Odds and Ends: A Sixers Lottery Survival Guide

The most important night of the Sam Hinkie era may be a posthumous one for the departed GM's tenure. 

Three years of dramatically crescendoed losing has, in effect, come down to this - one potentially last best chance to nab the elusive, trajectory-changing superstar that has taunted the Sixers for three drafts now. We hoped we got him in '13, but Michael Carter-Williams peaked early and Nerlens Noel has many mountains left to climb. We hoped we got him in '15, but Jahlil Okafor increasingly seems like a grunge band in the era of festival EDM and blockbuster hip-hop. We may have actually gotten him in '14, but we also might never know that for sure, as Joel Embiid has seen his early career (and arguably his long-term potential) cruelly overwhelmed with injuries. 

And now, essentially, a coin flip for the future of the franchise. That's overly reductive, of course, but fact of the matter is that the Sixers just finished the second-worst season in NBA history, and they now have about a 50/50 chance for their suffering to immediately pay off as hoped. The night that will double as a Viking Funeral for Our Once and Always Dark Lord will largely dictate the narrative of the end to the controversial GM's run in a manner totally beyond the control of Hink or anyone else in the organization. All fans can do is hope that the NBA's karma gods realize and acknowledge that they might owe us one. 

Foreboding intro about fate and historical fulcrums aside, these are the facts - the who, what, where, when, why, and how - about what will be going down tonight, so you can better brace yourself for all the good and bad of what the evening will have to offer the Philly Phaithful. 

Who

With Hinkie deposed and no one on the actual squad enough a face-of-the-franchise to be sent as esteemed representative, the Sixers will be represented at the lottery by long-suffering coach Brett Brown, with minority owner Art Wrubel also in attendance. Some have pointed out that Brown being selected as figurehead of the post-Process Sixers could be interpreted as a sign that the coach really does have the faith and backing of the ownership, others may view it as the team merely allowing the captain the dignity of going down with his ship. Regardless, it's hard to argue that anyone will feel the effect of tomorrow night's results - positive or negative, symbolically and/or practically - quite as profoundly as the Sixers' fearless leader. 

As for who the Who will be by night's end, that obviously depends on where the Sixers' lottery pick(s) end up falling. But suffice to say, fans will be hoping for a top-two selection in order to select one of ultra-versatile LSU big man Ben Simmons and athletic Duke wing Brandon Ingram. Beyond that, Croatian center Dragan Bender, Providence point guard Chris Dunn, and Oklahoma wing Buddy Hield, among others, will end up in consideration. You can peruse the big boards of Draft Express, ESPN's Chad Ford, and Liberty Ballers'Marc Whittington for the opinions of experts infinitely more qualified to talk about this year's prospect crop than I am. 
 
What

So this is the crux of it, of course. The What specifics of the Sixers' lottery night is a little bit tricky, but if you're a fan who determined quickly into last season that this is where we would soon be headed, you probably know them about as well as you knew your middle school locker combination. The Sixers' own selection will fall somewhere in the top four, depending on where and if the Sixers are selected in the lottery's top three - they've ended number three the last two years, you may recall. The odds for where they will land is as follows: 

No. 1 = 25%
No. 2 = 21.5%
No. 3 = 17.8%
No. 4 = 35.7%

In other words, about a 2:1 probability that the Sixers end up with a top-three pick, and a little less than a 1 in 2 that they'll end up in the top pair. But the odds of the Sixers actually exiting the evening with a pick higher than No. 4 are better than that, because we also own pickswap rights with the Sacramento Kings, thanks to the always hilarious Nik Stauskas asset/salary dump. So if their own pick - currently sitting in the eighth lottery slot - jumps into the top three, it may transfer over to Philly. The Kings' odds are: 

No. 1 = 1.9%
No. 2 = 2.2%
No. 3 = 2.7%

Factor those into the Sixers' odds, and you end up with a 26.9% chance at the top pick, and an almost exactly 50/50 split on falling in the top two or not. Not ideal, but just about the best we can possibly do under the current lottery system. 

But of course, that's only half the equation for the Sixers this time around. There's also the matter of the Lakers' pick, dealt to the Sixers in the Michael Carter-Williams trade two trade deadlines ago, and protected for the top three - where L.A. will likely be picking, as they finished with the league's second-worst record. The Lakers' odds look like this: 

No. 1 = 19.9%
No. 2 = 18.8%

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No. 3 = 17.1%
No. 4 = 31.9%
No. 5 = 12.3%

Basically, it's about a 56% chance the Sixers don't get the pick, 44% they do. 

Now a minority of vocal Sixers fans, led by PhillyMag's Derek Bodner, have voiced their preference for the Sixers to not secure the pick this year, and instead hope they land it next year, when the pick is still top-three protected, but the draft class is projected to be a stronger one. I get the logic but disagree - draft classes are rarely evaluated accurately that far ahead of time, and while I wouldn't predict that the Lakers would somehow get good next year, I don't particularly want to bet against their young core congealing around a decent free-agent signing or two and them taking a jump out of the bottom ten. If we can get a top-five pick from them, even in a weak-ish draft, I think we should be thrilled to do so. 

Another oft-asked question is about whether it would be better for the Sixers to, say, land 4 and 5 tonight, or even three and four, or to get a pick in the top two and lose the Lakers pick back to L.A. for another year. In that case I think the answer is pretty clearly to get the top-two pick - superstars are the goal, and the Sixers would probably gladly accepting the Lakers pick ending up in the teens next year if it meant they got a chance at Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram this year. 

Where

Nationally, the Lottery will take place on in ESPN, broadcast live from Secaucus, New Jersey, where NBA dreams are made, deferred, and destroyed. Locally, the Lottery will more be taking place at the Xfinity Live! grounds on Pattison Ave in the South Philadelphia Sports Complex, where Rights to Ricky Sanchez podcasters (and Process cult leaders) Spike Eskin and Michael Levin will be hosting their third annual Sixers Lottery Party

While the first two Lottery Parties were occasions of hope and celebration, the mood this year will undoubtedly be a more conflicted one - even regardless of lottery result - as the event will double as a mass mourning of the Hink's GM tenure, and a public shaming of the Sixers brass that largely forced Our Once and Always Dark Lord's removal. It should be a moment of great catharsis and closure for Hinkie acolytes and general Processers regardless, and I personally will be making the trip down from New York to pay my final respects to the Sam Hinkie era. 

When

8:00 on ESPN, just before Game One of the Eastern Conference Finals between Cleveland and Toronto, and from 6:00-10:00 at Xfinity Live! Then, the actual draft occurs a little over a month from now, on the night of June 23rd. And depending on how things turn out, perhaps we do this all again the same time next year. 

Why:

Because regardless of whether or not you could fault his logic, Hinkie's plan didn't work out as expected. We hoped we really would only have to be a key player in one of these suckers, back at the 2014 lottery when we hoped for Wiggins or Parker. We ended up with Embiid instead, and while I still believe he can paste those other guys if he ever puts two feet down on the basketball court, it hasn't happened yet. Then last year, we rolled the dice on Jahlil Okafor's prodigious offensive talent outweighing his defensive shortcomings and difficult roster fit, and at least for one season, it came up snake eyes. The Hink's extreme patience when it came to roster-building ultimately outlasted that of his more financially concerned superiors, and now he's gone, while we're still here. 

The bummer of Why is that we may never understand it in full, since the dude who originally posed the questions isn't around anymore to reveal the answers. Instead we've switched screenwriters right before the third act, and whatever twist ending we gettonight, or on draft night, or to begin next season, might not have been the one originally plotted. There's still countless moves to be made; in free agency, in trade, and at the draft, to hopefully reveal the greater logic behind some of the confusing moves of the first few years. The best Bryan Colangelo and company can do now is guess what Hinkie was thinking. 

How:

Well, you probably now the basic drill if you've ever watched one of these before - combinations of lottery balls will be selected backstage ahead of time (and off-camera), oversized team logos will be placed in mysterious envelopes in reverse order of how the results shook out, and NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum will open them one at a time (now on-camera) to reveal the draft order from 14 to 1. (If the Lakers pick transfers over to the Sixers, it will also show up with the Sixers logo on the envelope, with the phrase "From Los Angeles Lakers" written underneath. I'm not 100% sure, but I imagine it will work the same if the Sacramento Kings end up with the higher selection than us and we swap.) 

The true How here is for us, though: How are we supposed to do this again? How are we supposed to even really care when the guy we put our faith in to make sense out of all of this isn't around anymore? How are we supposed to trust an organization who pushed the guy out, who try to sell us on the excitement of being full-time corporate shills, and who promote insane ravings comparing Processers to Sandusky supporters? How do we cope if we end up with No. 4 and no Lakers pick and it starts to increasingly feel like all of this has been for naught? 

I don't have good answers for these, and I don't think anyone else does either. These are uncharted waters for Philly fans, and I think a large part of tonight is just going to be us as individuals coming to terms with how we feel about this overall situation and where we go from here - how we process, if you will. It's not the solution to everything if we end up with 1 and 4, and it's not necessarily the end of the world if we only end up with 4. It's more about what the Colangelos and company do with the bountiful (if occasionally ill-fitting) assets the Sixers already have at their disposal than how we add to those assets tonight

Nonetheless, for a fanbase at their most vulnerable point in recent memory, a disastrous outcome tonight could make things pretty ugly. And it certainly could happen. But for better or worse, Hinkie's final act as Sixers director was to put them in the best position possible - the best position in the history of the NBA lottery, in fact, when you factor in the Kings' odds - to land that top-two picktonight. If he gets it, it's justification for just about every move he made in the three years leading up to it. If he doesn't, it's just further proof that there's no such thing as a foolproof plan in the NBA. In this league, they say you should write the story while the ball is still in the air, and whether or not the odds finally even out for our star-crossed Once and Always Dark Lord tonight, the story for me remains: Thanks at least for trying, Sam. Sorry it had to end like this.
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