The Orlando Magic basically lit its roster on fire at the trade deadline as it shipped out most of its top players. Could the talent-poor Magic be a threat to the Detroit Pistons in getting a high draft pick?
With the season about two-thirds completed, most of the teams have settled into a general spot in the NBA standings.
While there are teams trying for homecourt advantage in the playoffs and others just trying to make the post-season, there are some that are at the rock bottom of the standings.
The Minnesota Timberwolves, Detroit Pistons and Houston Rockets had kind of established themselves as the teams that would finish with the worst records.
Since the bottom three teams all receive the exact same chance of getting the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, it worked for those involved.
But, following the trade deadline, a new contender has emerged for lousiest record in the NBA.
Can the Orlando Magic knock the Detroit Pistons out of the top 3 in the draft lottery?
In the space of about four hours, the Orlando Magic traded away three of its best players: two-time All-Star center Nikola Vucevic, forward Aaron Gordon and guard Evan Fournier.
The Magic received a bunch of draft picks and some decent players like Gary Harris, Wendell Carter Jr. and R.J. Hampton (a promising rookie, but still young) in return.
But losing those three, in addition to starters Markelle Fultz and Jonathan Isaac being already lost for the season due to injury, basically wipes out Orlando’s team.
Now, breaking up the Magic is not like taking apart the 1989 Pistons. They were 15-29 and only Detroit had a worse record in the Eastern Conference.
But they were fairly competitive.
Just six days until the deadline, Orlando had defeated the Brooklyn Nets (who had Harden and Kyrie). The night before the team was demolished, the Magic beat the Phoenix Suns, one of the top teams in the Western Conference.
Would they have made the playoffs? Probably not, they were 4.5 games behind the Chicago Bulls for the last playoff spot. But Orlando certainly would have won a decent amount of games, probably more than the Pistons.
You can’t say that anymore.
Terrance Ross, one of the Magic’s few remaining significant players, had a little fun on on Twitter.
The Magic, as of the trade deadline, were 2.5 games ahead of the Pistons with 28 games or more left for both.
Houston has the same record as Detroit at 12-3. With the Rockets having traded Victor Oladipo, it is doubtful they will improve their record.
The Timberwolves have the worst record in the NBA at 10-34, and it is doubtful they will improve because, well, why would they?
How low will the Orlando Magic go?
The Detroit Pistons have a bunch of players who have been injured, particularly point guard Killian Hayes, center Jahlil Okafor and newly acquired wing Hamidou Diallo, who should all return shortly.
Does that mean the Pistons are suddenly even a .500 team? Most likely not. However, they always play hard and are usually competitive. With some additional reinforcements, they could win a few more games.
The question is, how bad will the Orlando Magic be? They were not doing that great when they had Vucevic, Gordon and Fournier.
What if Orlando is so non-competitive that they go off the deep end, and finish the rest of the season going 5-23? If Detroit even went a putrid 9-24 the rest of the way (the Pistons have one more game to play than Orlando), the Magic would still finish with a lower record.
What is the difference between third- and fourth-worst record in the league? The odds of getting No.1 go down from 14% to 12.5%. When so much is riding on getting a very high draft pick, every tenth of a percentage point counts.
Even worse, Detroit could also end up falling out of the top five. In a draft where most experts think the first five players are way above everyone else, that could be devastating.
This new contender for bottom of the standings could prove dangerous for the Pistons. How the Magic do the rest of the way is a situation the Pistons need to monitor.
Now, the new, and remaining players, for the Magic, are not going to lose on purpose. Getting crushed night after night does nothing for their futures. But they may have so little talent, they might lose all the time anyhow.
The Detroit Pistons intend for the remainder of the season to give their young players a lot of playing time. But they also need to get a taste of some wins. Veterans like Jerami Grant, Mason Plumlee and Wayne Ellington are certainly going to try to win.
The battle for the bottom three just got more interesting.