With Houston owning the NBA’s worst record, the 2022 playoffs are already off the table for the Rockets. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty to still watch for in the final month of the 2021-22 campaign.
Until the regular season’s conclusion on April 10, we’re regularly updating where the Rockets stand in relation to their closest competitors in the race for 2022 NBA draft odds and positioning.
Houston owns two picks in this year’s first round: Their own, and one from Brooklyn. For purposes of these updates, we’re going to focus on teams (at the time of publication) within three games in either direction of both the Rockets and Nets in the standings.
After a second straight season at the bottom of the West, will the Rockets land another elite prospect such as Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero for their troubles? Scroll on for the latest updates as of March 19, along with information on odds and tiebreaker scenarios.
Lottery Race Update: With control of a top-5 pick in peril, Houston showed Indiana why they’re defending champions as they loosened the screws on defense down the stretch. Standings:
1. Houston 17-53
2. Orlando 18-53
3. Detroit 19-51
4. Oklahoma City 20-50
5. Indiana 24-47
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) March 19, 2022
Friday’s most relevant games (March 18)
It is beneficial to the eventual landing spot of both picks for teams in proximity to Houston and Brooklyn in the standings to win. The reverse is true when it comes to each team’s results, since the best-case outcomes for draft odds and slots arise from having a worse record.
With that in mind, here are the teams to focus on, as of March 19.
Friday’s games involving any of those teams:
Saturday’s most relevant games (March 19)
Teams within three games of Houston: Orlando Magic, Detroit Pistons
Teams within three games of Brooklyn (either overall or in loss column): Atlanta Hawks, Charlotte Hornets, Los Angeles Clippers, Toronto Raptors
Saturday’s games involving any of those teams:
Updated March 19 standings for Houston’s pick
Houston’s current draft placement plus teams within three games:
1. Houston, 17-53
2. Orlando, 18-53
3. Detroit, 19-51
While certainly dispiriting, Houston’s late collapse versus Indiana keeps the Rockets in front for No. 1 in the all-important win column.
What happens if the Rockets tie either team? More on that later.
Updated March 19 standings for Brooklyn’s pick
Brooklyn’s current draft placement plus teams within three games (either overall or in the loss column):
13. Atlanta (lottery), 35-35
14. Charlotte (lottery), 35-35
15. Los Angeles Clippers, 36-36
16. Brooklyn, 37-34
17. Toronto, 39-31
The Hawks (margin of 1.5 games), Hornets (1.5), and Clippers (2.0) are all just in front of the Nets in current draft positioning. Ultimately, all three of the Hawks, Nets and Hornets are tracking to play in the Eastern Conference play-in tournament for the playoffs, with the results of that determining who picks in the lottery and who goes later in the first round.
Toronto (2.5 games) and Cleveland (3.5) each own a solid lead on Brooklyn, which makes No. 16 the likely pick floor, as of today.
Brooklyn won tonight. It was expected vs the depleted Blazers but they were down by 16 in Q3.
Toronto blew their game with a late turnover. Cleveland salvaged the night with an OT win over DEN.
The pick is #16 w/ 11 games left. TOR is three games ahead. CLE is four.
— ClutchFans (@clutchfans) March 19, 2022
Draft lottery odds, without ties
This chart applies to Houston’s pick, as well as Brooklyn’s if they miss the Eastern Conference playoffs. The NBA’s current lottery system involving the 14 non-playoff teams draws for the first four picks by weighted odds (with the worst teams having better odds), and the 10 teams who are not drawn are then slotted by record from No. 5 to No. 14.
Note that while the top-four odds are identical for the bottom-three teams, there is a significant difference when it comes to floor scenarios. The team with the worst record cannot fall below No. 5 overall. The team with the third-worst record can drop to the No. 7 pick.
Frequently asked questions
What happens if there is a tie? Tied lottery teams split their draft lottery odds evenly. For example, if Houston and Oklahoma City tie for the No. 3 seed, or the third-worst record, the combined odds between No. 3 and No. 4 would then be split down the middle. Consider it 3.5.
However, a random coin flip would also be held to determine which team drafts higher in scenarios where neither team is a lottery winner. Head-to-head results between any tied teams are not considered.
What happens if Brooklyn goes on a deep playoff run out of a low seed? This is a fair question, since part of Brooklyn’s underwhelming season is due to widespread injuries, along with only having Kyrie Irving as a part-time player due to New York City’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. It’s possible some or all of those problems might be resolved by the playoffs, making the Nets more dangerous than their record suggests.
However, unlike the NFL, results in the playoffs cannot change a team’s draft spot in the NBA. Even if the Nets were to somehow win the NBA championship out of the No. 8 seed, their draft pick (headed to Houston) would be solely based on their regular-season record.
Remaining strength of schedule, as of March 19
A higher strength-of-schedule number means that team has a harder remaining schedule, which on paper suggests that they are more likely to lose games. If that occurs, it could lead to superior draft positioning in a “race” with competitors who have easier schedules.
Rockets and teams within three games:
Nets and teams within three games:
Charlotte: No. 11
Atlanta: No. 29
Clippers: No. 5
Brooklyn: No. 18
Toronto: No. 16
Next three Rockets, Nets games, as of March 19
Houston: Memphis (home, 3/20), Washington (home, 3/21), Dallas (road, 3/23)
Brooklyn: Utah (home, 3/21), Memphis (road, 3/23), Miami (road, 3/26)
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Source: Yahoo Sports