While the NBA Draft Lottery is just a tad more than a month away and the 2022-23 regular season is nearing its conclusion, teams are not yet finished jockeying for better draft positioning in what is anticipated to be one of the most important drafts in the history of the league.
With arguably the best prospect ever in Victor Wembanyama and a few other standouts headlining the 2023 draft class, the race for the top prize has never been this forceful. Fortunately, the Indiana Pacers are still in the mix to land top-five odds at clinching the first overall pick.
However, for the team to remain in that track, they need to tread their upcoming games with bold precision. In fact, their penultimate regular season game could be what makes or breaks their lottery odds.
The Indiana Pacers’ penultimate regular season game could make or break their NBA Draft Lottery odds
The Pacers are on deck to face the league’s worst team, the Detroit Pistons, on Friday for their 81st game of the season. As things currently stand, Indiana is tied with Washington for the sixth-best odds for the No. 1 pick, and both teams are behind Portland by just a hair for the fifth-best odds. All three teams have the same number of losses.
Now, why is the Detroit game so important?
Well, the Wizards may be out of playoff contention, but they will end their season against the second-worst team, the Houston Rockets, at home. This is inarguably a very winnable game for them, meaning that they could very well be the ones to break their current deadlock with the Pacers in the lottery department.
On the flip side, the Trail Blazers are also out of the postseason loop, but they are also slated to meet a cellar-dweller in the San Antonio Spurs, owners of the league’s third-worst win-loss card. With the Spurs shelving so man of their players due to injury, Portland should be in line for a guaranteed dub, at least on paper.
The Blazers will likely lose two of its last three games, and both the Wizards and Pacers are also likely to flame out against their other postseason-contending opponents. If Indiana manages to do the difficult task of losing to Detroit, which has been absolute bonkers, they can find themselves tied with Portland for the fifth-best odds. And honestly, that is the most realistic and optimistic outcome for the team in the lottery department.
Thus, the Indiana Pacers should remain steadfast on their dearth of wins recently. Losing to the Pistons will normally be a death knell, but in this case, it could help the franchise secure much better odds in the upcoming NBA Draft Lottery.