Currently, the Celtics have the fourth worst record in the NBA, trailing (leading?) the Lakers and Jazz by one game and the Knicks by 1.5, while leading (trailing?) Orlando by two games and Philadelphia by five.
The Celtics simply aren’t going to catch Philly at this point, in part because Boston’s April schedule is pretty favorable and in part because, frankly, the 76ers very well might not win another game for the rest of the season, let alone five. So even if Milwaukee went on a tear (HAHAHA) and the Magic won a few games accidentally and allowed Boston to nose its way past them (pretty unlikely), the Celtics aren’t going to finish with the worst record in the league.
That being said, it’s useful to note what the other teams’ chances are going to be in the lottery as well. Here’s a handy chart for your use as you await the results of the ping-pong balls on May 20.
For those of you who like pretty pictures better, here’s a chart. The bottom line in each scenario represents the chances that each team ends up with a top-3 pick.
As Chad Ford’s mock draft showed yesterday, a top-4 pick still likely guarantees the Celtics a pretty fair amount of value — even after Wiggins, Embiid and Parker are snatched up, Dante Exum is certainly going to draw a lot of interest, and the Celtics could choose to either keep him or package him for something pretty big.
Out of the top-4, however, the Celtics may have a problem. Julius Randle, although clearly skilled, may not be a game-changing force, and Boston already has a surplus in the talented-but-undersized post department. Marcus Smart has fallen slightly out of favor with draft experts (lowering his trade stock if the Celtics looked to move him), and unless he can play the two (and he’s not much of a shooter) he’s an even worse fit than Randle.
If the Celtics move up in the standings (and down in the tankings), they lose any chance of a top-4 pick if they lose the lottery. In fact, as you can see from the chart, a team drafting outside the lottery has a better chance of getting a pick one slot lower than getting their exact position. In other words, if the Celtics are the fifth worst team in the NBA, they have a better chance of getting the sixth pick than the fifth, and no chance whatsoever of getting the fourth.
We’ve reached the point in the season where every front office is watching the standings and every front office wants to be lower (with the possible exception of Milwaukee, who may not understand the amazing gift of a bad record they’ve been given). No one is going to be giving up much ground.
Jeff Green said the Celtics don’t want to “keep embarrassing themselves” after losing 108-88 to the Golden State Warriors. Green scored a paltry four points and, frankly, never looked good after the first quarter. It was tough to watch, and Boston may be especially tough to watch over the next two months. But I’m really not sure they can afford to be any better.
Follow Tom on Twitter: @Tom_NBA.