- The final week of the NBA regular season isn't only about the playoffs. There are also draft implications. The Front Office provides a handy guide to all the madness.
With one week left in the NBA season, what’s still at stake? It’s not just a playoff race: on the other side of the coin are the magnified draft implications of every win and loss the rest of the way. Thankfully, we have a handy guide to the chaos.
The Playoff Race
First, a quick look at the giant mess of squads still jockeying for playoff spots. The three Eastern Conference teams have all clinched, while two of the Western Conference ones will end up missing out. Emphasis on mess.
45–34: Spurs, Thunder
44–35: Timberwolves, Nuggets
42–37: Wizards, Bucks, Clippers
By the way, it’s a good time to tune back into the NBA—the Jazz beat up on the Clippers last night and the Nuggets came back to beat the Wolves in a game that went to the wire and resulted in a direct tie in the standings. Nail-biting stuff.
Of course, reverse order of record determines the draft order, and there are traded picks with protections that could be on the move as a consequence of this week’s action.
—If the Timberwolves miss the playoffs, they get to keep their own first-round pick, which otherwise goes to Atlanta.
—If the Thunder miss the playoffs, they get to keep their own first-round pick, which otherwise goes to the Timberwolves.
—If the Pelicans miss the playoffs, they will lose their lottery pick to the Bulls should it somehow move into the top three.
—The Clippers will get the Pistons’ first-rounder unless it moves into the top three through the lottery, following the Blake Griffin trade.
—The Bucks are in position to keep their first-round pick if they win out, and a lot of other stuff breaks right. They can draft no worse than 15th. If their pick ends up as No. 15 or 16, it goes to the Suns as part of the Eric Bledsoe trade. If Milwaukee can win a couple of games here, they could potentially move into the 17–19 range and hang onto that pick, which is not insignificant as the Bucks continue building out their team. It could potentially hang on a tiebreaker.
—Remember that the Lakers’ first-rounder could still convey to the Celtics in the slim chance it jumps into the top three. Boston will get the pick if it’s No. 2 or 3, anywhere else and it goes to Philly. In the likely scenario the Sixers get it, the Celtics then get whichever of the Kings’ and Sixers’ first-rounders is better next year (unless either one falls to No. 1, in which case Philly keeps that one and the Celtics get the worse of the two.
See below for a quick rundown pertaining to teams at the bottom of the standings.
Games Remaining: vs. Pelicans, vs. Warriors, at Mavericks
Phoenix is in pole position for the top draft odds, provided it doesn’t sneak in an unexpected win this week. The Pelicans are still fighting for position, but the Warriors have looked unfocused and have their eyes set on the playoffs, and the Mavericks are also not especially good. The Suns snapped a 15–game losing streak that spanned the entirety of March with a win over the Kings on Tuesday. They’re almost to the finish line.
Games Remaining: vs. Kings, vs. Pistons, at Timberwolves, at Thunder
The Grizzlies could still sneak out worse than the Suns, but face two winnable games against the Kings and Pistons in addition to the Wolves and Thunder, who remain in the playoff race. Memphis could play spoiler, but could also conceivably lose out and edge Phoenix.
Games Remaining: at Wizards, at Celtics, vs. Sixers
If the Hawks lose out, there’s still a chance they could finish with the league’s worst record. Washington and Philly are still fighting for seeding, which probably lessens the chance of either team showing up without a care. All things considered, Atlanta is probably locked into a top-five pick at worst.
Mavericks (24–55), Magic (24–54), Kings (25–54)
None of these teams can finish with the worst record in the league, but they’re fighting each other for final position nonetheless. The Mavs have the benefit of the added loss as a cushion entering losable games against the Pistons, Sixers and Suns. All three could catch the Hawks, but it’s unlikely—these three teams will likely be slotted 4–6.
Nets (26–53), Bulls (27–51), Knicks (27–51)
In case you tuned this out completely, the Nets are a proxy for the Cavaliers, who own their pick. Two of their three remaining games are against the Bulls, and the other is against the Celtics. If Brooklyn loses out, the pick could leapfrog one or two of the teams in the above trio. However, if the Nets were to win both against the Bulls, they could end up dropping a spot or two. Even a split would ensure the two teams could do no worse than a tiebreak. The Knicks are also in this back-end mix, tied with the Bulls with four games left apiece.
THE SECOND ROUND
Last, (and maybe also least) here are the second-round picks still in play.
—Boston’s second-rounder conveys to OKC if it falls between 56–60, meaning a top-five finish. If the Celtics fall apart to end the season, there’s a chance they keep it.
—Milwaukee’s second-rounder goes to the Nets if it’s between 31–47, and will otherwise go to the Suns. Reminder that playoff berths have no impact on the second-round draft order, and it runs on pure reverse order of record. So if the Bucks play well enough to keep their first away from the Suns, their second-rounder may end up going there instead.