The Cleveland Cavaliers snapped their 11-game losing streak in Wednesday night’s win against the Celtics. Kevin Love led the Cavs with his season-high 30 point performance. The Cavs win certainly sounds good, but it actually hurt their NBA Lottery chances quite a bit. With a record of 22-48, Cleveland will not play in the playoffs and will shift their focus to the draft.
Cavs’ Win Has Huge Impact
The NBA Draft Lottery gives the highest chance at top picks to the worst teams based on records. The Cavs, Pistons, Thunder, Magic and Timberwolves will all finish with similar losing records. All are on track for anywhere from 49-52 losses with only 20-23 wins. This makes the race for the second and third-worst records in the NBA a tight one. The ideal spot for any of these teams is finishing with the second or third-worst record in the NBA since it gives the highest possible chance at the number one pick in the NBA Draft Lottery at 14%.
After Cleveland’s win against the Celtics, odds for the lottery were shaken up. The Cavaliers were in position for the third or fourth-worst record in the NBA. Now, they have a slim chance of finishing with the third-worst record in the NBA. In addition, Cleveland will now likely have the fifth or sixth-highest chance at the number one pick. Of course, the Cavs would have liked to have the highest possible chance at the number one pick, but that seems unlikely now. If they were to win even one of their remaining two games, Cleveland will probably end up with the sixth-worst record in the NBA giving them only a 9% chance at the number one pick. Clearly, the Cavaliers’ win over Boston hurt their lottery chances big time.
Current Lottery Outlook
If any teams above Cleveland in the lottery were to win any remaining games, the Cavs could move back up. However, this seems very unlikely when looking at each team’s remaining schedule. First off, the Houston Rockets have the worst record in the NBA secured at 16-54. Also, the Detroit Pistons are sitting with the second-worst record in the NBA at 20-50. The Pistons will square off with the Nuggets and Heat in their final two games. Next, the Oklahoma City Thunder are in position for the ideal 14% chance at the number one pick. The Thunder will finish their season against two playoff teams in the Jazz and Clippers. Also, their star player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander will likely miss both remaining games with an injured leg. If the Pistons or Thunder grab even one win to finish their season, it will be very surprising considering their tough remaining opponents. The Rockets, Pistons and Thunder are all in great position for the highest possible chance at the number one pick.
Furthermore, the Magic and Timberwolves will finish their season with playoff opponents as well. Likewise, the Cavs have two difficult opponents remaining in the Wizards and Nets. Still, Cleveland is already behind the Pistons, Thunder and Magic and they will likely finish that way. Unless the Timberwolves pick top-three, they will lose their pick to the Warriors. This adds yet another team that will want to lose their remaining games. The Timberwolves will want the best possible chance at a top-three pick so they can keep their 2021 first-rounder. Ironically, all three teams are better off losing their remaining games to acquire the best chance in the NBA Lottery.
The Cavs’ win against the Celtics could hurt a lot in the long run. Drafting a player like Cade Cunningham at number one overall would have been massive for Cleveland’s franchise. However, this chance now seems slim. No NBA team should try to lose, but Cleveland will be in a better lottery position with two more losses. All the Cavs can do is lose and hope a team in front of them like the Magic or Thunder win some remaining games.
In the past, Cleveland got very lucky in the lottery and came out with the number one pick. Regardless of the Cavaliers’ finish, the lottery gives fourteen teams a chance at the number one pick. No matter what the Cavs will have a chance to draft number one overall. Depending on their finish, Cleveland’s chance at the number one pick will just be lower or higher than some teams.