NBA Draft Lottery positioning in 2018 could be an all-time race
In the past couple of years, Phoenix Suns fans have been paying more attention to the bottom of the NBA standings than the top of them, and that rings true more than ever this season.
At the All-Star break, seven NBA teams have won less than 33 percent of their games. The last time that many teams were this bad was in 2009-10, when the Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers finished 27-55 at a .329 winning percentage.
The most notable aspect in 2018 is that all seven of those teams are within one game of each other in the win column, something that rarely happens anywhere in the NBA standings at the All-Star break, let alone at the bottom.
With an NBA Draft class that is stacked at the top, it’s time to key in on this race with the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule ahead.
T-1. Phoenix Suns
Outlook: The Suns have not won two games in a row since late December and have lost 17 of their 21 games in 2018. With the return of Devin Booker and improved point guard play from Elfrid Payton, that makes them one of the most likely teams to separate themselves from this group and be in the 5-7 range.
Games this week: vs. Clippers (30-26), vs. Trail Blazers (32-26).
T-1. Atlanta Hawks
Outlook: The Hawks have had more success in 2018 than the Suns. They have won twice as many games in the new year (eight), but their best player, point guard Dennis Schroder, is a name to keep an eye on in the injury report. He missed the team’s last game before the break due to tightness in his lower back.
Games this week: at Pacers (33-25).
3. Dallas Mavericks
Outlook: In a tanking scenario, the Mavericks are poised to be one of the worst teams because of inconsistent play from a rookie starting point guard, Dennis Smith Jr. If Smith plays his best ball toward the end of the season, though, as most rookie starters do, it could boost the Mavericks up the standings.
Games this week: at Lakers (23-34), at Jazz (30-28).
T-4. Orlando Magic
Outlook: A rarity for these teams, the Magic won four of five games recently, but have dropped three straight since. The return of their best player Aaron Gordon, who has been out since late January, would help them loads. Nikola Vucevic, Jonathan Isaac and Terrence Ross are also expected to be back at some point this season.
Games this week: vs. Knicks (23-36), at Sixers (30-25).
T-4. Sacramento Kings
Outlook: Based on offensive and defense rating, the Kings are the worst team in the league along with the Suns. They rank last in offensive rating and 29th in defensive rating. The Suns, meanwhile, are last in defensive rating and 29th in offensive rating.
Games this week: vs. Thunder (33-26), vs. Lakers (23-34).
6. Memphis Grizzlies
Outlook: For the most surprising team here, the firing of coach David Fizdale and major injuries to Mike Conley and Chandler Parsons exposed a team lacking depth. The good news is they kept Tyreke Evans, one of the better two-guards in the league this year, despite the logical conclusion of him moving at the trade deadline to a contender.
Games this week: vs. Cavaliers (34-22), at Heat (30-28).
7. Brooklyn Nets
Outlook: The Nets are the one team here that does not care about losing games because they don’t own their first-round pick. That doesn’t mean they can win, though, as they’ve dropped 11 of 12.
Games this week: at Hornets (24-33).
Chicago Bulls (20-37), New York Knicks (23-36), Los Angeles Lakers (23-34)