History Not on Sixers' Side on NBA Draft Lottery Night

How can we describe the Sixers' 10-72 season?

Disappointing? Nah, not strong enough.

Discouraging? True, but still not quite on target.

Awful. Dismal. Embarrassing.

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That's more like it.

The best thing we can say about the Sixers' 2015-16 season is … well, that it's over.

Now it's time to move on to one of the more exciting events for the Sixers in recent years: NBA Draft Lottery night.

A proposal from owners around the league to change the lottery system (or to keep Sam Hinkie and his "process" from being rewarded for perceived tanking) failed to pass in a 2014 vote, so the NBA continues to operate under the current rules.

The structure assigns a numbered ping-pong ball for all 14 lottery teams, which are then placed into a lottery machine. Four balls are then drawn from the machine to make up a four-number combination, which each team has been designated prior to the lottery. That makes up a possible 1,000 combinations (it's actually 1,001, but the final combination of numbers 11, 12, 13 and 14 is thrown out and has never been produced in the history of the event). Of those combos, the team with the worst record ordinarily holds 250 combinations or a 25.0 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall slot. That team also usually maintains a 21.5 percent chance at the No. 2 pick, a 17.8 percent chance of getting the No. 3 spot and a 35.7 percent probability of landing No. 4. The team with the worst record can pick no lower than fourth.

However, this is no normal year for the lottery. Thanks to the Sixers' trade last summer with Sacramento they acquired the right to swap first-round picks in 2016 and 2017 with the Kings in addition to a future first-round pick, Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry and Jason Thompson.

The right to swap first-rounders is the important part, as the Sixers take on the Kings' odds at the top selections. Therefore, the Sixers have a 26.9 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, a 22.6 percent chance at No. 2 and an 18.2 percent shot at No. 3.

The Sixers also have a shot at grabbing the Los Angeles Lakers' first-round pick if it falls outside of the top three thanks to the three-team deal that sent Michael Carter Williams to the Milwaukee Bucks. Throw in the fact the Sixers already hold the Miami Heat's selection at No. 24 and the Oklahoma City Thunder's selection at No. 26, and the first round should be a huge boost for the franchise's massive rebuild.

But it starts with getting the No. 1 pick. Just ask Pat Croce. He's still high-fiving people on that stage after landing the top spot in 1996 to draft Allen Iverson.

And if history tells us anything, the Sixers likely won't be walking away with the prize when the ping-pong ball results are revealed Tuesday night.

The lottery was introduced in 1985 to, of all things, prevent tanking since draft selection was previously determined by the inverse standings. The NBA went to the current weighted system in 1990. Since that time, only four teams that finished with the worst record have landed the No. 1 overall pick (1990 New Jersey Nets - Derrick Coleman; 2003 Cleveland Cavaliers - LeBron James; 2004 Orlando Magic - Dwight Howard; 2015 Minnesota Timberwolves - Karl-Anthony Towns).

In fact, only four times has the team with the second-worst finish ended up with the top selection, which includes the Sixers in 1996.

That means in 18 of the 26 years since the weighted lottery system has been in place, the No. 1 spot in the draft has gone to a team that finished with the third-worst record or higher.

Those are just the facts. That doesn't even account for the long-rumored conspiracy theories associated with the NBA Draft Lottery such as the league putting a star in its top market of New York with Patrick Ewing in 1985, the Spurs getting blessed with Tim Duncan in 1997 after an injury-plagued season from David Robinson or the Cleveland Cavaliers getting gifted three top picks in four years after LeBron James took his talents to South Beach.

If you believe in those scenarios, then you would have to be preparing for the Lakers being handed the next superstar to carry the torch after Kobe Bryant put an end to his illustrious 20-year career.

So when Brett Brown hits that stage Tuesday night to represent the Sixers, all the math suggests he should come away with the right to draft a player at No. 1 that will immediately help his fortunes as a head coach.

Whether that actually turns out to be the case is all up to the simple bounce of a ping-pong ball.

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