NBA draft lottery: What the Trail Blazers need to happen on the season's final day

Which teams need to win and which teams need to lose?
Deandre Ayton, Portland Trail Blazers (left); Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs
Deandre Ayton, Portland Trail Blazers (left); Victor Wembanyama, San Antonio Spurs / Ronald Cortes/GettyImages

The Portland Trail Blazers would have saved themselves a lot of trouble if they had just lost to the Hornets on April 3.

A defeat in Charlotte would have vaulted Portland to fourth in the 2024 NBA Draft lottery standings. Instead, the Trail Blazers went and won, 89-86, to basically lock themselves into a spot behind the Hornets.

But all hope is not lost. Rip City still has a chance to "earn" those fourth-best odds, or at least a share of them, on the final day of the regular season.

How the Trail Blazers can finish the year fourth in the NBA draft lottery standings

Ignore those pesky playoff scenarios that will dominate the headlines. Who cares if the Denver Nuggets or Minnesota Timberwolves earn the No. 1 seed in the West? Why does it matter if the New Orleans Pelicans or Phoenix Suns avoid the play-in tournament?

Game 82 will help decide the draft fates of the Blazers and San Antonio Spurs. But what needs to happen for Portland to claw its way back and finish in the top four of the lottery standings?

The first scenario is simple: Lose to the Sacramento Kings. This seems doable, considering the Trail Blazers are looking for any reason to grab the "L" and the Kings are fighting for play-in tournament seeding.

If Portland somehow manages to pull off the upset, general manager Joe Cronin needs to hope San Antonio can beat the Detroit Pistons without Victor Wembanyama. If both teams win, they'll finish with identical 22-60 records, but since San Antonio beat the Blazers two out of three times this season, it'll hold the tiebreaker for the "real" standings, not the lottery standings.

The worst-case scenario would see the Blazers win and the Spurs lose, which would give Portland the fifth-best odds at the No. 1 pick heading into the lottery on May 12. The win over the Hornets on April 3 guaranteed that Rip City can't finish any higher than fourth.


As for the team's other potential lottery selection that comes via Golden State? It would take a Steph Curry miracle for that pick to land outside the top 14. ESPN projects the Warriors to finish as the final play-in team in the West. If that were the case, they would need to win twice to reach the playoffs and move the Blazers' pick outside the lottery.

But Golden State's pick is only top-four protected, so unless the Warriors complete the greatest lottery-night rise of all-time, Portland will have at least two selections in the top half of the first round. What Cronin decides to do with them will be the offseason's biggest question.