It was never in the plans for the Wizards to bottom out like they did in 2018-19, with a 32-50 record, their first losing mark in six years. But if they were to pick a year to drop out of the playoffs and into the lottery, this may be the one.
That is because the league adjusted their lottery rules by spreading out the odds to discourage tanking. The Wizards will become one of the first teams to benefit from the changes.
Washington ended the season with the sixth-worst record. That gives them a nine percent chance at the No. 1 overall pick and a 27.6 percent shot at selecting in the top three.
Under the previous system, the sixth-best lottery odds would have given the Wizards a 6.3 percent chance at No. 1 and a 21.5 percent shot at the top three.
Upping the Wizards' chances for the first overall pick by 2.7 percent may not seem like much, but that leaves them at only five percent lower than the top teams. The best odds are 14 percent and shared by the Knicks, Cavs and Suns.
Under the old system, the team with the worst record held a 25 percent chance at No. 1, the No. 2 team had a 19.9 percent shot and the third team had 15.6 percent odds. But those percentages were lowered and the remainder was distributed to help other teams like, in this year's case, the Wizards.
Nine percent odds will not give the Wizards assurances of anything, but every ping-pong ball will count this year with a top prospect in Zion Williamson that makes this no ordinary draft. He is expected to change whichever franchise he lands with both on and off the court as a star player and perhaps the most marketable prospect since LeBron James.
If Williamson came to the Wizards, he likely wouldn't be their best player right away given Bradley Beal is an All-Star and potentially an All-NBA player in his prime. But Williamson would immediately be the de facto face of the franchise, the guy most fans associate the Wizards with. He is expected to field many endorsement offers, including what could be one of the most lucrative shoe deals for a rookie in NBA history.
Landing the No. 1 pick is not the only scenario that would amount to a win for the Wizards at the May 14 draft lottery. Their highest odds are for the seventh pick at 29.6 percent and the eighth pick at 20.6. If they can jump up to any of the top four spots, they could come away with a franchise-changing player, possibly Ja Morant of Murray State or R.J. Barrett of Duke.
Washington just needs a little luck. But past draft lotteries have shown that a longshot can happen.
Back in 2013, the Wizards jumped from the eighth-best odds to No. 3, an event that had a 4.8 percent chance of happening. They selected Otto Porter Jr. out of Georgetown.
In 2014, the Cavs got the No. 1 pick despite having the eighth-best odds and just a 1.7 percent chance. And the Clippers made a similar jump in 2011, going from eighth to first with just a 2.8 percent change.
The Wizards could easily end up seventh or eighth and go into the pre-draft process with many possibilities. But they have decent odds to land the top pick, making the draft lottery a very important event in their offseason.
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