We last checked in on the status of the NBA Lottery Watch two weeks ago. Not too much has changed at the top or bottom: the Charlotte Bobcats still look like the worst team ever, the Washington Wizards and New Orleans Hornets are still pretty awful, and the Nos. 11-14 picks will still almost assuredly go to the East's No. 9 seed and some pretty good Western Conference teams or their debtors.
But one team has sunk like a plutonium bowling ball: the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs have now lost nine straight (a couple of them without Kyrie Irving) and have moved from No. 8 in the Reverse NBA Standings to No. 4. In two weeks!
Let's look at the updated chart showing teams' likelihood of picking up the No. 1 pick, a top-3 pick and a top-5 pick based on the standings after Wednesday's action.
Assuming things hold at the top -- and the Bobcats nor Wizards are showing any sign of being prepared to go on a huge run -- each team will have a sure shot at a top-5 pick and a better than 50 percent probability of landing in the top three. The Hornets and Cavaliers follow.
How big is the difference for the Cavs compared to two weeks ago? In late March, Cleveland had a 2.8 percent probability of landing No. 1 and a 10 percent probability of landing in the top three. (There was no way to land at No. 4 or No. 5, so that 10 percent probability holds for a top-five pick). Now, the Cavaliers have a 12 percent probability of landing No. 1 and a 38 percent likelihood of landing in the top three. Before, Cleveland was overwhelmingly likely to land at No. 8 after the lottery. Now the lowest Cleveland would pick based on current standings is No. 7. It's been an incredibly useful nine-game losing streak.
You'll notice that the Warriors remain in the danger zone; they need to pick inside the top seven to keep the choice. Otherwise, the Utah Jazz will grab it. Golden State sits exactly where it did two weeks ago: in the No. 9 spot. Realistically, the Warriors need to finish with the No. 6 worst record to truly feel safe entering the lottery. So this isn't good ... right?
Well, Golden State has made up almost all the margin it needs -- the Warriors are within two games in the win column of the four teams "ahead" of them. Golden State is 21-32. There are four teams (the Raptors, Pistons, Kings and Nets) with 19 or 20 wins. The Warriors don't need to sink below all four to profit. Passing two or three would likely do the trick. Losing to the Timberwolves on Wednesday would have actually put the Warriors past Detroit and even up in the win column with Toronto. The margins are tiny, and given that Golden State has shown an actual affinity for losing (unlike the other squads), this is an easy task. Allow me to offer an early congratulations, you sandbagging Warriors.