NBA Draft Lottery positioning update: Suns take over No. 1 spot

Mar 18, 2018, 2:54 PM | Updated: 8:28 pm
Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss tries to shoot over Golden State Warriors forward David West d...
Phoenix Suns forward Marquese Chriss tries to shoot over Golden State Warriors forward David West during the second half of an NBA basketball game in Phoenix, Saturday, March 17, 2018. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
(AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Over the past week, the Phoenix Suns have claimed to top spot in the upside down standings that will determine the NBA Draft Lottery odds.

Reaching eight losses in a row wasn’t surprising considering the stretch against Cleveland, Utah and Golden State last week. And it was telling that the Suns’ best shot of winning came Saturday against a Golden State team without Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — even though Phoenix was itself without Devin Booker.

However, there is opportunity for the Suns to reach 20 wins this week with games against Detroit, Cleveland and Orlando.

Eleven games remain in the season as of Sunday, so here’s a peek at the lottery standings as of Sunday and the week ahead for the Suns and six other teams.

1. Phoenix Suns

Record: 19-52

Outlook: The Suns have taken hold of the worst record in the NBA with a full-game lead on the Memphis Grizzlies. The status of Devin Booker’s hand injury that kept him out Saturday will dictate lot as will Josh Jackson’s momentum over the past few games. This week features winnable games against a Detroit team that has lost seven of eight and an Orlando team that’s lost six of seven.

Games this week: vs. Detroit (30-39), at Cleveland (40-29), at Orlando (21-49)

2. Memphis Grizzlies

Record: 19-50

Outlook: WE HAVE A WIN. A 19-game losing skid ended Saturday night against a pretty decent Denver Nuggets squad. That followed a one-point defeat against the Chicago Bulls. The theme? The Grizzlies have played pretty good defense this week while getting strong games out of Tyreke Evans, Marc Gasol and rookie Dillon Brooks. Could that momentum parlay into another win or two against a reasonably easy schedule this week?

Games this week: at Brooklyn (22-48), at Philadelphia (38-30), at Charlotte (30-40), vs. Lakers (31-38)

3. Atlanta Hawks

Record: 20-50

Outlook: Lurking in the shadows are the Hawks, losers of six straight and just beginning a six-game road trip — all of those games but one Thursday matchup against the Kings are against winning teams. Gulp.

Games this week: at Utah (40-30), at Sacramento (23-48), at Golden State (53-17), at Houston (55-14)

4. Orlando Magic

Record: 21-49

Outlook: The Magic pulled off a Wednesday win against the confounding Milwaukee Bucks despite Giannis Antetokounmpo’s 38 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. Orlando’s best player, Aaron Gordon, missed his fifth game in a row Friday as he attempts to pass the NBA’s concussion protocol. But in the Milwaukee game, the difference was Magic point guard D.J. Augustin, who scored 32 points and hit six threes. That might be a concern for the Suns this coming Saturday — you know, because they allowed second-year pro Quinn Cook to roast them for 28 points Saturday while he stepped in for Stephen Curry.

Games this week: vs. Toronto (52-18), vs. Philadelphia (38-30), vs. Phoenix (19-52)

T-5. Dallas Mavericks

Record: 22-48

Outlook: Despite losing Wes Matthews for the year, the Mavs continued to play competitive ball and have won three of their last six games. They even took Toronto to overtime in one of those losses. Harrison Barnes has scored 25 or more in three of the last four games he’s played but was rested Saturday in a loss to the also-lowly Brooklyn Nets. Sounds a lot like tanking.

Games this week: at New Orleans (39-30), vs. Utah (40-30), vs. Charlotte (30-40)

T-5. Brooklyn Nets (to Cleveland)

Record: 22-48

Outlook: Probably the most fun of the tanking teams, Brooklyn has gotten strong performances out of its youngsters like D’Angelo Russell, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie. But maybe the most consistent player during March has been former Arizona forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who is averaging 15.5 points, 7.4 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game while shooting 50.5 percent from the field this month.

Games this week: vs. Memphis (19-50), vs. Charlotte (30-40), at Toronto (52-18)

7. Sacramento Kings

Record: 23-48

Outlook: A six-game homestand begins against Detroit and Atlanta, two beatable teams. Sacramento is coming off wins in two of its last three; against a solid Miami squad and the injury-battered Warriors. The Kings last fell by six to Utah.

Games this week: vs. Detroit (30-39), vs. Atlanta (20-50), vs. Boston (47-22)

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