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Our watch has ended... for now. With 82 games now in the books, we know now how the odds will (mostly) look when lottery night arrives and Victor Wembanyama figures out where his NBA career will begin. As a quick refresher: the NBA lottery works by assigning 1,001 different combinations of numbers between one and 14 to the 14 teams in the lottery. The worse your record, the more combinations you receive. The NBA draws four different combination of four numbers. The first one gets the No. 1 overall pick, and so on in that fashion until the top four picks are assigned. Picks 5-60 are awarded based on record. 

With the regular season now concluded, we know which 10 teams will receive 950 of the available 1,001 combinations. Here's where things stand now:

  • The Detroit Pistons, Houston Rockets and San Antonio Spurs will each 14% of the available combinations. Those are the highest odds available in the lottery. Detroit, by virtue of owning the NBA's worst record, cannot pick lower than No. 5. San Antonio and Houston tied for the NBA's second-worst record at 22-60, so a coin flip will determine which one of them holds the No. 2 slot (which can pick no lower than No. 6) and which will be relegated to No. 3 (which can pick no lower than No. 7).
  • The Charlotte Hornets will have a 12.5% chance at the No. 1 pick.
  • The Portland Trail Blazers will have a 10.5% chance at the No. 1 pick.
  • The Orlando Magic will have a 9% chance at the No. 1 pick.
  • The Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers will each have a 6.8% chance at the No. 1 pick. Normally, the No. 7 team has a 7.5% chance while the No. 8 team has a 6% chance. However, as the two teams tied, they will split the total number of lottery combinations that would normally go between the two slots, and a coin flip will determine who has the No.7 and No. 8 slots between them.
  • The Utah Jazz will have a 4.5% chance at the No. 1 pick.
  • The Dallas Mavericks will have a 3% chance at the No. 1 pick.

That leaves 5% remaining to be allocated to whichever four teams fail to escape the play-in round. The actual combinations aren't assigned until lottery night itself. At that point, the 14 teams will each send a representative to witness the drawing, which will take place in private before deputy commissioner Mark Tatum publicly pulls the results out of envelopes on television. 

Of course, that's still more than a month away, as the lottery will be held on May 16. For now, let's deliver eulogies for the 10 teams that didn't even reach the postseason.

Race to the Bottom

10. Dallas Mavericks: Here's a sobering thought for a Mavericks team that just committed some of the most egregious acts of tanking in recent NBA history: they still have a 20% chance of losing their first-round pick. That's right, if any of the losing play-in teams jumps up into the top four, Dallas falls to No. 11 and surrenders its pick to the New York Knicks. That 20% might not sound like much, but remember, the highest odds you can get for the No. 1 pick are just 14%. The Mavericks are likelier to lose their pick than any single team is to get Wembanyama.

9. Utah Jazz: The Jazz are the only team in the 2023 lottery with a chance at two unprotected picks. While Orlando can get a second pick if Chicago stays out of the top four, Utah will go into lottery night knowing that it has its own selection and Minnesota's unprotected choice, and if the Timberwolves lose their second play-in game on Friday, that pick will also be in the lottery. The odds of the Jazz landing Wembanyama are still relatively low, but two picks is still a home run for a team coming off of the sort of season Utah just had. The Jazz uncovered a franchise offensive player (Lauri Markkanen) and a franchise defensive player (Walker Kessler). They remained competitive for most of the season without sacrificing any hope at a top choice. They have a mountain of future picks to trade and a solid group of young players to build around. The future is bright in Utah.

8. Washington Wizards: I'm not going to bother writing any sort of serious obituary for the 2022-23 Washington Wizards because you can just go look up anything that was written on the 2021-22 Wizards, or the 2019-20 Wizards, or the 2018-19 Wizards, and get the same basic effect. They tried to win. Bradley Beal scored some points. They finished below .500. It will be that way until the end of time because this team doesn't have a shred of ambition. We'll start covering the Wizards seriously when they start taking roster-building seriously.

7. Indiana Pacers: Part of the argument in favorite of Indiana trading Myles Turner and Buddy Hield to the Lakers before the season was that doing so would juice their lottery odds. In the end, the Pacers found the perfect middle ground. They get to keep Hield and Turner for the long haul if they so desire, but they're still in a relatively favorable lottery position. Tyrese Haliburton was so good that their ceiling was probably the No. 5 slot here. Sacrificing a few lottery balls for the team-wide progression and optimism Indiana now has was ultimately a worthwhile trade.

6. Orlando Magic: Hey, speaking of perfect middle grounds, we have the Orlando Magic! They managed to slot in at No. 6 despite finishing the season with a .500 record in their last 56 games. They devoted virtually all of their minutes to young players, developed a distinct identity as the team with a bunch of tall ball-handlers and ultimately built habits that should carry them into play-in contention next season. Combine all of that with their No. 6 lottery slot and this season is an unmitigated victory for Orlando.

5. Portland Trail Blazers: This team has mastered the art of the late-season tank. In the past two seasons, the Blazers are a robust 3-25 after March 15. That is likely going to become something of a norm in the current, play-in world we occupy. Fewer teams are incentivized to spend entire teams losing, but once it becomes apparent that the top 10 is unrealistic, we are going to see more and more teams do what Portland did down the stretch to ensure their lottery odds despite months of competitive basketball. 

4. Charlotte Hornets: If you believe in lottery karma, the Hornets have probably developed more of it in the past month than any other team. They are literally the reason that the Dallas Mavericks are out of the play-in tournament right now. While the rest of the teams on this list were lying down, the Hornets played some of their best basketball down the stretch without point guard LaMelo Ball. They finished the season on a 5-5 run that will hopefully carry into next season. If the basketball gods exist, they are going to reward the Hornets for that.

3. Houston Rockets: The arena had barely emptied after their season-ending loss to the Washington Wizards before the Rockets fired head coach Stephen Silas. That's what happens when finishing with the second-worst record in the NBA doubles as that coach's greatest accomplishment. Houston is slowly digging itself out of the James Harden-imposed grave it has spent the past three seasons in. A new coach is an important step toward eventual contention, but these past three years will have been for nothing if the Rockets try to fast-track their comeback. As tempting as a Harden reunion might be, Houston's best move would be to continue developing young talent. 

2. San Antonio Spurs: We've heard no official word on Gregg Popovich's future, and it's worth noting that he himself has brushed all questions about it aside. But with another season in the books, it's worth taking the time to acknowledge that perhaps the greatest coach of all time, one of the figures most responsible for the globalization of the game of basketball, is nearing the end of his career. Eventually, someone new is going to prowl the San Antonio sidelines, and it's going to take several years before that feels quite right. So if this was indeed the final season of Popovich's legendary career, we can at least say he used it to put the Spurs in position to bounce back under his successor. They're developing a number of interesting young players, their cap sheet is clear, and with a possible top pick incoming, it won't be long before the Spurs are right back to where Popovich so frequently took them: the top of the NBA.

1. Detroit Pistons: The Pistons emphatically did not want to be here. They traded for Bojan Bogdanovic, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks hoping to make a run at the play-in. And then Cade Cunningham got hurt, and suddenly, they had to make the best of a bad situation. They largely did so. The developmental on-ball reps Jaden Ivey accumulated in Cunningham's absence will prove invaluable. Detroit got a look at a number of promising big men. They'd love to end this nightmare season with Wembanyama, but even if they don't, they at least managed to make the most of a year they'd probably like to forget.

Loss of the Week

Welcome to Club 56, Portland. The Trail Blazers, desperate for every last ping pong ball, managed to lose Sunday's season finale to the Golden State Warriors by 56 points. They are the 23rd team in NBA history to lose a game by so many points and the first since Dec. 2, 2021, when the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder by an NBA-record 73 points. Portland's loss wasn't quite that bad, but it wasn't far off, either.

It is, after all, difficult to win an NBA game in which two separate reserves (Jordan Poole and Moses Moody) score as many points as every individual player on your team. Skylar Mays led the Blazers with 21 points. The 41 minutes he played in that game now represent just over 6% of the total minutes he's played in his NBA career. The four players that came off of Portland's bench have combined for 90 total games of NBA experience... and 56 of those games belong to Jabari Walker.

It's possible to play competitive basketball without your starters. Saben Lee and Darius Bazley pushed Kawhi Leonard and the Clippers to the brink on Sunday. But once a team openly decides that it is ready to lose, there's just not much the players on the floor can actually do to stop them. Portland gave up on the 2022-23 season a long time ago. Sunday's historic blowout was just one final humiliation.