While the NBA’s trade deadline and buyout season have given several contending teams a chance to load up for the stretch run, they’ve also given a number of teams at the bottom of the NBA’s standings to prepare for a run of their own — with two months left in the 2017/18 season, the race for the league’s worst record is on.
It’s not unusual for lottery-bound teams to be incorporating young players into their lineups and positioning themselves for a run at the No. 1 pick in the draft at this point in the season. But the sheer number of clubs in contention for that top spot in our reverse standings this year is a little out of the ordinary.
Currently, the Kings (17-38) are in pole position in the race to the bottom, but the Suns (18-40), Hawks (18-39), Mavericks (18-39), Magic (18-38), Grizzlies (18-37), and Nets (19-39) are all within one game of them in the standings. The Bulls (20-36) and Knicks (23-35) aren’t currently part of that logjam, but both teams have essentially given up their playoff hopes and wouldn’t mind getting into the conversation for that No. 1 pick down the stretch too.
Those teams all have between 24 and 27 games left in the regular season, which means that any victory from here on out could have a legitimate impact on a team’s lottery odds. It’s hard to imagine any team with more than six or seven wins the rest of the way having a real shot at finishing the season with the NBA’s worst record.
The playoff push from the top teams in each conference over the next two months is probably the race more worthy of attention, but the race to the bottom will be fascinating, and the stakes are significant — barring some major changes on lottery night, the teams that finish with the NBA’s worst records will have a shot to draft a potential star like Luka Doncic, Deandre Ayton, Mohamed Bamba, or Marvin Bagley III. Whereas a team that goes on a hot streak the rest of the way might end up with the eighth or ninth pick, missing out on that group of possible franchise-changers.
Of course, one team whose end-of-season results will be especially fascinating is Brooklyn. The Nets are the only club of those listed above who won’t have their own pick available in this year’s draft — Cavaliers fans figure to be monitoring Brooklyn games almost as closely as Nets fans in the coming weeks.
What do you think? Which team will finish with the NBA’s worst record? Which teams will come closest? And which of the clubs above do you expect to ultimately miss out on a top-five pick? Vote below and join our discussion in the comment section!
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