For the bottom-feeders in the NBA standings, the light at the end of the tunnel is finally visible. The regular season is coming to a close Wednesday and with it brings the excitement of the NBA Playoffs.
For the worst teams in the league, the playoffs won't be nearly as exciting as the May 20 NBA Draft Lottery, an event that will reveal the order of the lottery picks in the NBA Draft.
Although the season is certainly nearing its end, it isn't over yet. With a week still to go, teams still have a chance to impact their lottery pick chances for better or worse.
With that being said, here are the worst teams in the league and that roads they have before them:
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At 14-64, the Bucks have the worst record in the NBA, and currently have a three-game lead over the Philadelphia 76ers for the title of worst in the league. With the worst record also comes the satisfaction of being the team with currently the highest chance percentage wise of securing the No. 1 overall pick.
The Bucks have lost six straight games, including a loss to the Indiana Pacers, a game in which Indiana rested its starters. With the Bucks still playing their starters, they managed to lose the game, and continue their quest for the top pick — a goal that seems very probable at this point in the season.
In the final week of the season, Milwaukee seems to be in a perfect position to end with the worst record. They start out by playing the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, followed by three current playoff teams in the Washington Wizards, Toronto Raptors and Atlanta Hawks.
Unless their upcoming opponents decide to rest their starters before the playoffs, the Bucks will have a great opportunity to lose every remaining game on their schedule.
After tying an NBA record by losing 26 straight games, it was clear what the Sixers' intentions were: to lose games. Conveniently, the following game the Sixers blew out the Detroit Pistons 123-98, making sure that there was no chance of the NBA record for longest losing streak being theirs alone.
The streak is over, but goal is still in sight. They trail the Bucks by only three games in the race for the No. 1 pick, but there might not be enough time for them to catch up.
Catching the Bucks would mean that Philadelphia would likely need to lose its final four games, and Milwaukee would need to win its final four games. With Milwaukee playing three current playoff teams in the upcoming week, one of which (Atlanta Hawks) is still trying to guarantee their place in the post season, and the Bucks shooting for the worst record as well, the chances of Milwaukee winning their final four games are extremely low.
With a draft full of promising talent, the second overall pick wouldn't be anything to pout about.
There hasn't been much magic in Orlando this season, but with a stroke of good fortune, the Magic might be able to sneak by with the third-worst record in the league.
Currently, Orlando (23-55) is tied with the Boston Celtics for the third-worst record in the league. There is only one way to out-sink the Celtics in the tanking competition: lose. When surveying the Magic's upcoming schedule, they should be able to do so.
In the next week, Orlando will face four playoff-bound teams in the Washington Wizards, Brooklyn Nets, Chicago Bulls and Indiana Pacers. Each opponent would be tough to beat under any circumstances, but since they are pushing for post-season seeding, and the Magic would prefer to lose, Orlando should be able to hold on to the third-worst record.
The Magic aren't the only team hoping for some good fortune. The Celtics are hoping that a little Irish luck runs their way while making their way down the final stretch of the regular season.
Being tied with the Magic for the third-worst record in the NBA, the Celtics are in good position to increase their percentage of getting one of the top picks in the draft. The best situation for Boston would be obviously be to lose the rest of its games, but that may not be as easy as it sounds.
The Celtics will sqaure off against the Sixers in the second-to-last game of the season. The Sixers, who has been notorious all season long for tanking, will definitely to be looking to lose, which will make it tough for the Celtics to do the same.
For the Celtics, the bad news continues. Boston won three of the four matchups with the Magic this year, meaning that the Celtics own the tie-breaker between the two teams. So in terms of tanking, the Celtics lose the tiebreaker. If the Celtics and the Magic lose the rest of their games, the Magic will be in a better position to get a high pick.
Sitting one game behind the Celtics and the Magic in the tanking sweepstakes are the Utah Jazz. Utah is a team full of young talent, and adding a lottery pick would definitely help the Jazz in their rebuilding process.
In the final week, the Jazz face the Portland Trailblazers, Denver Nuggets, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves. Utah very well could lose every game remaining on its schedule, but the Lakers might make things a bit complicated.
The Jazz will face the Lakers, who are currently trailing the Jazz by one game, in the second-to-last game of the season. Depending on what type of record each team has when they meet, Utah and LA might give NBA fans one of the best shows of the year. Watching two teams purposely lose will certainly be fascinating when they clash against one another.
If the Jazz continue to lose and if they can survive a possible scare from the Lakers, they will have the fifth-worst record in the NBA, and be in a solid position for a Top 5 pick.
The combination of age and injuries have crippled the Lakers, and in doing so, have placed the Lakers in a good position for a lottery pick. While it is definitely a bit odd to see a team that has been so successful in recent years resort to joining the tanking party, they are still a threat to their fellow tankers.
The Lakers have now lost five games in a row and are certainly prepared to lose more if they can gain some profit from doing so. With a loss against Utah, they could potentially slip past the Jazz for the fifth-worst record in the league.
In the upcoming week, the Lakers face tough tests in the Golden State Warriors, Memphis Grizzlies, Jazz and San Antonio Spurs, which means that the matchup against the Jazz might be the difference between moving up in the tank rankings or falling behind.
The Lakers are searching for some sort of identity and a lottery pick might not only help them find it, but could be trade bait to get a superstar free agent as well.
After loading up on talent by adding Jason Terry and Rudy Gay, the Kings looked to be some sort of threat in the West this year. But as it turned out, they were nothing more than fool's gold. If the Kings were to add a player like Jabari Parker, Andrew Wiggins or Julius Randle however, it could have the Midas touch.
The Kings have now lost four straight games and are 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers in the tank rank. If the Lakers and Jazz happen to win a couple games, Sacramento could potentially leap-frog the two teams and wind up with the fifth-worst record. In order to even entertain that possibility, the Kings must lose the rest of their games.
The Kings face the Los Angeles Clippers, Minnesota Timberwolves and the Phoenix Suns to end their season. Losses against each of those teams are likely, so Sacramento should be in a great position to make a late run. When the Lakers and Jazz face off, one of the two has to win, so the Kings will then have the opportunity to slip past the Lakers or Jazz, or depending on the situation, both of them.
Sadly enough for the Pistons their path leads to nowhere. They are trapped in no man's land, and neither the playoffs nor the draft lottery has any effect on their future. Detroit's first-round pick belongs to the Charlotte Bobcats, so tanking won't benefit them in any way, although it is likely that the Bobcats would disagree.
As far as the playoffs go, no matter what happens, the Pistons can't slip in. They've just lost too many games.
The best thing Detroit can do right now is get experience for their younger players and focus on next season. With how weak the Eastern Conference is right now, it would take very little improvement for the Pistons to be in the postseason next year.
The Cavaliers have a ton of talent, but can't seem to find any chemistry or sense of identity. Ever since LeBron James abandoned them for greener pastures in Miami, Cleveland hasn't been able to recover. Whether it be a curse or just bad luck, the talent they have has not been able to mesh. Would an additional lottery pick help them get the monkey off their back? Not likely. They have a roster full of lottery picks, none of which have made a big enough difference to will them into the postseason.
Either way, the Cavaliers do have a first-round draft pick, and despite the odds not being in their favor for a top 3 pick, they have gotten lucky before. They could definitely do it again.
Perhaps the only way the Cavaliers will ever recover is if James decided to return to his former city. If not, a lottery pick certainly can't hurt.
Like the Cavaliers, the Pelicans are loaded with talent, but can't seem to get it all on the same page. Any roster that contains players like Anthony Davis, Ryan Anderson, Tyreke Evans, Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon, should be playoff contenders. New Orleans will miss the playoffs however, despite the emergence of Davis as an all-star in the league.
The Pelicans have decided to shut down Davis for the remainder of the season, a move that likely symbolizes the waving of the white flag. With such a talented roster, the Pelicans should hold their heads high and see what they can do this offseason to get everyone on the same page. If they do, then they will definitely be a threat in the West for years to come.
The final week of the season is underway, and for the teams that are currently tanking, it might be the most important week of the season. With thrilling matchups like the Jazz vs. Lakers, this final week will certainly provide a good amount excitement as the tanking intensity is turned up a few notches.
The pressure is on, who will crack?