The 2016 draft lottery — Sixers Twitter’s Finals Game 7 — is finally here. This is THE single most important night of the Sam Hinkie era, even if Hinkie isn’t a part of the franchise anymore. His legacy and the team’s fate will be determined by what is essentially a coin flip.
Because lottery-related stress has already driven me to the brink of insanity, I’ll be conducting a self-interview breaking down everything you need to know.
Explain the lottery to me.
The CliffsNotes version: Each team gets a certain number of four-digit combinations of pingpong balls based on their final place in the regular-season standings. By virtue of finishing with the league’s worst record, the Sixers have the highest number of combinations for the first time in the Hinkie era.
Fourteen balls are placed into a lottery machine, numbered 1-14, and four of them will be selected randomly to decide which team wins the No. 1 pick. Whichever team has that four-digit combination—the order of the numbers doesn’t matter—will receive the first overall selection. That process will be repeated for the second and third overall picks until three different teams have their combinations selected. (If the team that wins the first overall pick has its combination selected for No. 2 or No. 3 as well, that pick is re-drawn until a new team’s combination appears.) From No. 4 onward, the remaining lottery teams are organized according to their win-loss records (with the worst going fourth, second-worst going fifth, etc.).
Confused? Watch the drawing from last year to see how it works.
When will we know which pick the Sixers have?
The drawing itself typically takes place around 7:30 p.m. ET. The lottery show begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. By 8:30, you should either be drinking champagne or drinking your own tears, depending on what happens.
What are the odds of the Sixers winning each pick?
Per LotteryBucket.com, here are their odds of landing each pick:
No. 1: 26.9 percent
No. 2: 22.6 percent
No. 3: 18.2 percent
No. 4: 32.3 percent
They have a 49.5 percent chance of getting a top-two pick — likely Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram — and a 67.7 percent chance of landing in the top three. There is no chance of them finishing below fourth.
Here’s the math: Since the Sixers had the league’s worst record, they would ordinarily have a 25.0 percent chance of finishing first, 21.5 percent of second, 17.8 percent of third and 35.7 percent of fourth. Thanks to Vlade Divac and the Sacramento Kings, though, their odds of finishing with each of the top three picks are slightly higher.
If the Kings land a top-three pick and finish ahead of Philadelphia in the lottery, the Sixers can swap first-round picks with them. (According to Sports Illustrated‘s Jake Fischer, they’ve already submitted that request with the league, pending the outcome of the lottery.)
What about the Lakers’ pick?
If the Los Angeles Lakers fall outside of the top three, their first-round pick conveys to Philadelphia. The Lakers have a 19.9 percent chance of winning the No. 1 pick, 18.8 percent of No. 2 and 17.1 percent of No. 3, which adds up to a 55.8 percent overall chance of them retaining their first-round pick.
There’s a 31.9 percent chance of two teams jumping the Lakers, pushing them to fourth, and a 12.3 percent chance of three teams jumping them, causing them to fall to fifth. They cannot finish lower than fifth. So, the odds are slightly less than a coin flip that the Sixers walk out of the lottery tomorrow night with not one but two top-five picks. There’s just shy of a 25 percent chance of the Sixers getting a top-two pick and the Lakers’ pick, per Lottery Bucket.
An NBA spokesman told Fischer that if the Lakers pick falls to No. 4 or No. 5 and conveys to Philly, the Sixers logo will show up on the card with “from Lakers” written at the bottom. Pray for that small text, friends.
What’s the best-case scenario?
The basic answer: Walking away with the No. 1 (either via the Sixers or Kings winning the lottery). There’s some argument as to whether Sixers fans should want the Lakers pick to convey this year or roll over to next year, given the dearth of franchise-caliber talent beyond the top two selections in this draft class. Basically, it boils down to a matter of preference: Would you rather have the No. 4 pick in a weak draft or gamble on getting somewhere in the No. 6-10 range in what appears to be a stronger draft class?
Between the Lakers’ hiring of Luke Walton and the $60-plus million of cap space they’re set to have this summer, the latter option is fraught with risk, which is why I’ve come around to Team Land The Pick Now. If the Lakers sign, say, DeMar DeRozan and Hassan Whiteside in free agency and pair them with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and the top-three pick they retain, that team could perhaps cobble together 35-40 wins next season, thus pushing the pick they owe to the Sixers into the late lottery.
If the Sixers win the No. 1 pick (either via their own lottery combinations or Sacramento’s), there will be a 13.4 percent chance of them also receiving the Lakers’ pick at No. 4, per Lottery Bucket, and a 0.5 percent chance of them getting No. 5 from L.A. If Philly falls to second, there’s a 10.6 percent chance of L.A. dropping to fourth and a 0.5 percent chance of the Lakers plunging to fifth.
The Kings winning the No. 1 pick could kill two birds with one stone, as they would leapfrog the Lakers, thus requiring only one other team to jump L.A. for that pick to convey. (Also, the comedic value of the Kings winning the lottery only to send that pick to Philadelphia is too great not to happen, right?) From there, the best-case scenario would be a random Western Conference team winning No. 2 (Denver, perhaps?) and the Sixers dropping to No. 3, thus preventing the Kings from having a shot at either Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram. Remember, the Sixers can swap first-round picks with Sacramento next year as well, so depriving them of franchise-changing talent is a must.
TL;DR version: Root for the Lakers to fall to No. 4, the Kings to win the lottery and the Sixers to fall to No. 3, thus depriving Sacramento of landing Simmons or Ingram. Comedy abound.
What’s the worst-case scenario?
The Lakers win No. 1 and the Sixers fall to fourth. Not only would the Sixers be forced to settle for a prospect who isn’t likely to radically change the direction of the franchise, but their future pick entitlement would become that much weaker.
Which prospects should we care about?
If the Sixers receive the No. 1 pick, the debate will come down to Simmons vs. Ingram. Simmons remains the prohibitive favorite for the top spot in large part due to his surreal passing ability, but concerns about his nonexistent jump shot and his attitude have instilled some doubt about whether he should be the consensus No. 1. Ingram looks like a better fit with the Sixers’ current core, as he’s a much better shooter than Simmons, but his rail-thin frame may hinder his ability to make an immediate impact upon joining the league this fall.
Basically, there’s no wrong answer here. Both players are excellent, and Sixers fans should be happy with either. If Lady Luck does bestow the first overall pick upon the City of Brotherly Love, we can have endless Simmons-vs.-Ingram debates over the next month, but first thing’s first: Without getting No. 1, that discussion becomes moot.
If the Sixers end up at No. 3, Dragan Bender would likely fit the “best player available” mold, but selecting the 7’1″ Croatian would only further complicate an already crowded frontcourt. Thus, Providence point guard Kris Dunn and Kentucky combo guard Jamal Murray are the two names to keep in mind. Murray is a better shooter than Dunn, having knocked down 40.8 percent of his 277 three-point attempts as a freshman this past season, but Dunn is a more traditional point guard, having racked up 453 assists across his junior and senior campaigns. Given the Sixers’ desperate need for reliable backcourt contributors, whether at the point or at 2-guard, either player makes sense.
Oklahoma senior Buddy Hield also looms large as a possible Sixers target in the 3-5 range (either with their own pick or the Lakers’ first-rounder). The John R. Wooden National Player of the Year averaged an eye-popping 25.0 points on 50.1 percent shooting this past season while knocking down a career-best 45.7 percent of his 322 three-point attempts. He’s already 22 years old, raising questions about how much more he’ll develop—particularly in comparison to the 19-year-old Murray—but Hield would immediately become the Sixers’ most proven backcourt scorer if the team does draft him.
Some combination of Simmons or Ingram at No. 1 and Dunn, Murray or Hield at No. 4 or 5 (via the Lakers) is the dream. From there, it’s mostly a matter of individual preference.
What else do we need to know?
Regardless of what happens at the lottery, there’s no guarantee the Sixers will actually make that selection (or those selections) during the June 23 draft. At the recent NBA scouting combine, new team president Bryan Colangelo told reporters the Sixers will “look at everything” with regard to their draft picks once the lottery determines where those selections fall. “We’re just not good enough right now as a team to hold anything back,” he added.
Before working yourself into a cold sweat imagining Colangelo trading the No. 3 pick for Andrea Bargnani, keep in mind the complete lack of substance in that quote. Were Hinkie around (and speaking to the media), he likely would have said something exactly along those lines. Until the order of draft picks is set, there’s no sense speculating what Colangelo will or won’t do with whichever pick (or picks) the Sixers end up with among the top five. It’s all too hypothetical for now.
The Sixers are also guaranteed to have two other first-round picks: No. 24 (via the Miami Heat) and No. 26 (via the Oklahoma City Thunder). The order of those picks is already set in stone since Miami and Oklahoma City made the playoffs, so the lottery will have no effect on either.
Which team’s bandwagon should we join when the Sixers fall to No. 4?
Minnesota. Have you seen Karl-Anthony Towns? He’s like Joel Embiid, except with two functional feet.
Speaking of which…
Lots of these might be starting to pop up in your timeline right now.Moving on to more physical work w/ Lloyd Pierce pic.twitter.com/WVZRfSfntS
— Brian Seltzer (@brianseltzer) May 16, 2016
This has been your annual mid-spring reminder that nothing else matters aside from a healthy Joel Embiid.
That said… don’t fail us now, lottery gods.