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It’s been a good couple of days for OKC in the lottery odds standings.
While the Thunder have lost two games since that Denver upset (that upset so many OKC fans), the Detroit Pistons have rattled off three straight wins and opened up the possibility of Sam Presti’s squad finishing #3 in the reverse standings.
That is, if the Indiana Pacers don’t mess it all up.
OKC’s position is becoming more and more clear. Unless some wildly unexpected wins streaks or losing streaks go down, the Thunder aren’t likely catching Houston or Orlando for the #1 or #2 spots. Nor are they likely to fall lower than the Kings, Spurs, Blazers or Knicks.
It’s a three team race between the Pistons (18-47), the Thunder (20-44) and the Pacers (22-44) for the #3, #4 and #5 spots.
The road ahead
If you’re looking to the teams’ remaining strength of schedules to provide some insight, you’re going to be disappointed.
The Pistons have the 13th toughest schedule from here on out, the Pacers have the 16th toughest and Thunder have the 17th toughest. And it’s just a .4% margin that separates the three teams, so it’s basically a wash.
The most vital information is games remaining versus other lottery teams. Those are all potential wins that could end up deciding the final standings.
The Pistons have games against the Magic, Blazers, Knicks, Wizards, and most importantly, the Pacers and Thunder left to play.
The Thunder have games against the Magic, Magic again, Spurs, Blazers, Blazers again, Lakers (can’t believe I have to include them in the “possibly easy win” section), Hawks and the big one: the Pistons.
The Pacers have the Rockets, Kings, Spurs, Blazers, Hawks, Hawks again (not a bad team despite their lottery status), and the Pistons on the schedule.
The other important factors here is health, and whether or not each of these teams is going to sit players down the stretch. The game by game statuses of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Lu Dort, Kenrich Williams, Mike Muscala, Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Malcolm Brogdon, Chris Duarte, Myles Turner, Cade Cunningham, Jerami Grant, Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Marvin Bagley (no, seriously!) will have an enormous impact on the final stretch run towards the lottery finish line.
Fortunately for Thunder fans, the Pistons seem to be having fun with all this recent winning. Maybe they’ll attempt to build a bit of momentum with their young core for next year, akin to the inaugural Thunder team’s run to end the season after starting out 3-29 before finishing on a comparatively blistering 20-30 run. Whatever the case may be, Detroit GM Troy Weaver could end up doing his old boss a solid.
The prize at the bottom of the barrell
So why is this all such a big deal? What’s at stake?
The #3 spot in the reverse standings has a 14% chance for the #1 overall pick, 52.1% chance for a top 4 pick, 67% chance for a top 5 pick and a 93% chance for a top 6 pick. The farthest the #3 position can fall is to #7.
The #4 spot in the reverse standings has a 12.5% chance for the #1 overall pick, 48.1% chance for a top 4 pick, 55.4% chance for a top 5 pick, an 81.1% chance for a top 6 pick and a 97.8% chance for a top 7 pick. The farthest the #4 position can fall is to #8.
The #5 spot in the reverse standings has a 10.5% chance for the #1 overall pick, 42.1% chance for a top 4 pick, 44.3% chance for a top 5 pick, a 63.9% chance for a top 6 pick and a 90.7% chance for a top 7 pick. The farthest the #4 position can fall is to #9.
Those numbers may look like a random Pollock painting of percentages. But not to Sam Presti. In a draft most pundits consider to be a six or seven player class, those odds represent the ascending likelihood of adding Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith, Jaden Ivey, Paolo Banchero, Shaedon Sharpe, AJ Griffin or Keegan Murray to the Thunder’s young core.
The good news for Thunder fans is that the #5 spot seems to be worst case scenario. Which means there’s a 90.7% chance Keegan Murray would be the worst case scenario.
The even better news for Thunder fans? The #3 spot is now in play as a best case scenario. Which would result in a better-than-a-coin-flip chance that Ivey or Banchero would be the worst case scenario.