Editor’s note: This story has been updated with the current NBA draft lottery standings entering Saturday’s games.
The NBA regular season is now in its final week and ends Sunday, so teams are either jockeying for playoff or lottery positioning, whether they admit the latter or not.
Now that the Pistons have a player worth building with and around, they desperately must add to their evolving talent pool and will have a great chance to accomplish that this summer. But where they pick will depend on the 2022 NBA draft lottery May 17 in Chicago, and those odds will be determined by their final record.
The Pistons (23-58) are competing with Oklahoma City for the final coveted top-three position entering the lottery.
The annual lottery is where we learn the official draft order for the 14 teams which missed the postseason — including those eliminated in the play-in tournament. This year’s draft is June 23 in Brooklyn at Barclay’s Center.
The reward is shaping up to be massive, both figuratively and literally. The consensus top three prospects are all freshmen big men, though the order will continue to be heavily debated through the spring: Gonzaga power forward/center Chet Holmgren, Auburn power forward Jabari Smith Jr. and Duke power forward Paolo Banchero. Each brings different skills and holes, but each would be a talent boon to a needy team.
How it works
The NBA flattened the lottery odds beginning in 2019, so the lottery now determines picks 1-4 (instead of 1-3) to increase the volatility in hopes of weakening season-long tanking.
The three worst teams each have a 14% chance at landing the No. 1 pick and 52.1% chance at landing in the top four. If teams finish the regular season with the same record, they split the percentages to earn equal chances at moving up, but a coin flip — which takes place before the lottery — decides who gets the higher pick if neither jumps into the top four.
After the top-four picks are decided, teams slot in reverse order of regular season standings, so the remaining team with the worst record picks fifth and so on. No team can drop more than four spots from their slot entering the lottery. You can read more on the specifics here.
The Pistons entered last year’s lottery in second, won the lottery and the No. 1 pick to send off massive celebrations, and later selected Cunningham out of Oklahoma State.
INSIDE THE REBUILD: The big reason why Pistons are in worst 3-year run in 40 years
Orlando defeated sinking Cleveland, 120-115, on Tuesday, breaking a tie for the worst record with Houston.
The Pistons will enter the lottery either three or four.
Here are the top eight in the lottery standings via Tankathon.com, ordered by winning percentage, with corresponding odds of earning a top-four pick and the No. 1 pick:
*Entering Saturday; GB = Games Behind
Team, Record, GB, Top 4, No. 1
1. Rockets 20-61 — 52.1% 14%
2. Magic 21-60 1 52.1% 14%
3. Pistons 23-58 3 52.1% 14%
4. Thunder 24-57 4 48.1% 12.5%
5. Pacers 25-55 5½ 42.1% 10.5%
6. Blazers 27-54 7 37.2% 9%
7. Kings 29-51 9½ 31.9% 7.5%
8. Pelicans (via Lakers) 32-49 12 26.3% 6%
Note: The Pistons own Brooklyn’s second-round pick from September’s Sekou Doumbouya trade.
The Pistons and Thunder are locked in a battle for the important No. 3 lottery position, and the Thunder, after earning a 98-94 comeback victory over the Blazers on Tuesday in a tank-off, now have one more win than the Pistons.
The Pistons were blown out by Giannis Antetokounmpo and defending champion Milwaukee, 131-101, in their home finale Friday, and conclude the season at Philadelphia on Sunday (7 p.m.). The Sixers will be playing on the second night of a back-to-back when they face the Pistons, so they may opt to rest some key players.
A Pistons loss or a Thunder win would give the Pistons the No. 3 position.
The Thunder lost 120-101 at the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday playing just six players and starting G League call-up Zavier Simpson (Michigan). They finish the season Sunday at the Los Angeles Clippers (9:30 p.m.).
The Rockets host Atlanta on Sunday and the Magic host Miami.
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