We get it, guys. We really do. It’s hard to lose games on purpose, and even harder to lose to the New Jersey Nets, the worst team in the NBA. The Nets are terrible, and morale for the Sixers who are fighting and grinding night-in and night-out to make something of this season in the midst of all the utter bullshit they’d have to deal with — injuries, trades, organizational tumult — is beyond admirable. It’s commendable.
We’ve already discussed why Brett Brown deserves a trophy for how he’s coached this year, so, dude, stop trying to prove it every damn night. There’s the future to think about.
The Sixers beat the Nets 106-101 Tuesday night, led by 23 points and seven rebounds from Dario Saric and 21 points and 10 boards from Robert Covington. Gerald Henderson, Jahlil Okafor and Sergio Rodriguez didn’t play and they still won. The jerks.
The Sixers had every opportunity to lose, and while, yes, sure, there’s something to be said about the integrity of an NBA basketball game when both teams are out on the floor trying to actually win, there’s an organizational goal that needs to be considered at this point in the season. The Nets have no reason to tank, as the first pick in the NBA Draft, should they get it, will be shipped to Boston.
The Sixers, on the other hand, are winning themselves out of a top-five pick.
Last year, when the Sixers landed Ben Simmons with the first overall pick in the NBA Draft, they had a 25 percent chance of getting the top pick, the best odds possible. This year, what with all the winning and growth and building a culture of success, the Sixers, currently, have a 7.6 percent chance of the top pick, a 25.3 percent chance at the top three with their pick and and a 41.3 percent chance of landing the sixth pick in this year’s draft.
Yes, the Sixers do have a pick-swap option with the Sacramento Kings, who currently have a 4.3 percent chance at the top pick, and a 15 percent chance at a top-3 pick. Right now, the Kings hold a 60 percent likelihood of getting the seventh pick. Nobody is swapping that.
The Sixers have 28 wins in 74 games, the 12th-best record in the Eastern conference as of games completed Wednesday night. By beating the Nets, the Sixers managed to keep pace with the Knicks, who won Monday, with Philly holding the current tiebreakers in the standings. Orlando has 27 wins in as many games as the Sixers. The Nets have 16.
For all those injuries and the ridiculous mess at center and people losing trust in Bryan Colangelo’s version of The Process, the Sixers are actually closer to the No. 8 seed in the playoffs than the worst record in the league. That’s amazing, but they are still eight games back from a playoff spot, and this late run doesn’t help them in the draft at all, partly because in the Western conference, things could not get any worse right now.
The Lakers have the worst record in the West with 21 wins in 74 games. Phoenix has 22 wins in 75 games, as the two teams fight for the bottom. But with Brooklyn having locked up the worst record in the NBA, and Orlando having the fourth-worst record with 27 wins and less than 10 games to play, the bottom three spots are essentially set.
The Sixers own the Lakers’ pick this season, should it fall out of the top three picks. If the Lakers get a top-3 selection, the Sixers will get their unprotected 2018 first round pick.
Here’s why the Lakers finishing second or third matters: If Los Angeles finishes with the third-worst record, only one team has to “win” the lottery to push them to the fourth spot. Were it the Sixers or Sacramento, Philly could end up with a top-3 pick and the fourth pick.
Per NBA lottery odds, the team with the third-worst record has a 46.9-percent chance at a top-3 pick. The team with the second-worst record has a 55.8-percent chance at a top-3 pick.
By finishing with the second-worst record, even by one game, the Lakers will increase their chances of keeping this year’s pick by almost 10 percent.
The Sixers, meanwhile, are tanking their chances at a better pick by, uh, not tanking. WIth just one fewer win than the Sixers, the Magic currently hold a 37.8-percent chance at a top-3 pick.
One win different and the Sixers would increase their chances at a top-3 pick by 12.5 percent.
The Lakers are 2-11 in March, and are 4-19 since the start of February. The Suns are 4-11 in March, losing their last nine games, including a loss Tuesday night in Atlanta. Meanwhile, the Sixers are 5-9 in March and have won 10 games in 22 tries since February 9.
To their credit (I guess), Orlando is still fighting to win, at 3-2 in their last five games, including wins over Phoenix and Philadelphia. The Magic are 5-9 in their last 14 games as well, hoping — like Brown and the Sixers — the basketball gods will shine on them for not throwing in the towel.
Still, a twelve-and-a-half percent difference? That’s hard to look past. So maybe, as the season winds down, Brown can think about that statistic late in games, and figure out a way to make learning from some close losses part of the process.
NBA Draft Lottery Odds
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