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Tank Commander: A look at the remaining schedule of the NBA’s 9 worst teams

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Examining strength of schedule, home road splits, back-to-backs, and winnable games for each time

NBA: Chicago Bulls at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Detroit Pistons are a bad team. A really bad team, in fact. And they’ve gotten even worse since disposing of veteran (read: competent) players such as Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Markieff Morris. At this point, the Pistons are perhaps the worst team in the NBA. The only team worse since the trade deadline has been the Golden State Warriors who both seem firmly ensconced in the pole position for worst record in the NBA and also saw Steph Curry come back. The Pistons, sadly, do not have a Steph Curry coming back.

This is a helpful guide for Pistons fans and fans of the other awful NBA teams expected to be jockeying for a prime spot in the NBA Draft. Getting one of those top-3 picks isn’t as easy as it used to be, however. The NBA flattened the lottery odds.

Now, the bottom three teams in the NBA have equal 14% odds of getting the top pick, a 27% chance of picking in the top two, a 39% chance of picking in the top 3 and a 52% chance of picking in the top four.

That means the odds the worst team in the NBA gets a top-4 pick or the fifth pick in the draft are basically a coin toss. The team with the fourth-worst record has a 35% chance of picking in the top 3, the fifth-worst team has a 30% chance and the sixth-worst team has 27% chance.

So perhaps who finishes 29th and who finishes 24th in the standings doesn’t really mean too much. But with bad basketball everywhere on the court for all these teams, it doesn’t hurt to subscribe to the theory that every lottery ball combination and percentage point counts.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at each of the bottom teams in the standings:

Golden State Warriors
Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves
Atlanta Hawks
Detroit Pistons
New York Knicks
Chicago Bulls
Charlotte Hornets
Washington Wizards

NBA: Toronto Raptors at Golden State Warriors Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Golden State Warriors

The Warriors are pretty much a lock to finish with the worst record in the NBA. They have a hard schedule remaining, have a four-game head start on the next worst team and have been consistently awful all season — no real peaks and valleys.

Curry is back, and Curry is great. But the Warriors are and will remain terrible. Hopefully the NBA gods do not bestow them with the No. 1 overall pick to join Curry, Klay and company next season. It’s hard to say that the Warriors should win any upcoming games, but they have a key stretch from March 20 - March 25 when they play the Pistons, Knicks and Hawks, and the Pistons and Knicks will be part of a back-to-back.

Most winnable games: March 20 at Pistons, March 21 at Knicks, March 25 at Hawks.

Golden State Warriors

Current Record 15-50
Current Record 15-50
Remaining SOS 7th
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -8.8 (30)
Road Games 10
Home Games 8
Back-to-Backs 4
Above .500 9
Below .500 9
Below. 400 4
NBA: Indiana Pacers at Cleveland Cavaliers Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Cleveland Cavaliers

The Cavs are a fascinating team to watch for the rest of the season. They’ve won six out of 18 since the dismissal of John Beilein. They also have one of the easiest schedules remaining among the truly awful teams, but they also have 12 road games, including a six-game road trip that kicked off last night with a loss to the Bulls (more on them later). Then there is a five-game swing out west beginning April 1. The Cavs next two are winnable, but also comprise a back-to-back against the Hornets and Hawks. They also play the league-worst Warriors, but that will be the second night of a back-to-back.

Most Winnable Games: March 13 at the Hornets, March 14 at the Hawks, April 8 at the Warriors, April 15 at the Hawks.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Current Record 19-46
Current Record 19-46
Remaining SOS 24th
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -4.3 (23)
Road Games 12
Home Games 5
Back-to-Backs 2
Above .500 5
Below .500 12
Below. 400 4

Minnesota Timberwolves

The Wolves have many losses in their future with the 10th most difficult schedule and four back-to-backs still to reckon with to close out the season. The additions of D’Angelo Russell, Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez have led to plenty of points on the scoreboard, but it’s still not translating into wins. Only two true duds remain on their schedule (Detroit and the Knicks) but they have have plenty of games against marginally talented teams like the Suns, Spurs, Kings and Blazers.

NBA: Orlando Magic at Minnesota Timberwolves Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Most winnable games: April 3 at Knicks, April 5 vs. Pistons.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Current Record 19-45
Current Record 19-45
Remaining SOS 10th
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -4.9 (27)
Road Games 9
Home Games 9
Back-to-Backs 4
Above .500 8
Below .500 10
Below. 400 3
NBA: Houston Rockets at Atlanta Hawks Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta Hawks

No team is primed to surge up the win column than the Atlanta Hawks. The Hawks have the second-easiest remaining schedule in the NBA, per Tankathon, including eight games with a winning percentage below .400 and a remarkable six of them will be played on their home floor. The team has also seen improved play as of late, with a net rating of just -4.0, which is the second best mark of the bottom-nine teams being evaluated. The team also has only one major road trip left, but it features potential wins against the Warriors and Kings.

Most winnable games: March 11 vs. Knicks, March 14 vs. Cavs, March 20 vs. Wizards, March 25 at Warriors, April 3 vs. Hornets, April 5 at Hornets, April 7 vs. Pistons, April 15 vs. Cavs.

Atlanta Hawks

Current Record 20-46
Current Record 20-46
Remaining SOS 29th
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -4.0 (22)
Road Games 8
Home Games 8
Back-to-Backs 2
Above .500 5
Below .500 11
Below. 400 8
NBA: Detroit Pistons at Sacramento Kings Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Pistons

As stated up top, the Pistons might be the worst team in the NBA at this point. It might not get them all the way to the worst record in the league, but it should get them awfully close. They have an awful net rating, Derrick Rose is injured and not coming back anytime soon. Who the heck knows about Luke Kennard. It seems like we’ll be seeing Christian Wood and not much else for the foreseeable future. That combined with a pretty tough remaining schedule and the Pistons could easily have the second-worst record in the NBA at the end of the season. That could get them the first pick or the sixth pick. Who knows! But I can tell you that the Pistons have never moved up in the lottery since its inception. They’ve moved down a handful of times and were the “lucky” recipients of Memphis moving up to No. 2 and thus sending their pick to Detroit — a pick that became Darko Milicic. I’m sad again.

Most winnable games: March 20 vs. the Warriors, April 7 at the Hawks, April 14 at the Knicks

Detroit Pistons

Current Record 20-45
Current Record 20-45
Remaining SOS 4th
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -8.2 (29)
Road Games 9
Home Games 8
Back-to-Backs 2
Above .500 10
Below .500 7
Below. 400 4
NBA: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

New York Knicks

The Knicks trail only the Hawks in remaining games against teams with a sub-40 winning percentage. They also end the season on a truly depressing stretch that will see them face the Pistons and Timberwolves in games that might have huge lottery implications. Nothing much more interesting to say about the Knicks, and, frankly, we hear about that sorry franchise too much as it is.

Most winnable games: March 11 at the Hawks, March 17 vs. the Hornets, March 21 vs. the Warriors, March 28 at Bulls, April 3 vs. Timberwolves, April 14 vs. Pistons, April 15 at Timberwolves.

New York Knicks

Current Record 20-45
Current Record 20-45
Remaining SOS 21st
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -4.7 (26)
Road Games 9
Home Games 8
Back-to-Backs 3
Above .500 6
Below .500 10
Below. 400 7
NBA: Milwaukee Bucks at Chicago Bulls David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Chicago Bulls

Welcome to who I believe to be the biggest threat to the Detroit Pistons for anti-dominance for the rest of the NBA season. The Bulls are awful, they have head coaching issues, they are tied with the Pistons for the worst winning percentage in the past 15 games. They are bad but might be deceptively even worse than people realize. They also have only 1 game left against the dregs of the NBA and have 11 games remaining against teams with a winning record so there might be no wins on the horizon for the Bulls.

Most winnable games: Typically, I reserve this for the teams with less than a .400 record, but the Bulls only have a March 28 game against the Knicks that fit that criteria. Other possibilities include home contests against the Magic (March 12), Spurs (March 20), Suns (April 5) and home games against the Nets (April 11) and Magic (April 13).

Chicago Bulls

Current Record 22-43
Current Record 22-43
Remaining SOS 2nd
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -4.7 (25)
Road Games 10
Home Games 7
Back-to-Backs 1
Above .500 11
Below .500 6
Below. 400 0
NBA: Houston Rockets at Charlotte Hornets Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets are equipped with the most home games and the fewest back-to-backs of the bunch. Their 22 wins also mean they need to fall further than most others of the bunch. They are also a team that relies on a lot of young talent, and that young talent has slowly but surely become a little better and a little more cohesive over time. It’s hard to say with any of these teams, but Charlotte seems like a squad that could rip off a few surprise wins over the next few weeks. Those wins could come soon with a trio of games against the Cavs, Magic and Knicks beginning March 13 or it could come in April with a home-and-home against the Hawks sandwiched by games against the Magic and Pelicans.

Most winnable games: March 13 vs. Cavs, March 17 at Knicks, April 3 at Hawks, April 5 vs. Hawks, April 11 vs. Wizards.

Charlotte Hornets

Current Record 22-42
Current Record 22-42
Remaining SOS 8th
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -4.4 (24)
Road Games 8
Home Games 10
Back-to-Backs 1
Above .500 8
Below .500 10
Below. 400 5
NBA: Washington Wizards at Charlotte Hornets Jeremy Brevard-USA TODAY Sports

Washington Wizards

It almost seems unkind to put the Wizards on this list since they are the “best” of a truly bad bunch. They have 24 wins and a net rating of “only” -0.7, which far surpasses any other team on this list. Going against them is the fact that they have the toughest remaining schedule in the NBA including four remaining back-to-backs and 12 games against teams with winning records. Even if they lose in bunches, as can be expected, being four to five wins better than most other teams on this list means they probably can’t lose enough to really fall too far in the standings.

Most winnable games: March 20 at Hawks, April 11 at Hornets

Washington Wizards

Current Record 24-40
Current Record 24-40
Remaining SOS 1st
Net Rating/Trade Deadline(Rank) -0.7 (20)
Road Games 9
Home Games 9
Back-to-Backs 4
Above .500 12
Below .500 6
Below. 400 2

There you have it. After taking it all in what are your thoughts on who will finish with the top-3 worst records in the NBA? Will it be the Pistons? Another team? Does it even matter in a year with flatter lottery odds and a seemingly bad draft?

If the Pistons were to get the first overall pick who do you want them to take? If they slide to No. 4 who do you hope is still available? If they plummet all the way to No. 7 then who is your backup of a backup of a backup plan?