For the 14 teams that would miss the postseason, the 2023 NBA Draft looms as a beacon of hope to look forward to as they try to wash away the stench of their defeated past and build a sustainable contending squad for years to come. Life in the NBA, however, functions differently as in real life.
Failure gets rewarded with favorable lottery odds, and during a year where Victor Wembanyama–a 7’4 unicorn whose skillset at his size has never been seen in NBA history–is available, there’s no better time for teams to try and gain as favorable a draft position as they can.
Alas, unlike the NFL, teams remain subject to a draft lottery that could, essentially, throw a wrench into a team’s plans, especially after the league flattened draft odds in 2019. So apologies to the 17-64 Detroit Pistons, for there are no guarantees that their putridity nets them one of the greatest prospects of all time.
With that said, this is the NBA Draft Lottery order at the conclusion of the 2022-23 regular season, before the league draws the ping-pong balls on May 16, 2023.
1. Detroit Pistons (17-65, 14% chance at #1)
In Year 3 of the Pistons’ rebuild, their efforts in bottoming out have yet to bear fruit in the winning department. Cade Cunningham’s injury doomed the Pistons early on, as the number one overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft saw his season end abruptly due to a shin injury.
As a result, the Pistons have remained one of the worst teams in the NBA. In fact, they finish the season with the worst record for the first time since the 1979-80 season, putting them well in position to land Victor Wembanyama should the odds fall kindly in their favor.
2. Houston Rockets (22-60, 14% chance)
The Houston Rockets, after two seasons, are finally not on track to finish the season with the worst record in the NBA. Progress is progress, I suppose! Of course, the Rockets would attest to the fact that finishing as the league’s doormat does not guarantee the number one overall pick.
Over the past two seasons, the team that finished with the second-worst record landed the top pick. Perhaps the Rockets found a loophole in the system, essentially guaranteeing themselves Victor Wembayama in the process?
3. San Antonio Spurs (22-60, 14% chance)
It’s not too often that the Spurs land in the lottery. But when they do, it’s usually near the top, as was the case in 1997 when they selected Tim Duncan first overall, which set them up for two decades of contention.
Out of all the teams, it seems like the Spurs worked overtime when it came to bolstering their lottery odds. Rest days seemed to come at random for the likes of Keldon Johnson, Zach Collins, and Devin Vassell. Only time will tell, however, if their efforts to bottom out pay off.
4. Charlotte Hornets (27-55, 12.5% chance)
Not too many teams can survive the loss of a 20-point scorer like Miles Bridges. Not too many teams can weather the absence of a nightly 20-10 threat like LaMelo Ball. And the Charlotte Hornets, indeed, did not survive, as a team that made the play-in tournament over the past two seasons fell off big time during the 2022-23 campaign.
Nevertheless, if ever there was a perfect time to fall off, it was this season, as the Hornets almost have as good a chance as any to nab Victor Wembanyama for their troubles.
5. Portland Trail Blazers (33-49, 10.5% chance)
It’s incredible to see the Blazers end up this high on the lottery after such a strong start to the 2022-23 season. And it’s not like Damian Lillard suffered a steep drop-off or a season-ending injury (like he did last season). The Blazers just punted on the 2022-23 season after falling off the pace in the middle of the year.
They did get promising rookie Shaedon Sharpe after they gave up last season. At the very least, the Blazers should add another promising blue-chipper even if they don’t overcome the odds.
6. Orlando Magic (34-48, 9% chance)
A team on the rise, the Orlando Magic will be very pleased not to find themselves atop the lottery for once, even if it costs them a shot at drafting Victor Wembanyama. With Paolo Banchero, Franz Wagner, and Markelle Fultz leading their young core, the Magic are in as good a position as any other lottery team for future playoff contention.
And with another lottery pick coming from the Chicago Bulls courtesy of the Nikola Vucevic trade, better days are yet to come for Orlando.
7. Indiana Pacers (35-47, 7.5% or 6% chance)
Yet another team that had gone off to a strong 2022-23 start, the Indiana Pacers fell off in January after losing Tyrese Haliburton to injury. Haliburton returned weeks later, but the Pacers had already dropped off by then.
The silver lining behind this is that the Pacers get the privilege of adding yet another high-potential youngster to their squad after drafting Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard last year.
8. Washington Wizards (35-47, 7.5% or 6% chance)
It seems like the Washington Wizards have drafted around this range for ages. In 2019, they drafted Rui Hachimura ninth overall. In 2020, they drafted Deni Avdija ninth as well. Meanwhile, in 2022, they drafted Johnny Davis tenth overall.
With another pick around those spots looking likely, can the Wizards finally add a game-changing presence?
9. Utah Jazz (37-45, 4.5% chance)
Joining the Blazers and Pacers in the trio of overachievers, the Utah Jazz decided to trade away a few members of their motivated, underrated core (Mike Conley, Jarred Vanderbilt, and Malik Beasley) before the trade deadline, essentially punting on the rest of the 2022-23 season.
While many expected the Jazz to go through a lengthy rebuild, it seems like a turnaround for Utah is right around the corner, especially with Danny Ainge at the helm.
10. Dallas Mavericks (38-44, 3% chance, pick conveys to the New York Knicks outside the Top 10)
The Dallas Mavericks are the league’s biggest disappointment this season. Instead of reaching another level with the addition of Kyrie Irving, the Mavs instead fell off, and are now in a precarious spot of potentially giving away a pick to the playoff-bound New York Knicks, the same team they lost Jalen Brunson to.
They will now hope that they remain in the top-10, lest they feel the burn of salt in their wounds.
The first four teams on the list (Oklahoma City Thunder, Chicago Bulls, Minnesota Timberwolves, Toronto Raptors) will miss the playoffs under the previous playoff format. But with the play-in tournament in place, there are still four more teams that could get knocked down to the lottery.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Given their rebuild, it’s a pleasant surprise for the Thunder to still be in the play-in tournament picture. Next year, however, is when Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and company would look to cement themselves as playoff contenders for years to come.
Chicago Bulls (pick conveys to the Magic if it lands outside the Top 4)
The Bulls managed to overcome some early season malaise en route to a play-in tournament berth. Alas, their pick will go to the Magic anyway, unless they miraculously find themselves in the top four of the NBA draft.
Minnesota Timberwolves (pick conveys to the Jazz)
The Timberwolves need to make the playoffs badly as they are out a plethora of draft picks after acquiring Rudy Gobert this past offseason.
The Raptors, much like the Bulls, have managed to recover following some early season mediocrity. They will be hoping, however, that it results in a playoff berth at least, so they won’t end up having just shot themselves on the foot with worse NBA Draft odds.
The kings of mediocrity, the Hawks simply have not unlocked a higher level of play despite the addition of All-Star point guard Dejounte Murray.
New Orleans Pelicans
Los Angeles Lakers
The New Orleans Pelicans have the right to swap picks with the Los Angeles Lakers; however, with the Purple and Gold rolling at the moment, the most likely outcome is for the Pelicans to keep their pick.
The Miami Heat have had success with picks in the back-end of the lottery (Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro). Should they flame out of the play-in tournament, they could very well strike gold once more with a pick right in that range.
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