The ping pong ball is in the Magic’s court.
With Atlanta and Dallas having done their part on Tuesday, it’s now up to the Magic to keep pace in the great tank race of 2018.
Orlando (24-57) will host the Washington Wizards on Wednesday at Amway Center, bringing another long season to its merciful end. Luckily for the Magic’s tank enthusiasts, the Wizards defeated the Celtics on Tuesday to stay within reach of the Bucks and Heat and keep hope alive of moving from the eighth seed to the seventh or even sixth seed. This would allow Washington to play either the banged-up Celtics or inexperienced (but red hot) Sixers rather than the top-seeded Raptors, which gives the Wizards a motive to win the game. Had the Wizards lost on Tuesday, it’s likely that most, if not all, of their core members would not have stepped foot on the parquet in Orlando. Now they will not only take the court, but do so with a purpose. But still, they could be without some key members....
John Wall will "most likely not" play against Orlando.— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) April 11, 2018
After #Wizards’ win over Boston, Scott Brooks says he doubts Otto Porter Jr. (mild calf strain) plays tomorrow in Orlando— Candace Buckner (@CandaceDBuckner) April 11, 2018
John Wall is expected to be held out for rest purposes (which doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense) and Otto Porter is listed as doubtful after injuring his calf against the Celtics on Tuesday. That puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of Bradley Beal.
But back to the teams fighting for positioning at the other end of the standings....
The Magic, Hawks and Mavericks all entered Tuesday night with a record of 24-57.
The Hawks made it quite clear they were truly playing for the win against the Sixers, the winners of 14-straight games who were looking to secure the third seed and stay in front of the Cavs. Atlanta was competitive and kept it close until the very end, nearly making it a one-possession game in the closing minutes and even going to the Hack-a-Simmons strategy, but ultimately fell 121-113.
Focus then shifted to the Mavericks, who displayed tanking excellence by sending out the following lineup....
Apparently that memo Adam Silver sent out to each team about tanking earlier this season did not find its way into Mark Cuban’s office. With a lineup chock full o’ unknowns, the Mavs were blown out, 124-97, by the Suns, who weren’t exactly fielding a lineup of household names despite having already sealed the worst record in the league.
The Hawks and Mavericks concluded their seasons at 24-58, tied for the third worst record in the league. Tankathon currently lists each as having an approximate 42 percent chance of obtaining a top-three pick and nearly 14 percent chance of landing the first overall pick. The Magic, with one game remaining, are currently listed as having a 29.1 percent chance of getting a top-three pick and an 8.8 percent chance of having the first pick. Those numbers, of course, will improve if the Magic do in fact lose to the Wizards on Wednesday.
That would create a three-way tie, resulting in the Magic, Hawks and Mavericks evenly splitting 363 lottery combinations, which is comprised of the 88 combinations awarded to the fifth worst team, the 119 combinations for the fourth worst team, and the 156 combinations for the third worst-team.
So by my calculations, if the Magic beat the Wizards they will have 88 lottery combinations. If they lose, they will have 121 combinations.
If the Magic do join the Hawks and Mavericks in the three-way tie scenario, a random drawing will be held by the league on Friday to determine the three teams finishes in the standings (third, fourth or fifth) so the draft order can be determined in the event a team jumps ahead of them and into the top three during the lottery.
Yes, it’s confusing. And yes, years into the Magic’s rebuild, we are all tired of talking about (and rooting for) tanking. But a win on Wednesday against the Wizards could be the difference between a player like Deandre Ayton, Luka Doncic, Jaren Jackson Jr., Marvin Bagley, Michael Porter or other highly touted prospects wearing a Magic uniform or not.