Home » news » The Path To The Top Pick

NBA

The Path to the Top Pick

Is Milwaukee bad enough to hold onto the league’s worst record, or could other teams surpass them?

Updated

on

While two-thirds of the league’s teams battle for playoff positioning now that there’s only a quarter of a season left on the schedule, the remaining handful of teams are doing battle for a different kind of postseason success: winning the draft lottery.

Obviously the teams with the worst records end up with the most ping pong balls, but with so many teams tanking away, who will get those ping pong balls? Here’s a look at the worst teams’ remaining schedules, particularly as they relate to May’s lottery:

Milwaukee Bucks
Current Record: 11-47
Best Possible Record: 35-47
Worst Possible Record: 11-71
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 11
Games Left Against Eastern Conference: 15

Notes: The Bucks actually have quite a few winnable games left, with matchups against Utah, New York, the Lakers, and two against Sacramento all on the docket over the course of the next six weeks. They’re winning about one out of every four or five games since Mid-January, and with the aforementioned winnable games on the schedule, it’s reasonable to mark them down for another 4-5 wins before the end of the year.
Best Guess: 16-66

Philadelphia 76ers
Current Record: 15-45
Best Possible Record: 27-45
Worst Possible Record: 15-67
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 11
Games Left Against Eastern Conference: 15

Notes: The Sixers haven’t won a game since January 29, so predicting a whole lot of wins now that they’ve traded away Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes would be kind of silly. Still, the overwhelming majority of their remaining games are against Eastern Conference teams, and a number of those Western Conference games are winnable, too (Utah and Sacramento, for example, both at home). They didn’t win a game in February, but they’ll win a few in March and April.
Best Guess: 19-63

Orlando Magic
Current Record: 19-43
Best Possible Record: 39-43
Worst Possible Record: 19-63
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 10
Games Left Against Eastern Conference: 11

Notes: The Magic have a lot of tough Western Conference games ahead of them, and outside of a game in Milwaukee this month, there just aren’t a lot of easy games left for them. They have, however, won six of their last 12 games, which is about as hot as they’ve been all year, so if they play just .300 basketball the rest of the way, they could win another six games, which sounds just about right for them.
Best Guess: 25-57

Boston Celtics
Current Record: 20-40
Best Possible Record: 42-40
Worst Possible Record: 20-62
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 11
Games Left Against Eastern Conference: 18

Notes: On the surface, playing 18 of their remaining 22 games against Eastern Conference teams should be a good thing, but the Eastern Conference teams they’re playing are actually some pretty good ones. They’ve got Miami, Indiana, and then two each against Brooklyn and Chicago. Games against Philadelphia and New York are winnable, but Boston’s got a rough remaining schedule and has won only a single game since February 12. They’ll be lucky to win five more.
Best Guess: 24-58

L.A. Lakers
Current Record: 20-39
Best Possible Record: 43-39
Worst Possible Record: 20-62
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 15
Games Left Against Western Conference: 19

Notes: With easily the toughest remaining schedule of any team vying for the most ping pong balls, L.A. has a great shot at moving down the ranks before season’s end. They’ve got three games left against San Antonio, two against Oklahoma City and Portland, and one against the Clippers, all of which are going to be really hard to win. They can beat Milwaukee and Orlando and Sacramento, but even those aren’t sure things. Mark them down for five more wins, but even that might be generous.
Best Guess: 25-57

Sacramento Kings
Current Record: 20-39
Best Possible Record: 43-39
Worst Possible Record: 20-62
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 12
Games Left Against Western Conference: 14

Notes: The Kings have one of the softest remaining schedules of any team in the bottom third of the league, with matchups on the slate against the Lakers, Knicks, and two apiece against the Bucks and Pelicans. They’re not going to go .500 from here on out, but they could win two out of five the rest of the way, which would put them at nine more wins on the year.
Best Guess: 29-53

Utah Jazz
Current Record: 21-38
Best Possible Record: 44-38
Worst Possible Record: 21-61
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 11
Games Left Against Western Conference: 14

Notes: The Jazz are a better team than most of the other teams on this list, though not good enough, obviously, to compete for a playoff spot. They’ve got quite a few winnable games left, with opponents like Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Orlando, L.A. Lakers, and New York (twice) all coming up in March and April. It’s easy to see them winning another 7-9 games before the regular season wraps up.
Best Guess: 30-52

New York Knicks
Current Record: 21-39
Best Possible Record: 43-39
Worst Possible Record: 21-61
Games Left Against .500 Teams: 8
Games Left Against Eastern Conference: 15

Notes: It’s almost comical how bad the Knicks have gotten as the season has progressed, but things get a lot easier for them down the home stretch. They’ve got unwinnable matchups left against Miami and Indiana, but there really isn’t anybody else on the schedule that they couldn’t potentially beat. They’re in a rut, but they’ve got more talent than most of the teams mentioned here, which means they’ve got a more realistic shot at warming up.
Best Guess: 30-52

If things continue on as they have gone all season long, the four top picks in the draft will be made by Eastern Conference teams, which shouldn’t come as too big a surprise considering how dismal that conference has been this season. The lottery never goes as planned, however, so whatever happens with these records, the luck of the draw is still enough to keep things interesting.

Based on projected records, however, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Orlando would have the top three picks.

Joel Brigham is a senior writer for Basketball Insiders, covering the Central Division and fantasy basketball.

Trending Now