Detroit Pistons fans can relax. They’ve all but locked up best NBA lottery odds of No. 1

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Pistons fans can relax until May 16. No more worrying about wins and losses or checking good ‘ol Tankathon.

Inhale … exhale. That’s better.

Thanks largely to their current six-game losing streak and a simultaneous stunning five-game win streak by Charlotte, the Pistons have all but locked up the best odds at winning the “Trauma for Wembanyama“© sweepstakes.

That’s right. The Pistons will have as good a chance as any other team during the NBA draft lottery May 16 at landing the No. 1 pick and the chance to draft Frenchman Victor Wembanyama, a player billed as the best draft prospect since LeBron James in 2003, and frankly, maybe ever.

The Pistons have 19 games left over the final five weeks in the regular season. Let’s break down the odds.

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NBA draft lottery odds breakdown

Sure, the Pistons will only a 14% chance to win the lottery, but those are the odds for each of the NBA’s three-worst teams. The league has preset odds to determine who will receive the top four picks among the 14 teams to miss the playoffs, then order picks 5-14 in reverse regular season finish.

The league’s three-worst teams also have the same odds at the Nos. 2-4 picks, making up a 52.1% chance at a top-four selection. The final position of those bottom three teams does come into play at the back-end, as teams can fall four spots from their original lottery slot. The Pistons, currently No. 2, could drop to No. 6; Houston — currently last in the NBA — would be guaranteed a top-five pick, and No. 3 San Antonio could fall as far as No. 7.

Just like week, the Hornets were part of that group, but they ripped off five straight wins, including a double-digit win Monday over the Pistons (though LaMelo Ball suffered a season-ending ankle injury).

The Hornets (20-44) have five more wins than the Pistons (15-48) and the teams play each other one final time Thursday in Detroit. Both have a very similar remaining strength of schedule (Pistons have the seventh-easiest; Hornets have the eighth), and the Pistons are projected to finish with 20 wins, according to FiveThirtyEight’s model. The Hornets’ 27 seems a bit high but just a few wins over the final 18 games should do the trick: The Pistons have won two games in a row once all season, back in November. So yeah, we’re not too worried about them ripping off a Hornets-like run.

Here are the odds at each slot for the top three entering the lottery.

TEAM 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1. Rockets 14% 13.4% 12.7% 12% 47.9%
2. Pistons 14% 13.4% 12.7% 12% 27.8% 20%
3. Spurs 14% 13.4% 12.7% 12% 14.8% 26% 7%

Getting into the bottom three essentially became the Pistons’ job after Cade Cunningham underwent season-ending shin surgery in December. The season was lost anyway, but the sell became easy.

And it’s something they actually accomplished. Hooray!

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The reward

We’ve never seen a basketball player as tall and skilled as Wembanyama, who turned 19 in January.

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We’ve written about the beckoning of Wembanyama to the Pistons before, most recently in January, and actually just podcasted about him and the other top draft prospects this week (listen below).

Wembanyama reportedly stands 7 feet 5 in shoes with a tetradactyl-like wingspan of 8 feet, and will immediately become the tallest player in the NBA next season. He has been training for the NBA for years, and his team in France is set up specifically to help him achieve that goal, as ESPN recently wrote.

After him, G League Ignite point guard Scoot Henderson is the heavy favorite to go No. 2 overall, and would be the No. 1 prospect in many past drafts. He’d be a nice consolation prize, though if the Pistons get the No. 2 pick, would make for a fascinating debate and decision for general manager Troy Weaver and ownership, considering the Pistons have two young guards who need the ball in Cunningham and Jaden Ivey.

But that’s a conversation for another day. And there are a handful of intriguing wings, the position the Pistons are most bereft of, if they drop in the lottery like the odds above favor they will.

Now, it’s out of the Pistons’ hands, and up to the ping pong balls that will churn in a backroom in 10 weeks time.

Ah, the most dramatic 15 minutes in all of television is just around the corner.

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