Mercifully the season is over and all that is left for us Houston fans to mull over is the team's NBA Draft pick position, which will be the highest the franchise has had since they selected Yao Ming in 2002 with the #1 pick overall.
The Rockets finished in a tie with the Golden State Warriors for the 8th worst team in the league at 34-48. Two days after the season was completed, the NBA held a random tiebreaker, which the Rockets won. This gives Houston the 8th position and Golden State the 9th position.
What does that mean for the lottery?
The NBA draws for the top 3 selections and the teams not chosen for those spots are ordered from 4 to 14, worst record to best. The 8th slot is assigned 28 combinations (or "ping pong balls", as we still refer to them) out of 1000 at a chance for the 1st, 2nd or 3rd pick while the 9th slot gets 17 combinations.
By virtue of the Rockets and Warriors tying, those combinations (45 total) will be combined and then split evenly, but since there is an odd number of combinations, Houston will get the extra one as a result of the tiebreaker win, meaning Houston has 23 lottery chances out of 1000 while Golden State has 22.
So the odds of the Rockets getting the #1 pick are 2.3% (generate an NBA Draft lottery based on the final results).
What if the Rockets don't win a top three pick?
That's the likely scenario. In that event, the Rockets, as the 8th worst team, would be one of 11 teams remaining that are ordered from worst to best in the 4 through 14 draft pick positions.
The Houston Chronicle had reported incorrectly Wednesday and Thursday morning that the Rockets' first round draft pick could end up no worse than #9. Actually, barring a move up in to the top 3 via the lotto ball, the Rockets could pick anywhere from 8 to 11.
Remember, finishing 8th overall does not mean you will pick no worse than #8. If any team in the 9-14 range wins one of the top 3 lotto spots, it will push everyone ranked "ahead" of them down a notch. The odds of one of those teams winning a top 3 pick are pretty slim, while the odds of 2 or more doing it are pretty astronomical ... but it's possible.
What about the second round pick from New York?
The Knicks finished with the 2nd worst record in the league, meaning their second round pick is the #32 overall. As a result of the trade that sent forward Maurice Taylor to New York last season, the Knicks owe that pick to the Rockets. That could prove to be a good asset.
As for the Rockets' own second rounder, which will be #38 or #39 overall, they do not have it. It was traded to Milwaukee in the Mike James trade of last season.
The Rockets lost in their finale, but so did Golden State and Minnesota. The Warriors had a 3-point edge with 2 minutes to go in Utah, but slipped from there. Had they won, the Rockets would be all alone at #8.
Even worse may have been how Minnesota played. The Timberwolves, facing a Memphis team resting their starters for the playoffs, led by 7 with over 2 minutes to go, but literally did everything in their power to lose. They went in to overtime and double overtime, and Mark Madsen, who had shot a total of 9 three-pointers in a 6-year career (none this season), put up 7 triples -- all in the two overtime sessions. Naturally, he missed every single one.
I couldn't make that up if I tried.
What was the resulting impact of the win over Denver?
Glad you asked. As a result of the Rockets 11-0 run to victory in the final 1:45 against the Denver Nuggets C-Team reserves on Monday, the Rockets cut their chances at a top 3 selection in half.
Had they lost that game, the Rockets would be in a 3-way tie for the #6 spot with Boston and Minnesota. That would have given them 45 ping pong balls -- twice as many as they ended up with.
Barring a lotto miracle and depending on how the tiebreakers would have shaped up in each scenario, the Rockets might have fallen from the 6th spot to the 9th spot as a result of the win as well.
As far as draft pick assets go, it was an extremely costly victory.