11. TORONTO RAPTORS, 6-11
The Good News: GM Masai Ujiri wants to bottom out while creating cap space and stockpiling cost-effective assets. That explains why he's trying to trade everyone not named "Jonas" right now, and that explains why Dwane Casey will coach all 82 games. It's all for the greater good. And if that's not enough, Andrew Wiggins is Canadian. So there's that.
The Bad News: Quick impression of Masai trying to trade Rudy Gay right now …
Masai: "Hey, I wanted to see if you had any interest in Rudy."
Other GM: "What are you thinking?"
Masai: "Well, he's on the books for only $17.9 million this season, then he's a free agent."
Other GM: "Wait, I thought Rudy had a player option for $19.3 million next year."
Masai: "You're right, he does! I totally forgot! (Holds his hand over the phone and whispers 'They know' to his assistant.) Actually, lemme call you back."
Most Interesting Subplot: Is there a better stealth tanking asset than Dwane Casey? He's coached nearly 300 games (career record: 116-171) and still can't grasp the whole "When we're down by a possession in the final 25 seconds, and we don't have the ball, we need to foul the other team" thing. (I wish Dwane Casey coached an NFL team — I'd love to see him trying to figure out timeouts and challenges.) And look, there's an art to tanking — you can't make it seem like you're throwing games. The subtle stuff goes the furthest. Like shelving one of your best players with "tendinitis" with five weeks to play. Like playing two or three subpar players about 10 minutes per game more than you should. Like trying dopey experiments that can't work along the lines of, "Hey, we think Rudy can play a little point guard for us!" Like keeping Casey around for an entire year. As we inch closer and closer toward the Tankapalooza 2014 homestretch, it's going to be the little things that count.
Random Thought: Was Gay's uncorrected eyesight really the problem last summer? Let's see …
Last season: 41.6 percent FG, 32.3 percent 3FG, 81.4 percent FT
This season: 38.8 percent FG, 37.5 percent 3FG, 76.2 percent FT
(Back to the drawing board … )
SportVU Revelation: One of the many reasons why Roy Hibbert is running away with Defensive Player of the Year: He challenges 10.1 field goals per game at the rim, but opponents score on only 38.2 percent of those shots. By contrast, opponents shoot 58 percent at the rim if it's DeAndre Jordan protecting and 56.9 percent if it's Boogie Cousins. If it's Jonas Valanciunas? We're looking at 52.6 percent. You probably already knew this.
Worst-Case Scenario: Raptors fans cheer on Masai as he keeps trading off starters and sabotaging this year's season … right until the moment when he dumps Demar DeRozan on Dallas for Brandan Wright and an expiring contract belonging to … (wait for it) … (wait for it) … Mr. Vince Carter.
(And then? Rioting. Lots and lots of rioting.)
Prognosis: Somehow, someway, Toronto lands in the bottom four for the East. If it sticks Cleveland or Milwaukee with Gay's contract, even better.