We have five weeks of regular season basketball left. While no team is yet eliminated from NBA playoff contention, we have a very strong indication that at least 10 teams (six from the East, four from the West) are toast. Add in the four others currently on the outside looking in at the playoff bracket, and you have the 14 teams featured in today's Lottery Watch.
The most striking thing of all: the Portland Trail Blazers are totally going to end up with two top-10 picks after setting the franchise on fire last week at the deadline. In case you missed it, the Blazers traded Gerald Wallace to the New Jersey Nets for their 2012 first-round pick, with the condition that the Nets keep it if it lands in the top three.
Here's what the derby looks like as of Thursday.
The first Blazers entry is a bit confusing: Portland actually has a 0 percent chance of landing a top-3 pick with that selection; if it's in the top three, New Jersey keeps it. But here's what the line illustrates: there is currently a 26 percent chance that the pick lands in the top three and stays with New Jersey, but a 45 percent likelihood that it lands at No. 4 or No. 5. Right now, the top odds are at the pick landing at No. 5 overall (35 percent).
The Nets are virtually tied with the Toronto Raptors. If New Jersey climbs over T-Dot in the final standings, the likelihood that the pick lands in the top three shrinks, and the likelihood that it becomes No. 4, 5 or 6 -- Portland's dream -- increases. The Nets being exactly where they are right now is essentially a best-case scenario for the Blazers, though a bit of improvement for New Jersey to lessen the likelihood of a lottery win would provide some peace of mind.
The Blazers' own pick matters too, of course. Right now, it's slotted at No. 10. There isn't much room for improvement, to be honest; the Golden State Warriors -- whose pick goes to the Utah Jazz if it doesn't land in the top seven -- are one game worse, but there's quite a bit of space between Portland and the Cleveland-Detroit-Sacramento cluster. So it would appear that a best-case scenario for the Blazers would be to end up with the No. 4 and No. 9 picks. In this draft? That's worth some heavy drool.
As we've mentioned before, the Warriors actually need to finish with the league's sixth-worst record to legitimately feel safe in keeping their pick. That would likely entail passing Cleveland, Detroit or New Jersey (if Gerald Wallace fuels a run) and Sacramento. Another concern for Golden State: the team is currently only a game worse than Portland. The Blazers, remember, are going down hard and could become a barrier between the Warriors and the sixth-worst record, as well.
That's what made the J.J. Hickson ordeal so interesting: the Kings cut him loose because he's been awful, the tanking Warriors were ready to sign him ... but the tanking Blazers claimed him off of waivers. It's a showdown of immorality!