Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
At the end of the season, who has the best record: Charlotte, Washington or Cleveland? Worst?
Steve Aschburner: Ah yes, the single-digit sweepstakes, the NBA equivalent of lobsters trying to claw over each other to get out of the pot. My guess for the final ranking of the Eastern Conference’s three worst teams is 1) Cavaliers, 2) Wizards, 3) Bobcats. Cleveland has two guys – Kyrie Irving and Anderson Varejao – who have played at an All-Star level, something neither Washington nor Charlotte can boast. The Wizards are anticipating a bump when point guard John Wall returns, though their head coach – Randy Wittman – probably is shakiest of the three fellows leading these clubs. The Bobcats remain in developmental mode, with victories nice, but playing time and seasoning as higher priorities for their young players. No team, frankly, is playing less to win this season than Charlotte – and that mission likely will be accomplished.
Fran Blinebury: With a healthy Kyrie Irving back in the lineup, I like Cleveland in this race of bottom dwellers. But that’s assuming the Cavs don’t unload Anderson Varejao at the trade deadline. The worst of the bunch is clearly the Wizards, a train-wreck of a franchise that long ago went over the basketball cliff.
Jeff Caplan: I want to say Cleveland will have the best record of three solely because of Kyrie Irving. He’s a phenomenal talent, but he has so little help. So I’m picking Charlotte to have the best record of this woeful trio. Even though they lost 18 in a row, as crazy as that sounds. I think they have a better overall roster and the pain from the seven-win season remains with them. As for the Wizards, I am impressed how hard this team plays yet nets so few results. Unless John Wall returns soon and is spectacular immediately, this group will remain in the cellar.
Scott Howard-Cooper: Washington. There, I said it. The Wizards need to make up four games to move to the front of your illustrious pack. That is very much within reason because (a) they are planning to have John Wall and Nene healthy the second half of the season, and (b) the Cavaliers and Bobcats are the competition. Cleveland will challenge for the lead as well. Worst: Charlotte. While the long losing streak is not a true read – the Bobcats are better than that – the roster has more holes than the others.
John Schuhmann: I can’t begin to tell you how many times I was asked this exact question at my holiday get-togethers. Such a hot topic in the streets! Cleveland will finish with the best record of the three, because Kyrie Irving is the best player on any of these teams and the Cavs have played the toughest schedule in the Eastern Conference thus far. And Charlotte will finish with the worst record of the three, because they’re just awful on both ends of the floor. The Wizards have been good enough defensively to keep them in some games, and maybe John Wall will be back soon.
Sekou Smith: Based on the presence of Kyrie Irving alone the Cavaliers should be the pick. But the Bobcats, even with that nasty losing streak on their first quarter report card, still sit ahead of both of the Cavaliers and Wizards in the standings right now. As much as they’ve been ridiculed here and elsewhere for their struggles, it’s hard to see how two teams that couldn’t make up ground on a team in the midst of a staggering 18-game losing streak are all of a sudden going to pass the Bobcats up now that the worst is presumably over. And to their credit, the Bobcats battled during that losing streak. They were not just taking beatings without putting up a fight. That kind of intestinal fortitude will come in handy over the next three and a half months of action.