Through an unusual season, the Pistons managed just 20 wins, but there always has been a silver lining, even through the misery of long losing streaks. When it was all said and done, they ended up with the second-worst record in the league, which guaranteed them a share of the best odds of landing the No. 1 pick in the July 29 NBA Draft.
With a crop of talented players in the top four in the draft, the Pistons have a good chance of getting a difference-maker with their pick, which can fall no lower than sixth after the draft lottery on June 22.
The Pistons’ odds of getting a pick in the top four is 52.1%, but recent history has shown that the team that enters the lottery in second position hasn’t fared well. The No. 2 team hasn’t moved up to the top spot since the 1996 draft, when the Philadelphia 76ers selected Allen Iverson.
Because of the way the odds are distributed among the 14 teams in the lottery, it’s more likely that teams will drop below their lottery position than move up. There have been several reforms to smooth out the odds. In 2019, the odds of the worst team getting the top pick were 25%.
In the past decade, there is only one instance of a team entering in the No. 2 spot and staying there, in 2016 when the Los Angeles Lakers selected Brandon Ingram. That draft was unique in that the lottery positions all stayed the same and none of the top teams improved their positions.
More often, the team in the No. 2 position entering the lottery has moved down in draft position. The Cleveland Cavaliers have held that distinction three times in the past 10 drafts, including the past two. Here’s a look at how the teams with the second-worst records fared in the lottery and in the draft:
► 2020: The Cavaliers dropped to fifth and selected Isaac Okoro. Notably, the Minnesota Timberwolves moved up two spots to No. 1 and picked Anthony Edwards and the Charlotte Hornets jumped five spots to take LaMelo Ball third.
► 2019: The Cavs entered the lottery in position to take Ja Morant, but they fell three spots to fifth and got Darius Garland. The Pelicans — with just 6% odds of the No. 1 pick — catapulted six spots to select Zion Williamson, the Grizzlies moved six spots for Morant at No. 2 and the Lakers seven spots to take DeAndre Hunter at No. 4.
► 2018: The Grizzlies dropped two spots to fourth and got one of their franchise cornerstones in Jaren Jackson Jr. out of Michigan State. The lottery teams mostly stayed in place, but the Kings notably bumped up five spots to No. 2 and took Marvin Bagley III.
► 2017: The lottery moved the Suns from second to fourth and they drafted current Pistons wing Josh Jackson. The Lakers jumped to second and got Lonzo Ball and the Kings’ pick was conveyed to the Celtics, who picked Jayson Tatum at No. 3.
► 2016: Remarkably, the draft order stayed the same and the Lakers were able to get Ingram with the second pick. The Sixers took Ben Simmons with the No. 1 pick and the Brooklyn Nets’ pick, Jaylen Brown, went to the Celtics.
► 2015: The Knicks were hoping for the top pick to get Karl-Anthony Towns, but dropped to fourth and lucked into Kristaps Porzingis instead. The Lakers leapfrogged two spots to the No. 2 pick and got D’Angelo Russell.
► 2014: The Sixers, in the midst of “The Process,” had one of the best outcomes for a No. 2 team, dropping only one position, where they were able to get an injured Joel Embiid. That seems to have worked out for them. The Cavs rose eight spots to get Andrew Wiggins with the top pick.
► 2013: In one of the more maligned drafts in history, the Charlotte Bobcats moved up two spots to fourth and got center Cody Zeller. The Wizards jumped five spots to No. 3 and selected forward Otto Porter. The Cavs got the No. 1 pick again and took Anthony Bennett.
► 2012: The Wizards moved down one spot to third and drafted a franchise centerpiece, Bradley Beal. The New Orleans Hornets rose three spots to Anthony Davis with the No. 1 pick, which was the only movement among the lottery teams.
► 2011: The Clippers entered the lottery and made the biggest jump in the past decade, moving up seven spots for the No. 1 pick. The bad news was that the pick conveyed to the Cavaliers, who selected Kyrie Irving. The Cavs kept their own pick, which fell from second to fourth, and they took Tristan Thompson. The Nets also jumped from sixth to third and got Enes Kanter.