The NBA season starts Tuesday night, but for a handful of teams, the season is already over.
The main prize in the 2014 NBA Draft is so enticing that some teams have already torpedoed their competitiveness for this season just for the chance to draft Andrew Wiggins, an 18-year-old Canadian who dunks on high schoolers as easily as most of us, say, put on flip-flops.
But who is the preseason favorite to land the most-hyped high schooler since LeBron James? We're not just spelling out tankapalooza here at SB Nation. We're handicapping the whole dang race.
Tier 1: The Cellar
Philadelphia 76ers: The 76ers have deliberately turned themselves into the odds-on favorites for the worst record in the league and a 25 percent chance of the No. 1 pick. They traded All-Star Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel -- who knows when, or if, Noel will play -- and didn't even sign a coach until months after everyone else. They don't have enough salary on the books to reach the salary floor and, who, exactly, will be their fifth starter alongside Michael Carter-Williams, Evan Turner, Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes?
Phoenix Suns: The Suns may be better off without Michael Beasley, but after last week's trade of Marcin Gortat to the Wizards for indefinitely hurt Emeka Okafor, they're clearly neck-and-neck with the Sixers. Alex Len appears healthy after the preseason, but he's considered a project anyway. Gone is Jared Dudley, and while Bledsoe is talented, there isn't enough on this roster to compete most nights against the Western Conference.
Orlando Magic: The Magic have Victor Oladipo, Tobias Harris, Maurice Harkless and Nikola Vucevic, an immensely promising young core with next to no hope of competing this year. They are in the ideal tanking spot. Wiggins is the prize this year for sure, but Jabari Parker is hardly a slouch if the Magic fall to No. 2. If they slide farther, there sits last year's object of GM Rob Hennigan's desire: point guard Marcus Smart.
Tier 2: Fingers Crossed
Utah Jazz: The Jazz willingly let Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap walk, and even more willingly accepted the contracts of Richard Jefferson and Andris Biedrins for additional draft picks. Tanking 101! However, they have Derrick Favors, Enes Kanter, Gordon Hayward and Alec Burks, and drafted Trey Burke, who will miss the start of the season with a thumb injury. That's a starting five that looks both fun and better than the three cellar teams. Could the Jazz be a sneaky League Pass team and somehow get Andrew Wiggins? Time will tell!
Charlotte Bobcats: The Bobcats were the ones who took on Jefferson, who is good enough offensively to bring them out of the cellar. He's bad enough defensively to keep them pretty low in the standings, though, and the core of Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Kemba Walker and Bismack Biyombo is still way too green to mount any sort of competitive campaign. This may be a tier high for the FutureHornets, because Jefferson is liable to win a few games by himself with his offense.
Sacramento Kings: The Kings find themselves in a bizarre situation. There is more hope surrounding the franchise than in a long time with the new owners and arena deal, but woof, this roster. There is still loads of talent, primarily in DeMarcus Cousins and Ben McLemore, but there doesn't seem to be any way for it to fit together. What will become of the Greivis Vasquez/Isaiah Thomas point guard situation? Can anyone but Boogie play big for stretches? Good for you, Sacto, for kissing the Maloofs goodbye, and good luck in the Wiggins Sweepstakes.
Keep up with all of our NBA Coverage
Tier 3: Injury Risks
Boston Celtics: Rajon Rondo is recovering from his ACL tear, but who knows when he's going to be back. Danny Ainge has said publicly Rondo is a big part of their future plans, but he never said he was going to trade Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett before they became Deron Williams' newest
limping running mates. Either a prolonged Rondo absence or Rondo trade would make the Celtics easily one of the worst teams in the league and vying with Philadelphia and Phoenix in Tier 1. Their best player would be Jeff Green. Seriously.
Washington Wizards: The Wizards have been at No. 3 the last two years, so they're no stranger to the high lottery. This year, they have playoff expectations, especially after trading for Marcin Gortat, but the same team, with Emeka Okafor in Gortat's place, was a disaster last year without John Wall. Wall is an athletic marvel, but he hasn't historically been the healthiest player. An injury to their star point guard for another lengthy amount of time could send the Wiz careening right back to the bottom of the lottery.
Cleveland Cavaliers: Much like the Wizards, the Cavs feel they have a real shot to get to the playoffs with a talented young rosters, veterans like Anderson Varejao and a stud point guard. Much like the Wizards, that stud point guard has a less-than-stellar health history. No basketball fan wants either of these must-watch players going down, but in the possibility they do, it's not hard to see the Cavs ending up near the top of the draft yet again.
Los Angeles Lakers: Kobe Bryant may have my head for this, but it's too easy to see the Lakers undergoing an absolute implosion this season. Do they have a good shot to make the playoffs if Kobe can come back strong? Of course. Are their playoff hopes built on three mid-to-late-30s players who have all suffered devastating leg injuries in the past 12 months? Of course. Would anyone be surprised if they somehow fell in the lottery, got Andrew Wiggins and missed the playoffs for only one season before a new run of dominance? Didn't think so.