The regular season has come to a close, and the NBA’s worst teams have been eliminated from playoff contention. Teams in the lottery can start looking ahead for July’s 2021 NBA Draft in hopes of turning things around behind the efforts of new, young talent. The Houston Rockets finished with a league-worst 17-55 record and are among the frontrunners to land the top pick, but several other rebuilding teams will be in the mix as well. Let’s take a look at what each team is likely to do with the top pick.
Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic
The three teams with the worst records from this past season all have a 14% chance of landing the first pick, and all of them could use some quality building blocks. Cade Cunningham stands above the rest as the top prospect, but he might not make sense for the Rockets, Pistons, and Magic to go after.
The Rockets’ season went up in flames when James Harden forced his way out via trade. John Wall is expected to depart this summer, but Houston might be better off than Detroit and Orlando when it comes to talent. Christian Wood played at a very high level before suffering a series of ankle injuries. Kevin Porter Jr. was extremely productive after being brought over from the Cleveland Cavaliers at a bargain price. Adding another combo guard with size could help the Rockets build their backcourt of the future. Houston will unquestionably take the Oklahoma State product if it gets the top pick.
The Pistons drafted Killian Hayes with the seventh pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, but the 6’ 5” combo guard had an underwhelming rookie year. Injuries played a huge part in Hayes’s struggles to find a rhythm. His shooting was abysmal, but his defense and playmaking were promising. Detroit shouldn’t pass on a talent like Cunningham and bank on Hayes turning things around, but getting a quality backcourt partner for him like Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs or the G League Ignite’s Jalen Green is the next best thing the Pistons could do.
Orlando has no shortage of young point guards on its roster. RJ Hampton and Cole Anthony both have one year of NBA experience, and Markelle Fultz will return to the court once he recovers from the ACL tear he suffered just eight games into the 2020-21 season. The power forward and center positions shouldn’t be a priority, as Chuma Okeke, Wendell Carter Jr., and Mo Bamba are all younger than 24 and will be part of the frontcourt rotation. The Magic’s depth at shooting guard and small forward is questionable, though. Suggs and Green could be appealing if Orlando doesn’t get the top pick, but a versatile, two-way forward like Jonathan Kuminga could also be a good fit if the Pistons drop outside the top three.
Here’s a list of each lottery teams’ odds to get the No. 1 pick. The final four spots will be decided after the NBA play-in tournament this week.
Houston Rockets: 14%
Detroit Pistons: 14%
Orlando Magic: 14%
Cleveland Cavaliers: 11.5%
Oklahoma City Thunder: 11.5%
Minnesota Timberwolves: 9%
Toronto Raptors: 7.5%
New Orleans Pelicans: 4.5%
Sacramento Kings: 4.5%
Chicago Bulls: 4.5%
Charlotte Hornets: 1.8%
San Antonio Spurs: 1.7%
Indiana Pacers: 1%
Memphis Grizzlies 0.5%