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It’s NBA Draft Lottery day, otherwise known as Process Eve in Sixerland. Sam Hinkie is gone, replaced by smooth-talking and quick-dealing Bryan Colangelo. But that doesn’t mean that all of Hinkie’s work has been for naught, despite the obnoxious #Process2Progress hashtag the Sixers front office started using to alienate its loyal fans.
Process or not, the Sixers still have a chance for a 2016 NBA Draft windfall, with a potential for four picks in the first round, including two very high lottery picks.
If the Sixers land the first overall pick—for which they have the best odds at getting in the lottery—it’s fair to say the Process has worked. If LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram end up being a once-in-a-generation player like LeBron James or Kevin Durant, hell damn right the Process worked.
If the Sixers pick the wrong guy, but someone in this draft—throw Kris Dunn of Providence, fast-rising Buddy Hield of Oklahoma or, gulp, seven-foot power forward Dragan Bender from Israel in the conversation, among others—that doesn’t mean Hinkie’s Process was a failure, just that those put in charge of seeing it through might be.
With that, here are the chances of the Sixers walking away with everything fans have waited three tanktastic years for, as well as the likelihood this all goes to shit. From NBA Communications, here are the official draft lottery odds:
[table id=NBALottery /]
As the chart indicates, the Sixers have the best chance of obtaining the first overall pick in this year’s draft, but they only have a 25 percent chance of getting that first pick. While it’s more likely they win the lottery when comparing the odds of every other team, it’s still far more likely that they don’t win it than they do.
Based on the NBA’s weighted system, the Sixers are guaranteed, at worst, the fourth pick in the draft. There’s a 64.3 percent chance they will land one of the top three picks, and a 46.5 percent chance they will land one of the top two picks.
[table id=LotteryOverall /]
Oh, and here’s a fun fact: Since the NBA Draft Lottery was re-weighted in 1993 to give the worst teams a higher percentage to land the first pick, the team with the fewest wins in the NBA has won the lottery just four times. In 23 years.
It gets worse: In the 1996 NBA Draft—the year the Sixers won the lottery and took Allen Iverson—the expansion rules for Toronto and Vancouver gave the Sixers nearly a 34 percent chance of landing the top pick. In 2003, Cleveland and Denver tied for the worst record—each getting a 22.5 percent chance—and while Cleveland won that lottery, taking LeBron James, Denver fell to the third pick. (They nabbed Carmelo Anthony, so it worked out, but only because Detroit took Darko Milicic second overall.)
Only twice in the last 12 years has a team with a 25 percent chance to win the lottery actually done so. In 2004, Orlando got the first pick and took Dwight Howard, while last season Minnesota had the best chance at landing the top pick, and did, taking Karl-Anthony Towns.
One more important fact: Since 1993, the NBA Draft Lottery has never gone chalk. The three worst teams have never—in nearly a quarter century—left the lottery with the top three picks in the order they finished the season. Twice, the top three picks were awarded to three teams from completely outside the bottom three, while two teams from outside the bottom three have been given top-three picks nine times.
This might actually prove to be a good thing for the Sixers. Let’s get to the possible scenarios to explain.
The Likely Scenario
Right now the Sixers are guaranteed a top four pick, plus Miami’s first round pick (No. 24) and Oklahoma City’s first round pick (No. 26). The Sixers also have the ability to swap picks with the Sacramento Kings and get the Los Angeles Lakers pick if that selection falls out of the top three this year.
The likeliest scenario is that the Sixers win the draft lottery on their own and the Lakers—with the second-worst record—get the second or third pick. The Lakers have a 20-percent chance of getting the first pick and a 55.8 percent chance of landing in the top three.
The Sixers will likely end up with just the three first-rounders, and the wheeling and dealing will begin.
The Plausible Scenario
There is a 39.5 percent chance of a team outside the top three winning the lottery, a 43.9 percent chance one of those teams will get the second pick and a 49.6 percent chance one will land the third pick.
Perhaps the most plausible scenario is the Sixers get the second overall pick—the worst team has gotten the second pick 10 times in the last 23 years—while the Lakers or Boston (via the Nets) swoop in and get the top pick. Then a team from outside the bottom three swoops in for the third pick.
Let the conspiracy theories fly if the Lakers or Celtics land the top pick this season.
The Ideal Scenario
The Sixers have a chance to really cash in on Hinkie’s Process in a big way.
The ideal scenario would be that the Sixers win the lottery and two teams leapfrog the Lakers, pushing them to fourth and conveying that pick officially to the Sixers. The Sixers could land two of the top four players in the draft, plus two picks later in the first round they can use to trade up into the middle of the first, grab some picks in future years, or draft and stash some talented foreign players.
While this draft isn’t regarded as incredibly deep at the top outside of Simmons and Ingram, there are a lot of mid-first players that could turn into NBA starters. Hinkie always talked about “optionality” and this would give the Sixers a ton of options before the draft.
The Slightly Less Ideal Scenario
The Lakers have a 31.9 percent chance of finishing fourth and a 44.2 percent chance of landing fourth or fifth.
In order for the Lakers to finish fifth, three teams would have to crash the top of the draft, which would push the Sixers to fourth. That’s bad.
Sacramento has a 2.8 percent chance of winning the lottery and about a 10 percent chance of landing in the top three. If the Kings win the lottery, the Sixers can simply swap picks, giving them the first and the fifth picks.
Most likely the Sixers would swap if the Kings get the first or second picks, but if SacTown gets the third pick and the Sixers get the fourth, it might make sense for Philly to hold onto the ability to swap until next year. There are a lot of moving parts in this draft.
The Nightmare Scenario
This is what Sixers fans have been fearing all season, so let’s play it out in the simplest of terms.
The nightmare scenario is the Sixers get the fourth pick, the Lakers win the lottery and the Kings are not one of the two teams that jump into the second or third slots.
Honestly even the Sixers getting the third pick, again, would be close to a nightmare if the Lakers jump them and end up, again, with a top-two pick.
In this scenario the Sixers won’t get a top-two pick in any of the Hinkie Process years, thereby validating the strongly-held belief by some that his plan was a failure. And, really, if the Sixers don’t get one of the top two picks this season, it kind of would be a failure. Not of logic, but of luck.
Most importantly, the Sixers would miss out on two potential franchise-changing talents at the top of the draft. Again. The Sixers getting anything outside the top two would be a disappointment, softened somewhat if the Lakers finish fourth or worse.
If the Lakers win the lottery and the Sixers fall to third or fourth? Let’s try not to think about what that means.