Each Friday, we'll be tracking the five teams who the Sixers are reliant on to keep the dream of #OneFourElevenSixteen alive.
Team: Los Angeles Lakers (3-19)
Protections: Selections 1-3 in 2016 and 2017, Unprotected in 2018
Pick Status: The Kobe Bryant farewell tour rolls on! The Lakers are 1-11 in their last 12 games, with the lone win "sparked" by a 10-24 Kobe performance that was, hilariously, an improvement over his play for much of the season.
If the goal is to put the Lakers pick in the danger zone (word to Kenny Loggins), Byron Scott appears to be the man for the job. D'Angelo Russell and Julius Randle shifted to the bench this week, and communication lines appear to be minimal or non-existent. Russell's breakout performance against the Timberwolves was only made possible because Bryant himself told Scott to leave the young bucks in, which shows you who's controlling this tragicomedy.
Weekend dates against the Spurs and Rockets close out an extended road trip, and matchups with the Bucks, Thunder and Nuggets loom on the horizon. The lottery odds will likely be flying close to the sun when all is said and done.
Chance of Pick Conveying: Scary, but possible
Team: Miami Heat (12-8)
Protections: Selections 1-10 in 2016, Unprotected in 2017
Pick Status: Miami is playing well enough as we approach the quarter point of the season, but the East is much tighter from top to bottom than in seasons past. The Heat are just a game and a half off the pace for the conference's top seed, and a game in front of the Orlando Magic, the proverbial "first team out". They comfortably beat the East-leading Cavs last Saturday, but otherwise have been pretty up and down. I would expect more of the same with games against Indy, Memphis, Atlanta and Brooklyn coming up next.
Chance of Pick Conveying: Likely, assuming health.
Team: Oklahoma City Thunder (14-8)
Protections: Selections 1-15 in 2016 and 2017
Pick Status: The Thunder aren't the Warriors-challenging juggernaut many thought they could be -- yet -- but Kevin Durant is coming back into form, which should put the rest of the league on notice. He dropped a 25-12-10 triple double in a win against the Hawks last night, and "not a point guard" Russell Westbrook trails only Rajon Rondo on the league's assist leaderboard. Back-to-back dates with the Jazz will carry them through the weekend, and next week's national TV matchup against the Cavs is a must watch, even if the pick implications are minimal.
Chance of Pick Conveying: Two thumbs up.
Team: Sacramento Kings (9-15)
Protections: Philadelphia has the right to swap their first-round pick with Sacramento's first round pick, provided that it's in the Top 10.
Pick Status: The Kings are sort of a bizarro version of the Heat, in that they have been up-and-down (mostly leaning down) but remain not that far out of the playoff picture. Some of that is probably early-season noise (who would've expected the Rockets to be sub-.500?), but as it stands they're still firmly in the lottery mix. That's great news for the Sixers, as the Kings likelihood to jump into the top three helps Philly with their own pick and the odds of the Lakers pick conveying. Their schedule is light coming up -- Houston and Minny are their only two games in the next week -- so they shouldn't move much in the coming days.
Pick Status: Doing just fine.
Team: Golden State Warriors (23-0) (!!!)
Protections: Philadelphia has the right to swap the less favorable of Miami's 2016 first-round pick (protected 1-10), or Oklahoma City's 2016 first-round pick (protected 1-15), for Golden State's 2016 first round pick.
Pick Status: There's not much to say about the Warriors that hasn't been written elsewhere. They are an absolute juggernaut, standing at 23-0 heading into tonight's matchup with the Celtics. I was still young when the Unstoppabulls were doing their thing in the mid-90's, so I think it's fair to say this is the most dominant stretch of basketball I've been able to appreciate in my lifetime. Steph Curry is a flamethrower, a 6'7" hybrid center-forward is leading the team in assists, and it seems unfathomable that anything short of major injuries could stop them from repeating. What a team.
Chance of Pick Conveying: Snowball's chance in hell