What the NBA Play-In Tournament Cost the Spurs
Ultimately, once the Spurs were in the Play-In Tournament, it was hard to see them coming out of it victorious. While they had a legitimate shot to beat the New Orleans Pelicans, they would've been even more of an underdog against the LA Clippers. It was a good thing, too, that they didn't make it out alive -- at least for drafting purposes.
San Antonio clinching a playoff spot would've dropped their lottery pick all the way from a likely 9th to 15th, just outside of the lottery. That also would've eliminated their chances completely of landing a top four pick. There's no doubt that such a thing would not have been good for the immediate future of the franchise. Actually making the tournament, however, didn't really hurt San Antonio too much.
It's important to remember that there were several teams either outright tanking or unintentionally playing horribly all season. I don't think it's realistic to expect this years' Spurs were going to finish anywhere in the bottom six when you consider these records:
30. Houston Rockets: 20-62
29. Orlando Magic: 22-60
28. Detroit Pistons: 23-59
27. Oklahoma City Thunder: 24-58
26. Indiana Pacers: 25-57
25. Portland Trail Blazers: 27-55
On average, these teams had a point differential over the season of minus 7.4. They just simply weren't fielding competitive teams on a nightly basis, something the Spurs were determined to do and ended up doing well through 82 games.
With all of that in mind, the worst San Antonio could've finished would've been 24th instead of 22nd in the league. Here's how the odds would've shaken out if that was the case:
Pick chances for the 7th-worst record
1st pick: 7.5%
Total: 31.9% chance of a top four pick
Total: 68% chance of a pick 7-10
Current pick chances for the Spurs
Total: 20.2% chance of a top four pick
Total: 79.6% chance of a pick 9-11th
So, was making the play-in game worth it in the long run? I have some thoughts.