The fate of 51 ping-pong balls, and oh, some franchises, rests on Wednesday night's NBA action among the league's cellar-dwellers.
By beating the New York Knicks Monday night -- don't worry, guys, Carmelo Anthony was resting, as were several other key Knicks -- Charlotte earned its 20th win of the season. The Magic had a chance to go to 21-60, but lost to the Chicago Bulls. Thus, both teams enter their final game of the season tied for the worst record in the league.
It's actually relatively rare that two teams tie for the league's worst record -- the last time it happened was 2003. The worst team in the league is supposed to get 250 of 1,000 possible combinations of ping-pong balls in the NBA Draft lottery, giving them a 25 percent chance at the top pick. The second-worst team is supposed to get 199 combinations. If the two teams tie, the difference is split, with both teams getting 225. In 2003, this worked out fine for both teams -- the Cleveland Cavaliers got LeBron James, the Denver Nuggets got Carmelo Anthony.
So there's a distinct chance that failure helps Wednesday night in the battle to have the best chance in the lottery -- um, the Hope-Things-Don't-Go-Well for Nerlens Noel? It should be easy enough for Orlando to lose. It plays the Miami Heat, who are coasting to the league's best record and have won seven straight despite throwing out B-teamers in some of those games. Charlotte, on the other hand, plays another lottery-bound team in Cleveland. Both can seal at least a 22.5 percent chance at the top pick by losing, and neither will have better than a 22.5 percent chance with a win. But remember, it might be nice to get a win and have a shot at not having the league's worst record. Remember, only one team with the league's worst record has won the lottery in the past 22 years, and that was the Orlando Magic in 2004.