A 117-102 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers has the Trail Blazers 3.5 games back of a spot in the Western Conference Play-In Tournament. With only 11 regular-season contests left, it’s worth focusing more energy on this summer’s draft than any postseason hopes.
Portland has the sixth-best lottery odds as of March 20, and the Blazers are gaining ground – they’re only two games behind the Orlando Magic for fifth and are putting some distance between themselves and the Washington Wizards and Indiana Pacers behind them.
The Trail Blazers finished sixth in the pre-lottery positioning last year as well; Portland fell one spot to seventh and grabbed Shaedon Sharpe.
Dropping back a pick isn’t ideal, but it’s also not the end of the world. The 2022 draft gave the Blazers a taste of an ominous trend, though, one that dates back to 2017.
It could be bad luck for the Trail Blazers to finish sixth in the pre-lottery standings again
The NBA changed the draft lottery format in 2017 in an effort to curb tanking. Instead of the team with the worst record in the league having a 25 percent chance at grabbing the No. 1 pick, the three worst teams have an equal 14 percent chance at landing the top selection.
The current format didn’t go into effect until 2019, but maybe the approval of the change in 2017 came with some sort of curse.
Every summer since the decision to change the lottery – even the summer before, when talks about altering the process were ongoing – the team that finished sixth in the pre-lottery standings has taken a post-lottery fall:
- 2017: The Minnesota Timberwolves dropped one spot to seventh and picked Lauri Markkanen.
- 2018: The Chicago Bulls dropped one spot to seventh and picked Wendell Carter Jr.
- 2019: The Washington Wizards dropped three spots to ninth and picked Rui Hachimura.
- 2020: The New York Knicks dropped two spots to eighth and picked Obi Toppin.
- 2021: The Golden State Warriors dropped one spot to seventh and picked Jonathan Kuminga.
- 2022: Portland dropped one spot to seventh and picked Sharpe.
It’s almost certainly a random coincidence; after all, it’s a draft “lottery.”
Still, landing sixth in said lottery standings before the ping-pong balls are drawn – exactly where the Blazers are now – doesn’t seem to place the franchise on solid draft footing.