In last week's NBA Draft Lottery Watch, I predicted the Phoenix Suns would remain in the 3rd lottery spot "ahead" of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Although The Suns' record is what I expected, the Cavs managed to win only one game last week (instead of going 2-2 like I thought), which now effectively ties them with Phoenix for the third spot...more on that in a bit.
In regards to the 8th seed playoff race, the Lakers also did better than expected going 3-1 on the week with two gritty 4th quarter comebacks against both the Portland Trailblazers and the Golden State Warriors. Although the Utah Jazz did their part by going 2-1 on the week and only losing to the Thunder, The Lakers are in control for the time being and ahead of the Jazz by one game with only two games left to play. But with Kobe now officially out for the rest of the season, and two games left against Western Conference playoff teams, they are still anything but safe.
Today, the Phoenix Suns are currently tied for the third position for the 2013 NBA Draft. Here is a look at the bottom five teams and their current records, as well as a look at their final upcoming games, and some predictions on where they could end up.
Last week the Pistons went 3-0, including a surprising win over the Bulls. However, the Pistons now face two tough teams to finish off the season, and should lose them both either finishing in the 5th or 6th lottery spot depending on the Sacramento Kings.
Final games: 4/14 @ Philadelphia 76ers, 4/15 vs Miami Heat, 4/17 @ Charlotte Bobcats
The Cavaliers have continued their losing ways even after the return of Kyrie Irving. They are now tied with Phoenix for the 3rd lottery spot, and if both teams end up tied will split their chances and flip a coin to determine who gets 137 or 138 chances in the lottery. However, with their final game against the Bobcats, the Cavs would be hard pressed to lose even if they tried, so assuming they go 1-2 in the final games of the season, they should finish in the 4th spot if Phoenix loses out.
The Suns are now in the home stretch of their disappointing year. And with two games left against quality opponents, we have likely seen them win their last game. If the Suns lose out and Cleveland wins just one game, they will be in the 3rd lottery spot. If the Suns and Cavs both lose out, they will split the difference with the smallest advantage being determined by a coin flip, as explained above.
The Magic are are as bad as ever, and unless the Heat decide to rest all of their starters during the final game, they have little shot of winning another game this season. They likely finish 20-62, good for the 2nd place in the lottery.
Final Games: 4/15 vs. New York Knicks, 4/17 vs. Cleveland Cavaliers
Although the Bobcats actually won a game last night, they are still at the bottom. They have two games left to play and will likely lose both of them. Keep an eye on that final game against Cleveland, the Suns need the Bobcats to lose in order to sit alone in third place...Not that they have much chance of doing otherwise.
Right now, the Los Angeles Lakers are one game ahead of the Utah Jazz for the 8th and final spot in the Western Conference Playoffs, with the Dallas Mavericks now eliminated from the race. However, with two games to play for the Lakers with no Kobe, and against some stiff competition, the Jazz are still very much alive.
Final games: 4/14 vs. San Antonio Spurs, 4/17 vs. Houston Rockets
The Lakers are still a dangerous team even without Kobe. They still have the best rebounding and defensive center in the league, along with a skilled 4 who can score from anywhere. The other things they have going for them is both of these games are at home, and they have either one or two days of rest before them as well. That said, they have not been good at all this season against Western Conference playoff teams (or the Suns)...and the effect of losing their fiercest competitor and best player cannot be minimized. Still, I expect the Lakers to go 1-1 and finish the season 44-38, good enough to better the Jazz and make it into the playoffs as the 8th seed.
Final games: 4/15 @ Minnesota Timberwolves, 4/17 @ Memphis Grizzlies
The Jazz are now in desperation mode. They basically have to win out to make the playoffs while hoping the Lakers lose at least one of their remaining two games. The good news for the Jazz is I believe the Lakers will lose one game. The bad news is they have two road games ahead of them...one against a Minnesota team they barely beat at home on Friday night, and the other against a very good Grizzlies team who is in a dog fight with the Clippers and Nuggets for the 3-5th playoff spots. The Jazz could actually lose both of these games. Still, I think they get a win against Minnesota but will lose to the Grizzlies. If the Lakers win at least one game this week, which I think they will, that won't be enough to get in the playoffs.
Feel free to voice your opinions and predictions in the comments below!