Only three games remain in the 2014-15 Sixers season. It is indeed a sad realization that the days of saying "this is the season JaVale McGee graced his presence as a Sixer" are coming to an end. All great things must end, but in ending, they allow other great things to begin. And those great things are draft picks!
Well, sort of. Remember the optimistic tone of last week's column? Life this week decided to give the Sixers a big ole "fuck you." Some hot takist has his "is the Thunder collapse a sign of bad Sixers karma" column sent to the editor already. But more on the Thunder in a moment. And as always before I get to these draft picks, you can check out standings updated every ten minutes at TANKATHON and Derek's Daily Draft Pick Tracker for daily recaps and previews of games involving teams whose outcomes impact Sixers' draft picks.
Sixers' Draft Pick [15.6% chance Sixers pick 1st overall]: The Timberwolves remain winless since March 23, two wins worse than the Sixers, and have only win realistically winnable game left on their schedule (@ Lakers). It seems unlikely the Timberwolves will force a coinflip or even overtake the Sixers in wins. And after months of sweating it out, it appears the Sixers have finally succeeded in holding off the Lakers. The Sixers hold two less wins than the Lakers and play only three remaining games, all of which against opposition in the playoffs (Bulls, Bucks) or contending for the playoffs (Heat). FINAL PROJECTION: Sixers finish with the 3rd worst record in the NBA, have 15.6% of moving up to 1st overall.
Lakers' Draft Pick Protected 1-5 [17.2% chance pick conveys to the Sixers]: The Lakers have lost five in a row and the Magic have won three in a row, and as a result, it is now mathematically impossible for the Lakers to pass the Magic in the standings. The Lakers can only move backward, and as established above, that seems highly unlikely. FINAL PROJECTION: Lakers finish with the 4th worst record in the NBA, giving this pick a 17.2% of conveying to the Sixers at 6th or 7th overall.
Heat's Draft Pick Protected 1-10 [Heat keep the pick]: Well this one is going to come down to the wire. Between the Nets, Celtics, Pacers, and Hornets, the Sixers need two of those teams to finish with a worse record than Miami. The Hornets are two wins worse than Miami with a rather difficult schedule in front of them. I don't see them being anything other than behind Miami for the rest of the season. The Nets are a win ahead of Miami and have what should be a fairly doable schedule for them (vs. Wizards, @ Bucks, vs. Bulls, vs. Magic). I consider them a lock to stay ahead. The Celtics, one win better than the Heat, have a home-and-home against the Cavs, a home game against the Raptors, and a trip to Milwaukee remaining on their schedule. The Pacers conclude their season with a road game against the Pistons, go home against OKC and Washington, then finish with a road trip to Memphis. The Heat have three home games against the Bulls, Raptors, and Magic, before closing on the road against the Sixers who may or may not decide to use those 48 minutes to experiment with revolutionary tactics such as the "three man defense" and "Nerlens Noel half-court shots," and "Furkan Aldemir Point God." That 10 on TANKATHON looks bleak now, but I do believe it is more likely or not the Heat get themselves outside of draft protections barring a swift and sudden tank job to keep the pick.* FINAL PROJECTION: The Heat end the season right in the #11 sweet spot.
*The Heat are only a game and a half out of a playoff spot, so I'm not convinced tanking is going to be their preferred course of action here, but it is something worth keeping an eye on.
[UPDATE]: As way too many people in the comments pointed out and as I've mentioned in weeks past, the Heat can also pass the Jazz and the Jazz's remaining schedule consists of four of the eight Western Conference playoff teams. But I don't think this is the most likely scenario as there is a 1.5 game separation between the two teams and I'm not banking on the Heat winning all their games. It's a mathematical possibility, but not one in which I'd wager on happening, which now means it will totally happen as a running theme of this column seems to be "how wrong can Justin be about these draft picks?"
Thunder's Draft Pick Protected 1-18 [Thunder keep the pick]: Well it has gone tragic for the Thunder, hasn't it? Losers of four in a row, the Thunder are three full games behind Washington, who are on a 4-game winning streak of their own. The schedule in the last four games favors OKC, but three games back with four to go just seems like a hill to steep for a Thunder team missing Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. FINAL PROJECTION: With the 29th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Sixers select Petr Cornelie.