The 16-64 Knicks have clinched the NBA’s worst record for the 2018/19 season, but a number of other spots behind them in the draft lottery remain very much up for grabs, as our reverse standings show. Now that every NBA team only has one or two games left on its schedule, here are the key races and games to keep an eye on this week:
The battle for No. 2:
A nine-game losing streak for the Cavaliers has pulled them even with the Suns for the No. 2 spot in the lottery standings, as both teams head into their final game of the season at 19-62. Each club plays its last game on Tuesday, with the Cavs hosting Charlotte while the Suns play in Dallas.
The Hornets are still fighting for their playoff lives and the Suns have a 7-33 road record this season, so it wouldn’t be surprise if both Cleveland and Phoenix lose and finish at 19-63. In that scenario, a coin flip would decide which team gets the second spot in the lottery standings and which team finishes third. Their odds at a top pick would be the same either way, but the third-place team could fall to as far as No. 7 in the draft, as opposed to No. 6.
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Four teams separated by one game between Nos. 6-9:
The Wizards (32-49) currently sit at No. 6 in the lottery standings, but the Grizzlies (32-48), Mavericks (32-48), and Pelicans (33-48) are right there with them. Adding intrigue to this logjam is the fact that the Grizzlies would like to see their top-eight protected first-round pick convey to Boston this season, while the Mavs probably wouldn’t mind keeping their top-five protected first-rounder.
Memphis, with the most incentive to win out, has perhaps the toughest schedule of this group, with games on tap in Detroit on Tuesday and vs. Golden State on Wednesday. The Pistons are still fighting to make the postseason, and the Warriors reportedly intend to play at least half of their regulars in the 82nd game. Wins won’t come easy for the Grizzlies.
The Pelicans’ final game comes on Tuesday vs. Golden State, in a contest which will likely feature the other half of the Warriors’ regulars.
The Wizards finish at home vs. the Celtics, who might be resting some top players now that they’ve sewn up the No. 4 seed in the East.
The Mavericks, meanwhile, have a winnable game at home vs. Phoenix on tap for Tuesday before finishing their season in San Antonio on Wednesday. The Spurs may still be battling for playoff seeding at that point.
The difference between finishing sixth and ninth in the lottery standings is significant. The No. 6 team has a 9% chance at the No. 1 pick and a 37.2% chance at a top-four selection. For the No. 9 team, those odds dip to 4.5% and 20.2%, respectively.
Minor back-of-the-lottery intrigue:
The Heat and Hornets are both 38-42 and remain in the hunt for the postseason. They’re currently just ahead of the 39-42 Kings in the lottery standings.
If Miami (vs. Philadelphia, at Brooklyn) and Charlotte (at Cleveland, vs. Orlando) both win out and the Kings lose in Portland on Wednesday, Sacramento would move up from No. 14 to No. 12 in the lottery standings. That’s not really a huge deal, since the No. 12 team is still a real long shot to move up.
Still, Sixers and Celtics fans will certainly take note of the difference between No. 14 (0.5% chance at the No. 1 pick; 2.4% chance at a top-four pick) and No. 12 (1.5% and 7.2%, respectively). If the Kings’ pick jumps to No. 1, Philadelphia would get it. If it lands anywhere else – including Nos. 2, 3, or 4 – it’ll go to Boston.