Sixers’ Future Hinges on Tonight’s Draft Lottery

By Sean Kennedy (@PhillyFastBreak)

A series of ping pong balls will decide the future of the Sixers franchise Tuesday night.

It’s finally here. The day every Sixers fan circled on the calendar ever since Jrue Holiday was traded away last summer and it became apparent the team was taking part in the great tanking experiment. While we agonized over 82 regular season games, parsing through individual plays looking for signs of development from the young guys, vacillating between wanting the team to win or lose on a given night, none of those contests mean as much as the order a set of ping pong balls are pulled in New York Tuesday.

As a quick refresher, there will be 14 ping pong balls numbered 1-14, from which 4 will be drawn. The combination of those 4 numbers is owned by one of the 14 teams participating in the lottery to determine who picks first in next month’s draft. The worse a team’s record, the more combinations of numbers they possess. After the first pick is determined, the process will take place again to ascertain both the second and third picks, with picks 4-14 then being decided based upon record of the remaining teams. Not since Hurley on Lost has a set of numbers carried so much importance.

The Sixers’ most recent dalliance with the lottery process was ostensibly a success, yielding the organization the second overall pick with which they selected Evan Turner out of Ohio State. Unfortunately, that whole saga ended about as well as one of Turner’s head-down forays to the rim or one of his heart-to-hearts with Lance Stephenson. Ultimately, the draft process enables those decision makers in charge of a team a conduit through which to shape the organization as they see fit. The Sixers appear to have a smart leadership team in place, one I personally trust to make smart moves no matter the result of tonight’s lottery. Still, having a higher pick can only give Sam Hinkie and company more choices and serve to expedite the course of this rebuilding process they set the team on last summer.

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With the Sixers also receiving the New Orleans pick as long as it doesn’t move into the top 3, there is even more intrigue than usual with tonight’s drawing. Let’s look at the odds for a handful of key scenarios.

Odds Sixers pick first overall: 19.9%

While everyone in Philadelphia is excited about the thought of Andrew Wiggins in a Sixers uniform, the odds of the team receiving the first overall selection is lower than Tony Wroten making a three-pointer last season (21.3%). Ouch. Maybe they can pull ping pong balls from three-quarters court.

Odds Sixers have a top 3 pick: 55.8%

The team does have better than a 50/50 at a top-three pick, but after putting up with a year of some truly humiliating losses and a historic losing streak, it’s sad that the chances of being among the top three are only slightly better than Jarvis Varnado making one of his cross-handed free throws (51.9%).

Chance Sixers get the New Orleans pick: 96%

With the 10th worst record last season, the Pelicans only have about a 4% chance of moving into the top three, which would allow them to retain the rights to draft pick. With the odds against the Birds from the Bayou, the Sixers should at least have two lottery picks to work with next month, regardless of where they fall.

Most likely scenario for the two picks (4th and 10th): 27.75%

More than any other possibility, the Sixers may end up falling out of the top three while still retaining the Pelicans selection at 10. This scenario would be a true test of the player evaluation abilities of the current front office because they would need to find a championship-level talent to lead the team going forward from among two picks in the mid-lottery. If the likes of Billy King or Ed Stefanski were still hanging around, this situation would wake me up at night in a cold sweat. But I trust the current group to make the best of things if the lottery plays out like this tonight.

Best case scenario (1st and 10th): 17.31%

The dream sequence for Sixers management has them earning the first overall pick and keeping the Pelicans right where they currently sit at 10th. It may be less likely than a Brandon Davies three-pointer going on (20%), but you’re saying there’s a chance?

Worst case scenario (5th only): 0.49%

Let’s not even discuss this possibility.

Chance we’ll have plenty to discuss after tonight’s festivities: 100%

Enjoy the lottery everyone!

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