When Tobias Harris led the Orlando Magic to a win over Portland Tuesday with 25 points and 11 rebounds, he also all but sealed Orlando’s fate as the third-worst team in the NBA. The win put Orlando (20-52) five wins ahead of the Philadelphia 76ers with ten games left in their season — in the process leaving Milwaukee (13-58) and Philadelphia (15-56) as the two remaining teams in the race to circle the drain fastest.
With 25 consecutive losses, the 76ers are about to garner some unwanted attention for themselves and the NBA from the world’s greatest Hot Sports Takers. A loss tonight puts them in a tie them for the longest losing streak in NBA history. Armed with banal platitudes, our noble Sports Takers will protect the average Sports Fan from injustice. “There’s a league that rewards a team for losing 26 games in a row on purpose? Ridiculous! Preposterous!”
And not just 26 in a row. Philly really wants to lose all the way: 36 games in total.
Unfortunately for the Bucks, the sunshine of the Sports Takers will spill over to them as well, given that the Bucks have stumbled their way to an even worse record than the 76ers this season. And the Bucks need to keep losing, lest they get passed or even tied by the 76ers.
The prize for being bad is a greater number of ping-pong balls in the NBA Lottery leading up to the 2014 Draft. Below is a list of the probabilities of each draft spot for the two worst teams in the event of no ties:
If the two worst teams do not tie:
However, if the teams tie for the worst record, then there will be a coin flip a few days after the NBA’s regular season ends on April 16. The two teams will split the 449 (= 250+199) number of lottery combinations that belong to them; the coin flip winner gets 225 winning combos while the other gets 224.
If the two worst teams end up tied (with no other lottery teams in a tie):
In summary, the tiebreaker more or less splits the odds of winning the #1, 2, and 3 picks among the tied teams, while making #4 more likely for the flip winner and less likely for the flip loser.
MORE IMPORTANT FACT:
The flip will also determine which team is ‘worse’ for purposes of determining their lottery floor, i.e. the draft position below which they cannot fall. The team that wins the flip won’t finish lower than 4th, and the team that loses the flip has a chance of finishing 5th.
These flips matter. In the 2005 Draft, a.k.a. the Andrew Bogut Draft, there were four players generally considered to be at the top of the draft: Bogut, Marvin Williams (whoops), Deron Williams and Chris Paul. The Bobcats and Hornets finished the ’04-05 season tied for the second-worst record: 18-64. Before the lottery, the Hornets won the flip.
Four weeks later, the ping pong balls gave the Bucks, the Hawks and the Jazz (via Portland) the top three picks in the draft. So the Hornets chose Chris Paul with the #4 pick, and the Bobcats nabbed Raymond Felton with consolation pick #5.
Here are the games remaining for each team, ranked not by date, but instead by winnability based on opponent record: