The Wizards will enter Thursday night's draft lottery at a slight disadvantage that is unique to NBA history thanks to a rule change in the league's restart. The lottery order is based on the standings of March 11, when the league shut down, and that has left the Wizards with the ninth-best odds despite having the eighth-worst record.
Basically, they have switched places with the Charlotte Hornets, who have the ninth-worst record but the eighth-best odds. The difference leaves the Hornets with a 1.5% higher likelihood of getting the No. 1 pick and 6.0% better odds to select in the top-four.
It could go both ways. The Wizards, who are ninth in the order but should be eighth, could feel jilted if the Hornets move up. Or, they could move up and the Hornets be left wishing the rules had not changed.
Either way, Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard is at peace with how things worked out. The Wizards weighed the pros and cons and were one of the teams who voted for this format.
It just happened to come back and bite them in a way.
"I wouldn’t change a thing the way we did it," Sheppard said. "The benefits of going and playing very important basketball [outweighed the lottery rule]."
Sheppard listed several reasons why. One is the prospect of not playing games for many months if they weren't included in the Orlando plan. The Wizards had last played on March 10 and the 2020-21 season may not start until early in 2021. That would have left the Wizards without an opportunity to develop the young players on their roster.
Sheppard also has confidence in the work he and the front office has done in scouting this year's draft class.
"We had a lot of young players, we know we’re going to add another player if it was the ninth pick, the 15th pick; whatever," he said. "We like 15 players [in this draft]. The benefit of having players play in that situation, in that environment, far outweighed anything else we could mess with."
The Wizards picked ninth last year after moving back three spots in the lottery from their odds going in. They still made do by drafting Rui Hachimura, who enjoyed a strong rookie season that exceeded expectations for where he was selected.
Sheppard also said the team was not scared of dropping to the 15th pick this year, if they were to have played better in Orlando and made the playoffs. They did not, so they stayed at nine, and now they will let the chips fall on Thursday night in preparation for any scenario.
Time will tell who truly got hurt by the rule, whether it was the Wizards or Hornets, if either actually gets hurt by it at all. But it is worth noting what happened last year to the lottery spots they are in. Last year, the team with the eighth-best odds, the Grizzlies, moved all the way up to No. 2 and landed Ja Morant. The team with the ninth-best odds, the Hawks, fell to 10th and drafted Cam Reddish.
As of now, the difference made by the rule is only a few percentage points, but that could all change once the ping-pong balls start flying.