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One (Sixers) Question To Rule Them All: Are They Not Bad Enough To Keep Top Lottery Odds?

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Is it possible that the Sixers are just slightly better than the Lakers to screw themselves out of the best odds at the top pick?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

After the Los Angeles Lakers 121-103 loss against the Portland Trail Blazers, the team is now just 2 GB of the Philadelphia 76ers for the top lottery odds in the 2016 NBA Draft. Neither team is playing great basketball, but the Sixers have won two of their last three games, while the Lakers are losers of six straight, and nine of their last ten.

While Los Angeles continues to falter, the Sixers are led by the solid point guard play of Ish Smith, the offensive prowess of Jahlil Okafor, and some new found wing scoring. Which leads to this week's question...

Are the Sixers becoming too good to hold the number one lottery odds?

Jake Fischer: They're definitely not too good at this juncture, although they're creeping dangerously close to crossing that line. Their defense has been goddamn elite over the last two weeks, boasting a 97.3 defensive rating over their last five games, which would rank second in the league on the season. But, it's still going to be insanely difficult for this team to score this season if Ish Smith continues shooting the 16.9 times per game he's averaged since joining the Sixers. They've been shooting the ball much better from the outside, but I don't think that'll be enough to overtake the Lakers until this streak continues for a much larger sample size.

Max Rappaport: I'm torn. On one hand, I think the value of running a competent offense and being somewhat competitive for the young players they're trying to develop, namely Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor, outweighs the importance of assuring yourself extra ping pong balls this spring. But at the same time, part of me feels like the Sixers have been through so much, taking more flack than any team in league history for their tanking efforts despite never finishing with the league's worst record and picking 3rd in back-to-back drafts. I do see this year's class as two players deep, with Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram really having separated themselves from the rest of the group, so certainly I understand the importance of securing the league's worst record, especially with the Lakers pick/protection complicating matters. That said, though, I think the team is better off now than they were a month ago, and if it comes down to them trading one of their bigs (a pretty likely scenario, especially if Saric and/or Embiid live up to expectations or they draft Simmons) then Noel and Okafor boosting their values may be more important than better lottery odds. To answer the question... No. I don't think there's such thing as "too good" when wins are coming on the backs of young talent like Okafor, Noel, Robert Covington, Jerami Grant, and even Ish Smith, who may have a future here as well.

Marc Whittington: I'm really not worried about it. The Sixers have played 4 close games in a row and have three wins over terrible teams (Phoenix, Sacramento Hyde, and Minnesota) sandwiching a couple of distant losses to some stronger teams. This is what happens over the course of a season— teams go through stretches when they win more than usual and stretches when they lose more than usual. The Sixers aren't as good as their last 4 games make them look, nor are they as bad as the worst 4 games of the season make them look.

They still have a three two game "cushion" on the Lakers for worst record in the league. The strong play from Jah is likely to regress (Hold on. HOLD ON!! I love that he's playing like this. But he's shooting an insane percentage on elbow jumpers right now and it's unsustainable. DON'T ATTACK ME FOR THIS, PROKAFOR TRUTHERS.), and while Ish has elevated the offense, it's not good when your starting point guard has a 30% usage rate and only 45% true shooting. Even the Ish-Noel lob dream team is probable to regress from the insane 1.79 ppp they're scoring right now The team is going to keep losing. Wake me up when they match the Lakers in wins. Until then, I'm not worrying.

Roy Burton: I've learned not to worry about things like this, so I'll just make the following prediction: The Sixers will end the season with a better record than the Lakers.

Think about it: This team woke up on Christmas Day with a 1-30 record, and a month later, they're already within striking distance of LA. Hell... they might even be tied with the Lakers right now if Robert Covington hadn't been in a slump for most of the year (or if Brett Brown hadn't made a few questionable decisions down the stretch in a couple of games).

The Lakers are flat-out awful - I'd be shocked if the Sixers didn't make up the difference over the next 35+ games and wind up with the second-worst record. And all that means is that we'll have to break out a few more lucky charms when the Draft Lottery rolls around.