The Indiana Pacers delivered a 5-point win against the New York Knicks in the final game of the season on Sunday. This result dropped them from top-5 lottery odds and tied their record with that of the Washington Wizards. The tie between the Pacers and Wizards is broken by a coin toss–the winner of which will be rewarded the 7th-best lottery odds.
Nobody tell Pacers’ fans from the 90s, but most of the fanbase was rooting for a Knicks win in Sunday’s contest. Top-5 lottery odds in a generational draft are potentially franchise-altering, but missing out on this isn’t as much of a disaster as it seems.
It’s important to recall how fickle the lottery can be–the top lottery odds give an organization just a 14% chance at receiving the top pick. Had the Pacers lost on Sunday and all other results held the same, they’d be tied with Orlando for the 6th-best odds. This would give them a 9% chance at winning the lottery instead of their current 6.8%, odds including the tie with Washington (per Tankathon).
Sure, every lottery team dreams of winning the top pick and selecting a generational superstar, but the odds that this doesn’t happen are far greater. The Detroit Pistons have a 14% chance at winning the lottery, but base odds give them a 47.9% chance at receiving the 5th pick in the draft instead. Regardless of the coin flip result, Indiana’s best odds are on the 8th overall pick. Had they lost Sunday, their best odds would be on the 7th overall pick.
Perspective is crucial in the offseason and its importance is magnified during draft season. The win against the Knicks decreased the Pacers’ odds of winning the lottery by about 2%, and shifted them from likely picking 7th to picking 8th. The reported top-5 odds at stake were heavily reliant on results from around the league, and those didn’t come to fruition.
Multiple star players were picked outside of the top-5 in their draft classes. Grizzlies’ star Desmond Bane was picked 30th in 2020, dark horse MVP candidate Shai Gilgeous-Alexander went 11th in his draft, and the Pacers’ own Tyrese Haliburton went 12th overall in a draft many scouts felt was underwhelming. Regardless of draft position, the decision makers in the Pacers’ organization will have to accurately evaluate skill and system fit in order to hit on a pick.
The win against the Knicks didn’t destroy the Pacers’ draft or derail the rebuild. The team still holds three first-round picks and a slew of young assets. It’s important to keep perspective as the team enters such an important offseason. After this season of exceeded expectations, the front office deserves trust from fans.