Even after 81 games, not all of the NBA's playoff seeds, or even playoff teams, have been determined. The highlights of tonight's schedule include Jazz vs. Grizzlies and Rockets vs. Lakers, two contests in which each team has something at stake. The Jazz can earn a playoff spot with a win and a Lakers loss, while the Lakers would earn the seventh seed with a win over Houston. Meanwhile, the Grizzlies would earn home-court advantage in round one with a win and a Clippers loss, while the Rockets could get as high as No. 6 or fall as low as No. 8, depending on various outcomes.
Although the games with postseason implications are the important ones tonight, some of the league's lesser clubs are also jockeying for position — in the draft lottery. Most notably, the Magic and Bobcats have identical 20-61 records, tied for the NBA's worst mark, so winning or losing today could be the difference in a couple dozen ping-pong balls at this year's draft lottery. With the help of our reverse standings tool, here are a few situations worth monitoring tonight if you're interested in seeing how this year's draft order plays out:
Games: Magic (20-61) at Heat, Cavaliers at Bobcats (20-61)
At stake: No. 1 odds in the draft lottery
Summary: 424 of 1,000 potential outcomes for the draft's first overall pick result in one of the league's worst two teams landing that top choice. If, for instance, the Magic lose tonight and the Bobcats win, Orlando would have a 25% chance at the No. 1 pick, while the Bobcats' odds would be 19.9%. If both teams lose (or win), a coin flip would determine which team gets a 22.5% chance at the top pick and which team has 22.4% odds.
Games: Hornets (27-54) at Mavericks, Clippers at Kings (28-53), Pistons (29-52) at Nets, Wizards (29-52) at Bulls, Timberwolves (30-51) at Spurs
At stake: Nos. 5-9 in draft lottery standings
Summary: There are too many outcomes here to go through all of them, but based on tonight's results, each of these teams could end up shuffling around a little in the lottery standings. One example: A T-Wolves loss, combined with Pistons and Wizards wins, could get the Wolves up to seventh in the lottery standings, if coin flips fall their way. A win in San Antonio, however, would mean they're locked into ninth in the lottery standings.
Games: 76ers (33-48) at Pacers, Celtics at Raptors (33-48), Warriors at Trail Blazers (33-48)
At stake: Nos. 10-12 in draft lottery standings, Blazers' first- and second-round picks
Summary: It would be hard to blame you if you suspected the Blazers looked like they were tanking last night against the Clippers. After all, losing their 13th straight game in tonight's finale could put them in position to keep both their first- and second-round picks in the draft. If the Blazers lose to the Warriors, they'll have a chance to be as high as 10th in the lottery standings, which would bode well for their top-12-protected first-rounder, and their top-40-protected second-rounder.
Games: Jazz (43-38) at Grizzlies, Rockets at Lakers (44-37)
At stake: Who gets the Lakers' first-round pick
Summary: We already covered the playoff stakes of these games, with the Lakers needing either a win or a Jazz loss to earn a postseason berth. If that happens, their first-round pick will be sent to the Cavaliers, with the Suns receiving the Heat's first-rounder (30th overall). If it's Utah that sneaks into the playoffs, the Lakers' first-rounder goes to the Suns, with the Cavs getting Miami's pick.
Games: Clippers (55-26) at Kings, Jazz at Grizzlies (55-26), Suns at Nuggets (56-25)
At stake: Who gets the Clippers' and Grizzlies' second-round picks
Summary: The seeding and home-court implications for the Grizzlies and Clippers are obviously more important here than whether or not either team has to give up a late second-round pick, but it's worth mentioning nonetheless. Both teams have traded their second-round picks, with top-55 protection — the Clippers' second-rounder will go to Detroit if it's not in the top 55, while the Grizzlies' pick would go the Lakers if it's not in the top 55. Currently, a coin flip would decide which team is drafting 55th and which team is drafting 56th. However, if the Grizz and Clips both win tonight, and the Nuggets lose, Memphis and L.A. could end up in the 56th and 57th slots, meaning both teams would lose their second-rounders.
The only game with no real draft-related stakes tonight is the Bucks vs. Thunder contest, as Milwaukee is locked into the 15th spot, while Oklahoma City is locked into No. 29.