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Phoenix Suns and Atlanta Hawks prepared to outlast the neo-tankers

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Despite a handful of teams aggressively joining the tank rank, the Suns and Hawks will likely get the last laugh on the upside down conference standings.

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Indiana Pacers Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Thanks to years and years of practice, the Phoenix Suns are so good at tanking that they don’t have to change a single thing post-All-Star in order to lose as many games as possible this last six weeks.

Mark Cuban could learn a lesson or two. On tanking. Look, he’s on his own in the criminally sexist pig department, but on tanking he could pick up the phone and ask Robert Sarver how to bumble and fumble his way to a top five pick without getting fined $600,000 precious dollars along the way.

(Before you spend one second aghast at $600,000, someone calculated that fine against Cuban’s net worth and concluded it’s like you or me being fined 28 dollars.)

The Suns don’t have to tank. They’ve already been trotting out the youngest, least-experienced roster in the league, potentially in NBA history, and have already established a pattern of regular rest for any player historically proven to positively impact a team’s winning percentage.

Plus, they already have the league’s toughest remaining schedule among those fighting for the right to choose between DeAndre Ayton, Luka Doncic and others, so staying in pole position can’t be that hard.

Besides, losing doesn’t really matter when you can’t win a ping-pong ball competition anyway. Regardless of record, the Suns haven’t picked higher than fourth overall since 1987.

According to basketball-reference.com, who simulate the rest of the season 7,500 times, the Suns have a 56% chance to finish with the worst record in the league (Gooooooooo SUNS!), just ahead of Sacramento.

But thanks to lottery odds, the Suns have only a 21% chance of keeping that spot.

In fact, the most likely spot for the team with the worst overall record is to drop to.... drum roll please... #4 overall.

Suns fans know what #4 overall looks like. They’ve watched the Suns pick #4 overall the last two years in a row, to the tune of Dragan Bender and Josh Jackson. Don’t hold your breath for anything better than that this year.

Okay, enough wallowing.

While #4 overall overall is the most likely individual chance, the Suns do project to have more than a 58% chance to pick among the top 3.

Giving them the potential to draft one of the handful of potential “unicorn” players on the board. Will the Suns make the right pick? Who knows. But the higher their pick, the more likely they don’t flub it entirely.

Meantime, we have to watch this team play 23 times, including 9 home games starting with a tilt against the Clippers on Friday night followed by the Trail Blazers on Saturday.

Maybe Elfrid Payton will help the Suns be a little more fun to watch along the way, but only for those diehards who’d watch regardless. The Suns already have one of the least-watched teams in the entire league and that’s not gonna change in the next couple months.

Nope the next two months isn’t about matchups. It’s not about the Suns’ likelihood to win a game (they will be favored to lose almost every single game from here on out).

The only drama will be where the Suns finish versus the other half-dozen tankers out there.

Going into the final stretch, the Suns are tied with a whopping FIVE other teams at a league-low 18 wins.

Lucky for the Suns, their schedule couldn’t have been set up any better to continue their losing ways. Most of the Suns remaining games are against teams trying to WIN, so at least we won’t have to watch too many uber-tanker tilts duking it out for the loss too often.

Hold onto your hats, Suns fans. Or, shades would be more appropriate in Phoenix, I suppose. We aren’t smart enough to protect our skin with hats round these here parts, are we? We just stay inside anyway.

That final week’s games could be very interesting, as the Suns are likely to face the Kings and Mavericks with Ayton/Doncic on the line, balonied by a pair of games against the Pelicans and Warriors whose playoff seeding positions will likely already be sewn up by that time.

It’s a roller coaster on its final stretch. Hang on. Let’s see where it ends up.