The last remaining drama of the Warriors' season -- whether or not they'll keep their lottery-protected draft pick -- starts to pick up intrigue Friday night when Golden State hosts the New Jersey Nets at Oracle Arena.
Even though they have lost three in a row and eight of 10, the Warriors still aren't bad enough to be one of the worst seven teams in the league. They're currently ninth-worst at 20-29, and the suspense could last to the final days of the season.
Of course, being among the Un-Magnificent Seven will allow them to keep their pick in the lottery in what is being viewed as a deep draft of potential impact players. If they aren't, they'll have to ship the pick to the Utah Jazz as compensation for the lamentable 2009 trade for would-be Baron Davis replacement Marcus Williams, an overweight bust who is now trying to salvage his career playing in China.
As it stands, Golden State has next to no chance of being passed by three of the eight clubs below them -- Charlotte, New Orleans and Washington. That leaves five teams that will play a part in determining the Warriors' fate -- Detroit, Cleveland, Toronto, Sacramento, and yes, the team they play Friday, the Nets.
In a bit of cruel fate, the Nets are the team that dealt Williams to the Warriors and helped cause this mess in the first place. They also are the last opponent the Warriors will face this year among the five losing clubs that could directly affect their position.
No one wants to talk about tanking, but beating New Jersey won't improve Golden State's odds for the bottom seven. In fact, a Warriors win would probably cross the Nets off the list of teams that could pass them by season's end. New Jersey would be 51/2 games behind the Warriors with 13 to play.
After the Nets game Friday night, the Warriors won't play a team with a worse record than they have until the next-to-last game of the season, April 24 at home against New Orleans. And the schedule is daunting enough with only six of the 16 remaining games at home. Four of the visitors will be San Antonio (twice), the Lakers and Dallas.
So there could be a lot of losing ahead for Golden State, but maybe not enough to fall into the bottom seven. A look at the five teams the Warriors have the best chance of falling behind.
Of course, all the permutations will be moot if the Warriors can arrange a deal with the Jazz to retain their lottery pick regardless of where they finish. Co-owner Joe Lacob and general manager Larry Riley said in radio interviews last week that negotiations are ongoing with Utah about keeping the pick.
Even if they're not among the bottom seven teams, the Warriors can still keep their pick if they wind up with one of the top three selections when the lottery is staged May 21. Conversely, they can finish as one of the bottom seven teams and still lose their pick if one or more teams outside the bottom seven earns a top-three pick
With that in mind, any prospective deal with Utah would likely take place after the lottery and before the June 28 NBA draft.