All hail the Phoenix Suns! Thanks to their 12th loss in a row (and 14th of the last 15 games) last night, they have slipped by the Lakers into the lottery’s number two spot, statistically speaking. The difference between two and three is only a half game right now, but that half game is the difference between a 44.2% chance the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick and a 53.1% chance. The Suns have four more games (Warriors, Thunder, Mavericks, Kings), while the Lakers have five (Spurs, Kings, Timberwolves, Pelicans, Warriors). The Lakers must beat the Kings. Everyone must beat the Kings (except maybe Phoenix).
The Sixers’ odds are in a bit more flux. They have the fifth best odds to get the top pick, with five games left to play (29.1% shot at a top-3 pick, 8.8% chance at #1), but there are only four games separating the teams with the fourth and eighth best odds. Ideally, you’d want the Sixers to lose the rest of their games, while the Lakers win all of their games, so the Sixers have a better shot of getting the Lakers’ top-3 protected pick. If the Suns continue to lose, they’ll keep the second-best odds and help the Sixers’ chances at getting the Lakers pick. The Kings should lose every game.
The Sixers will wind down the season starting tomorrow with a sure-fire win (as shitty as it’ll be) against the Nets, followed up by the Bulls, Bucks, Pacers, and a must-lose to the Knicks. The Kings currently have the 7th best odds at a top-3 and top overall pick. When combined with the Sixers’ chances (thanks to the pick swap), the Sixers have a 44.1% chance at a top-3 pick, and 13.1% chance at the top overall pick (for reference, the third-worst team in the NBA’s odds are 46.9%/15.6%).
By FiveThirtyEight’s end of season predictions, the Suns and Lakers will tie for the two-spot, the Sixers and Knicks will tie for fifth, and the Kings will tie the Timberwolves for seventh. They’re no help at all. One day we won’t be pulling for crucial late-season Sixers losses. That probably starts next year.