On the Sixers' Pick-swap Safety Net

Remember when the Sixers and Magic squared off back in the Doug Collins era as two of the lightest-free-throw-drawing teams in NBA history, combining for just 15 fouls and 13 FTAs between them in a 78-61 contest that David Stern had officially stricken from the league record? Well, last night was certainly not that, though at times it was equally unwatchable, with the two teams combining for 70 FTA in a game where the referees blew the whistle like they were playing flute on a Drake hook. Dario Saric and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot fouled out, the Sixers blew a big lead and the Magic triumphed in OT, 112-109. 

Whatever -- weird game, not really worth talking about, and we're definitely at the point where it's hard to even know who to root for down the stretch in games like this against other lottery contenders. The Sixers are currently in the No. 5 lottery slot, now just a half-game behind the Magic, so the loss could end up having huge implications for both teams in May. Perhaps even more importantly, it moves the Magic within 1.5 games of the Kings, who are No. 6 in the current lottery rankings, but keep slipping higher and higher. 

And really, thank God for pick swap. As the Sixers have unexpectedly rebounded slightly the past week or so and piled up a trio of wins -- more than it looked like they'd get the entire rest of the way a couple weeks earlier -- those swap rights with Sacramento are a permanent safety net, assuring us that as long as the Kings keep losing, there's only so much the Sixers can do to play themselves out of lottery standing. Of course, it still benefits the Sixers to stay in the lottery mix themselves, since it just increases their chances of jumping into the top three, but it means that if -- lord forbid -- the Sixers ended the season with only the 7th-worst record, we'd probably still have a pretty good shot at a top-five pick thanks to Vlade and Vivek's infinite generosity. 

The Kings' upcoming schedule, by the way? Hosting Milwaukee tomorrow, then at Golden State, at Clippers, and home to the Grizzlies and Jazz. Five straight playoff teams with something still to play for. These last dozen Sacramento games are gonna be the Process equivalent of the postseason for the Sixers, so get those tanking beards going.

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