It's all been leading up to this. Not this 'the season', 'this' the moment that we'll say "it's all been leading up to this." The 2016 NBA Draft is the 'this'. So I should say: "It's all been leading up to all leading up to this." And with that squared away, let's talk about Sixers draft picks.
COUNT THE PICKZ has been the Sixers fan's substitute for the more traditional COUNT THE RINGZ since Sam Hinkie took over. Inheriting a team in the hole for two first round picks spent on the rotting corpses of 1) the right to select Arnett Moultrie and 2) Andrew Bynum, Hinkie used his ingenuity and ownership's long leash to overhaul the incumbents and replace them with projectable athletes and pocketed future picks. After all three gravy picks from the 2015 Draft failed to convey (really missing by inches on every occasion), the Sixers are in line to have four -- count 'em -- four first round picks in the 2016 NBA Draft. And those nameless, body-less picks will be just as important as the men wearing Sixers jerseys this season.
Just explained all the Sixers 2016 NBA Draft possibilities with their pick swaps and protections to my girlfriend. Textbook foreplay.— Michael Levin (@Michael_Levin) October 11, 2015
What was once #OneSixEleven has gotten even more Sixersy.
THE LAKERS PICK
The Lakers pick. I've been pacing around my house saying it in hushed tones like "the second cell phone" or "Asia McClain", because there's so much weighty uncertainty around it.
Last year it was Top 5 protected, and the Lakers fell into the 4th spot going into the Lottery at 21-61. They would leapfrog the Sixers and steal D'Angelo Russell with the 2nd pick. Now, Kobe Bryant is "healthy", Roy Hibbert is in, Julius Randle and D'Angelo are young and hungry, so things are-- wait, Byron Scott is still the head coach and they still play in the West and they're counting on Lou Williams and Nick Young to do things. We good!
Odds of them being as bad as last year are slim, but odds of being much better than that are just as slim. The only teams in the West that could be worse than LAL are Portland, Denver, and maybe Minnesota. Dallas will be worse, but not much worse. Sacramento (stay tuned!) is volatile but talented. Who else? This team will be bad. Thank you, MCW.
PREDICTION: 24-58, 5th spot in Lottery, Sixers fans clench their cheeks at the Lottery Party.
THE KINGS PICK SWAP
Oh, Vivek. Oh, Vlade. Oh, Kangz. The pipedream of trading for Nik Stauskas became a reality when the Sacramento brain trust lost feeling in their fingers and accidentally traded the player one year removed from being the 8th overall pick, a 2018 first rounder, Jason Thompson, Carl Landry, and two years of the option to swap first rounders forrrrrrr.....................
The Sixers thank the delegates from Sacramento for donating to the odds of landing another top 3 pick. Sactown has a mess of a team -- with plenty of talent but little to no to LOL cohesion -- that has a very uphill road to making the playoffs in the very crowded West. I actually love Willie Cauley-Stein and think you can lock him in at center for a decade. Still, if absolutely everything works, from Cousins-Karl to the nearly broken Rondo to what will need to be lights out shooting of Ben McLemore because lord knows their spacing is dogshit, they might be able to get to 35 wins. And that's still Top 10 odds Sam Hinkie can use.
PREDICTION: 33-49, 8th spot in Lottery, Sixers fans let it ride at the Lottery Party.
THE HEAT PICK
hahahahahaha we got this pick for half a season of Thaddeus Young. Never gets old. Thanks, Flip!
Anyway. This pick especially should have conveyed last year. Justise Winslow should have been ours. Alas, we'll be fine. Miami looks to be a surefire playoff team with a full season of Goran Dragic and Chris Bosh. But Dwyane Wade and Luol Deng are old and I don't necessarily buy the Hassan Whiteside we saw in the last few months of 2014. I've always loved Whiteside (proof), but to disappear for years and come back playing near-All Star caliber? I don't quite buy it all the way.
So my guess is that this team will deal with injuries and depth issues and be firmly okay.
PREDICTION: 45-37, 18th pick in the Draft, welcome to Philadelphia, Demetrius Jackson!
THE THUNDER PICK
Another laugh -- the Sixers got this pick for agreeing to hang out with JaVale McGee for a few weeks. What a world.
Injuries derailed Oklahoma City's season, and after paying Enes Kanter all the money in the world, they're ready to bounce back. No, Kanter mostly sucks. But behind him are Steven Adams and Mitch McGary and Nick Collison and they're variations of juuuuust fine, so until they trade Durant to the Sixers, they'll be okay. I actually like this team very much, and if health holds up, I could see them competing with Golden State, Houston, and LAC for best record in the West.
PREDICTION: 55-27, 27th pick in the Draft, Hinkie packages it to move up.
THE WARRIORS PICK SWAP WITH EITHER MIAMI OR OKC
Okay, complications. When the Sixers realized they had no room on their team for Jason Thompson, the market was slim for his services. But the (to me) very interesting trade they made was to ship him to Golden State in exchange for a pick swap for this season and this season only. Also Gerald Wallace! Gerald Wallace was here in theory!
Should either Miami or Oklahoma City finish the year with a better record than the Warriors, the Sixers will receive Golden State's pick. Now, coming off a 67-win season and a championship, it's unlikely that GSW will fall off a cliff. But injuries happen. They're one Steph Curry tweak away from being human. If they're to repeat this season, they can't afford to go 100% all 82 games. The Shaq-Kobe Lakers would flip the switch, the Spurs have been known to flip the switch... I could see Steve Kerr deciding not to live and die on every game, instead looking at the bigger picture of winning another title.
Maybe it ends up being nothing, but it at least guarantees that the Sixers won't have the 30th pick. And four in the top 29 is not too shabby. And if the Basketball God Of Knees strikes Oakland, then the Sixers will be solemnly happy to capitalize.
PREDICTION: 59-23, 30th pick in the Draft. Best to keep expectations low.
The Sixers are going to run the 2016 NBA Draft. Best case would be #OneTwoFourEleven. But I would very easily accept #OneFiveEighteenTwentyseven, and use them (and Dario Saric) in whatever fashion would bring more elite talent into the fold going into the 2016 season. While all eyes will be on Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel and Nik Stauskas and Robert Covington and Jerami Grant and Richaun Holmes and their respective developments, join me in growing more eyes and watching the Lakers, Kings, Heat, Thunder, and Warriors to pillage all the Future Sixers that college basketball has to offer.
The tank is nearing an end. Let us hold hands and chain ourselves to this forest one last time. It's all been leading up to this.