How We Got Here
On July 10, 2015, the Sixers traded the rights to Artūras Gudaitis and Luka Mitrović to Sacramento in exchange for Nik Stauskas, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson, an unprotected 2019 first-round pick, and the rights to swap picks in 2016 and 2017. It was an inexplicably bad trade at the time as the Kings tried to dump money to sign…Rajon Rondo and Marco Belinelli? The picks famously swapped in 2017, and the Sixers traded the 3rd pick and the 2019 unprotected 1st to Boston in exchange for the 1st overall pick. To say that trade hasn’t worked out would be an understatement, but there is a silver lining: If the Kings pick ends up at #1 in the 2019 draft, the Sixers keep it and give the Celtics their own pick instead.
How Are the Kings Doing?
The Kings have gotten off to a shockingly good start to the season. They currently stand at 6-4 after they were blown out by Milwaukee on Sunday, but that’s still much better than most expected. De’Aaron Fox has taken a pretty significant leap forward so far this season. The Kings’ offense has excelled, and they put up 146 points in Atlanta on Thursday. At the moment, the Kings would be the 6th seed in the Western Conference, and would get the 21st pick in the draft. As it currently stands, the Sixers would receive the 19th pick in the draft, so the Celtics would actually get the Sixers pick instead of the Kings pick. It’s extremely unlikely that will be the case for very long.
The Tank Race
It’s very early in the season, but the obvious tanking teams are beginning to emerge already.
The Cavaliers are off to a dreadful 1-8 start and have already fired their head coach. Their best player, Kevin Love, is out for at least six weeks following foot surgery. The veterans on the team who have been to four straight Finals are unhappy with their lack of playing time. It’s hard to foresee a scenario where the Cavaliers aren’t a bottom three team.
The Suns currently sit at 2-7. Devin Booker has dealt with injuries early on in the season, limiting his availability. DeAndre Ayton has been as expected, impressive on offense but disappointing on defense. Their starting point guard is Isaiah Canaan. The Suns are a strong candidate to finish in the bottom three as well.
The Bulls have been devastated by injuries so far this season. Kris Dunn is out four to six weeks. Lauri Markkanen likely won’t return until mid-November at the earliest. The Bulls were already expected to be at the bottom of the standings, and these injuries have made things even worse.
New York Knicks
The Knicks are expected to go all-out to land Kevin Durant this summer, but they are likely looking at yet another near 60 loss season. The Knicks point guard situation has been Suns-like. They are a good bet to finish near the bottom three as well.
Remember, the new lottery odds will be used for the first time this season. Here’s an overview of the odds:
So, the team with the worst record no longer has the best odds of obtaining the number one pick. The top three teams all have equal odds. It’s unclear if this will benefit the Sixers. For example, if the Kings finish in the 8th lottery position, they will have a 6% chance at winning the first pick, compared to a 2.8% chance last year. But they will also have a 26% chance at a top five pick, compared to a 10% chance last year. So while the new odds increase the chances of the Sixers landing the first pick, they also increase the likelihood of the Sixers handing over a top five pick.