With the 2012-13 NBA regular season over in less than a week, the playoff teams are battling among themselves for playoff positioning, sometimes resting key players that logged significant minutes to get their team to this point, gearing up for the grueling schedule that is the postseason.
Those teams that have been solidified with a high pick in the upcoming draft have other motives that they are striving for as the season comes to a close. They are trying to lose without it looking like it, by winning the occasional game, whether intentionally or not. Additionally, these cellar-dwelling teams are inserting their young players into the lineups to see what they have so that the off-season decision-making is easier.
At the top of the lottery standings, which are the inverted actual win percentage standings for this season, are the Charlotte Bobcats and the Orlando Magic. There is a full four game separation between the Suns and Cavaliers in the third spot and the Magic in the second spot with the Bobcats another two games past Orlando. With only a few games left, it is either impossible or strongly improbable that Phoenix can catch any of these teams in the inverted “lottery” standings.
However, The Phoenix Suns and the Cleveland Cavaliers are in a neck-and-neck race for this third slot. The teams are tied with three games left apiece on their schedule. Phoenix plays at Minnesota tonight, hosts the Houston Rockets Monday for their home finale, and finishes the season in Denver for a bout with the Nuggets. The Cavs play at Philadelphia Sunday, head home for their last game at home against the Miami Heat, then play at Charlotte for their final game of the season.
The Miami Heat are going to beat the Cavaliers so the Suns really need Cleveland to accidentally win against both Philadelphia and Charlotte so that the third spot is safe, in case Phoenix accidentally wins. This means that the Suns CANNOT win out, if they want the third-best chance at the number one pick this off-season.
This third pick is important because both teams have a lot of wholes to fill in their rosters. Cleveland needs more consistent scoring and play-making to pair with Kyrie Irving, while the Suns need the same to go with Goran Dragic.