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NBA Draft Lottery positioning update: Injuries hit a few lower rung teams

Phoenix Suns guard Elfrid Payton (2) shoots as Oklahoma City Thunder forward Carmelo Anthony defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Oklahoma City, Thursday, March 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

With injuries piling up, the Phoenix Suns are one of the coldest teams in the league.

After their 122-115 loss to the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday, the Suns enter the week having lost five in a row and join the New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies among those without more than two wins in their last 10 outings.

Like Phoenix, injuries hit other teams in the chase for the best lottery odds, while others found brief stints of success over the past week.

Here’s what happened in the lottery standings in the past seven days with a glimpse of the week ahead.

1. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 18-48

Outlook: Let’s just say that falling behind 31-13 after the first quarter against a Dallas Mavericks team just three games up on the Grizzlies in the standings sums up Memphis’ situation well. The Grizzlies have now lost 17 in a row heading into Monday.

Games this week: vs. Milwaukee (35-31), vs. Chicago (23-43), vs. Denver (37-30)

2. Phoenix Suns

Record: 19-49

Outlook: What a week to take on both of the 2016-17 season’s conference champs and one of the hottest teams in the league — the Utah Jazz are 8-2 in the last 10 games. Doing so with Devin Booker, T.J. Warren and Josh Jackson playing a bit banged up bodes poorly for an upset.

Games this week: vs. Cleveland (38-28), at Utah (37-30), vs. Golden State (51-16)

T-3. Orlando Magic

Record: 20-47

Outlook: The Magic have been competitive of late but sidestepped beating the Lakers thanks to a Staples Center clock operator error in the closing seconds of what was a 108-107 Los Angeles win. A concussion then kept forward Aaron Gordon off the court in losses to the Kings and Clippers. Thus, the minutes for rookies Jonathan Isaac and Wes Iwundu have ticked up in the last couple of games.

Games this week: at San Antonio (37-29), vs. Milwaukee (35-31), vs. Boston (46-21)

T-3. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 20-47

Outlook: After beating the Suns in a nail-biter last Sunday, the Hawks dropped games against the Raptors and Pacers by double-digits before falling to the Bulls on Sunday. In that one, Kent Bazemore went down with a knee injury that will keep him out “several weeks,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. But hey, Taurean Prince dropped 38 against the Bulls in a loss — so there’s that.

Games this week: vs. Oklahoma City (39-29), vs. Charlotte (29-38), at Milwaukee (35-31)

T-5. Brooklyn Nets (pick to Cleveland)

Record: 21-46

Outlook: If Suns fans watched a Booker-less, Warren-less, Jackson-less team tear through the Hornets’ defense in a failed rally attempt Saturday, it should not surprise that the Nets were able to beat Charlotte 125-111 on Thursday in between losses to the Warriors and Sixers. Brooklyn’s perimeter talent continues to flash — Caris LeVert has two 20-point games in his last four — but until the Nets play any defense, it’s not going to lead to many wins.

Games this week: vs. Toronto (47-19), at Philadelphia (36-29), vs. Dallas (21-46)

T-5. Dallas Mavericks

Record: 21-46

Outlook: A healthy-looking Dallas team flexed at the wrong time (as far as tanking goes) by blowing the doors off the Grizzlies and sneaking past the Nuggets 118-107 last week. They then got a reality check in a 23-point loss against Houston. It’s possible the Mavs pick up a win or even two in the next three games, but it seems they’ll have to do so without Wes Matthews, who suffered a stress fracture in his leg and could miss the rest of the year, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Shams Charania.

Games this week: at New York (24-43), at Toronto (47-19), at Brooklyn (21-46)

T-5. Sacramento Kings

Record: 21-46

Outlook: The Kings have split their last six with wins over Brooklyn, New York and Orlando. Competition gets tighter with three road games out of the next four and all four of those games against winning teams.

Games this week: at Oklahoma City (39-29), vs. Miami (36-31), at Golden State (51-16), at Utah (37-30)


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