They have taken a much different path to get there this season but the Pistons are heading right back to the middle of the lottery.
Two seasons ago, the Pistons had the No. 7 overall draft pick and used it on center Greg Monroe. Last year, they drafted eighth and took point guard Brandon Knight. As this season winds down, the Pistons head into Miami with the eighth-worst record and they're unlikely to move more than a couple of slots in either direction by season's end.
Despite a 101--96 loss to Atlanta Friday, the Pistons are three games over .500 since starting the season 4-20. Charlotte, Washington and New Orleans seem destined to finish with the three worst records. The next four teams below the Pistons -- Toronto, New Jersey, Cleveland and Sacramento -- are no worse than two games behind them with Golden State a half-game above them.
A big difference between Detroit and most of the teams with similar records is that it has shown steady improvement and continues to fight hard for wins. The Pistons had won five of their last six until their close road loss against the Hawks, who have the fourth-best record in the East. It won't get any easier Sunday when the Pistons play at Miami. But after they complete their four-game road trip, they play six of their last eight at home.
Should the Pistons remain in the No. 8 spot, they would have a 2.8 percent chance of landing the No. 1 pick and taking the jewel of the draft, Kentucky forward Anthony Davis. They'd have a 10 percent chance of getting one of the top three picks.
Moving up or down a couple of spots wouldn't alter the odds very much. The team with the sixth-worst record has a 6.3 percent chance to having the winning lottery combination, while No. 7 has a 4.3 percent chance. Nos. 9 (1.7) and 10 (1.1) have fewer than two percent of the potential lottery combinations in the May drawing.
Some fans were hoping after the woeful start that the Pistons would tank the season and improve their chances of getting the No. 1 pick. But that was never an option for new coach Lawrence Frank and his relatively young team, so president of basketball operations Joe Dumars and his staff will have to find another impact player outside the top five, unless they get really lucky.
They can take heart from this fact -- the last team with the worst record to land the top pick was Orlando in 2004. Five of the last seven winners were slotted No. 5 or higher entering the lottery, highlighted by the 2008 Chicago Bulls, who moved from No. 9 to the top and snagged franchise player Derrick Rose. Challenging Charlotte for the worst record this season would have only guaranteed the Pistons more misery.
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