the NBA season. In any previous season (excluding the last one) no one would bat an eye at the 10 through 13 seeds. Their season at this point would be all but done and no one would care, but because of the possibility of going to a play-in tournament, teams suddenly have the chance to make something of what usually would have been a lost season.

Some teams may get annoyed by it because their time is coming to a close and there’s no need to delay the inevitable. For others, the play-in signifies that it could just be the beginning.

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