Raptors' Loss to Hawks Gives Fans NBA Draft Lottery Hope

USA TODAY Sports

While the Toronto Raptors lost to the Atlanta Hawks last night, Adam Francis notes that it keeps the team's slim draft lottery hopes alive...

I'm holding out hope.

With a 107 to 88 loss to the Atlanta Hawks last night, the Toronto Raptors edged ever so slightly upwards in the "NBA Draft Lottery Odds" rankings, tied now with the Washington Wizards for the league's ninth-worst record. The club is only only percentage points behind the Sacramento Kings for eighth, and a game or so behind seventh and sixth-placed Minnesota and New Orleans respectively.

"You can do it guys!"

That's likely the refrain I'll be shouting at the TV come Friday night when the Dinos take on the Detroit Pistons, a team they're trying to catch in the lottery standings, who currently sits fifth in that race, two and a half games "ahead" of Toronto.

"You can lose this one!"

Normally a match against this season's Detroit Pistons, losers of nine of their last 10 games, would mean a W for the Dinos.

But hey, we're talking about a team that recently lost to the Charlotte Bobcats in near epic fashion, and who has lost an astonishing 11 of their last 14 games. Anything is possible!

And really, this is all there is for many of us.

The club is a mess; capped-out, under-talented, over-paid, ill-fitting, and with little upside considering its lack of future draft selections. You'll hear talk of playing spoiler, or winning the remaining games to finish on a positive note, but really? Is winning 75 per cent of your final 10 or so matches really going to impact next season? You're telling me that six months from now when the club begins training camp, they're really going to be more motivated than had they lost all of their final matches?

The National Post's Eric Koreen actually touched on this topic this morning, digging into the idea that winning the bulk of your final games as a lottery team, makes a difference. No surprise, there was not exactly a lot of recent evidence to support this.

From the post:

"A quick look at this year's ascending teams shows that winning at this time of year is without merit. The four teams poised to make the playoffs that failed to do so last year - Brooklyn, Milwaukee, Golden State and Houston - combined to finish last season 23-37, with none finishing above .500 in their final 15 games. The Warriors, perhaps the biggest surprise in the league this year, wrapped up their tank job by finishing the year 3-12.

The Raptors, meanwhile, have gone 27-33 in their final 15 games of the past four seasons. In those years, they had one bad finish to the season, two mediocre ones and a single good one. They all portended the same thing: sub-mediocrity. There is no clear evidence that these games matter in the least."

So I'm hoping to see the tank roll on here as I still believe a top three pick (what Toronto needs to reel in to prevent Oklahoma City from taking the pick) is still within reach.

Remember, the club doesn't need to finish in the league's bottom three (a fairly impossible task even with the Dinos' recent malaise.) But it would help if they could get as close as possible so the odds play out a little more in their favour.

If the season ended today, the Raps would sport about a 0.2 per cent chance of getting the third pick in the draft. However lose a few more games and end up with the fifth-worst record when all is said and done, and those odds jump to about 11 per cent.

Now, obviously this still isn't anything to write home about. The club would need some luck to jump into a top three position and in fact, if the Raps' recent luck held, they'd likely end up with the fifth pick, or something lower.

But in my mind, that fifth spot gives them a reasonable launching point; reasonable in that the club could lose enough games to secure that position, and reasonable in that since 2006, the fifth placed team has jumped into a top three spot three times.

In fact, in 2006, the Toronto Raptors were the club that beat the odds, grabbing the first overall pick despite having only the fifth-best odds to do it.

Here's hoping history can repeat itself.

(Minus the selection of Andrea Bargnani of course.)

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