Tonight, the Sixers face off on national TV against the Lakers. ESPN was hoping this would be great TV, with Simmons’ Sixers facing off against the #2 pick Brandon Ingram and a resurgent Laker team. Instead, it’s a 6-19 Sixers team without Simmons facing a 10-18 Lakers team on an 8-game losing streak. Riveting TV. But there are other stakes here, namely the Lakers’ top-3 protected pick in this year’s draft. If it’s picks 1, 2, or 3, the Sixers get their first rounder after next season. If it falls from 4-30, the Sixers get it next year. Sounds good, but 4-30 is a very large range. So what do the odds of the Sixers getting the pick look like, and where will it land?
ESPN’s Neil Johnson looked at this exact question, behind the Insider paywall (lovingly liberated for you by r/Sixers’ djtork9). The Kings’ pick swap is also in play this season, but let’s look at what Johnson said about the Lakers, using ESPN’s Basketball Power Index (BPI)*:
“Back on Nov. 12, the Lakers defeated the New Orleans Pelicans on the road by 27 points, held a 6-4 record and had a 40.2 percent chance to make the playoffs, per BPI. They also had a 9 percent chance of holding onto a draft pick in the top three. But since then, they’ve gone 4-14 and are currently on an eight-game losing streak.
The Lakers have the biggest slip in BPI over the past two weeks, dropping 2.4 points from their overall rating, and BPI now projects their final record to be 27-55, fourth-worst in the league. The odds that Philly will get the pick have dropped from 91 percent down to 66.6 — but that’s not all bad news for the Sixers (or good news for the Lakers and their 33.4 percent chances of keeping the pick).”
With the Lakers falling off, the Sixers’ odds of actually receiving the pick have dropped, but that’s actually a good thing:
“While the overall chances of Philly receiving L.A.’s pick have dipped, the potential value of the pick has risen. The Lakers’ expected draft position per BPI is 4.8, meaning the most likely scenario right now is that the Sixers get the No. 4 or No. 5 pick from L.A. (literally the best-case scenario for fans of “The Process” who want the Sixers in the 2017 draft with as many lottery picks as possible). BPI gives the Lakers pick a 61.3 percent chance of being in the top five and 98.3 percent chance of being in the top 10…
The expected position for [the Sixers’] pick is 3.1, per BPI, but that’s the best spot in the league right now (Brooklyn is at 3.2 and Phoenix is at 4.1). The Sixers have a 20.5 percent chance at the No. 1 pick, a 55.8 percent chance at landing in the top three and a 95.4 percent at top five — with their own pick.
The Kings also have a 66.1 percent chance of landing in the top 10, which would open up the possibility of the pick swap with Philly. Sacramento has a 3.0 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick — a pick that would go to the Sixers, as we mentioned earlier (and Sacramento would get Philly’s pick).
Add all that to Philly’s 66.6 percent chance of getting the Lakers’ pick (one that is 98.3 percent likely to be in the top 10) and the Sixers have good reason to already look forward to lottery and draft night. (And, don’t forget, if the Kings and Sixers both draw top-three picks, that leaves only one spot for the Lakers to keep theirs, helping Philly’s odds even more.)”
In layman’s terms: According to a metric ESPN invented, the Sixers’ most likely draft scenario right now is the #1 pick for themselves and the #4 or #5 pick from LA, with a 65.5% chance getting the Lakers’ pick in the top ten…or something like that. And in a draft that is reported (and expected) to be deeper than in year’s past, that #5 pick could do a lot to speed up the Sixers and – as an added bonus – slow down the Lakers.
*ESPN defines BPI as “a team rating system that accounts for the final score, pace of play, site, strength of opponent and absence of key players…BPI can be used to measure both how well a team has performed (going far beyond just wins and losses) and how powerful it is likely to be going forward.”