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January 27, 2016

2016 NBA Draft: Sixers’ first-round pick tracker, part three

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The Philadelphia 76ers have been on a pretty nice run since Ish Smith joined the fold on Christmas Eve, going 6-9 in their last 15 games. At the bottom of the NBA standings, that is basically the equivalent of the Golden State Warriors’ winning streak to start the season.

What will this mean when it’s time to dive into the ping-pong balls? Let’s jump right into it.

Sixers pick

Philadelphia 76ers (7-39, projected 1st pick): What struck me most about Tuesday night’s victory over Phoenix was that the Sixers didn’t play especially well. They were decent (but not great) and cruised to a ho-hum victory that was never really in doubt. Even against a team as bad as the Suns, that type of game wasn’t happening at all earlier in the year.

At least for draft purposes, it’s a good thing they started 1-30, huh? With the Sixers only 1.5 games behind (or ahead, depending on how you look at it) the Lakers in standings, there is a good chance that they again don’t finish the season with the worst record in the NBA. From here, that is a worthy trade-off for better Jahlil Okafor/Nerlens Noel development.

Sacramento Kings (20-25, projected 10th, pick): On the same night that had Warriors-Spurs on the slate, who would have guessed that Hornets-Kings would be the game of the night? Brutal way to lose for Sacramento, especially after DeMarcus Cousins went for 56:

That said, the Kings are a downright respectable team with Boogie in the lineup. In the race for the eighth seed in the west, they only trail the Portland Traliblazers by percentage points. At least for 2016, the pick swap possibility is on life support.

Lakers pick (protected 1-3)

Los Angeles Lakers (9-38, projected 2nd pick): I have tried to stop comparing the Sixers’ situation to those of other teams (because it’s so uncertain), but they clearly have a better coach than the Lakers:

The Lakers very well could finish with the worst record. And the more that you take a look at the middle of this year’s lottery — Earlier this week, I wrote about Kris Dunn — there is an argument to be made for wanting the pick to roll over to next year and a supposedly loaded class. De’Aaron Fox, anyone?

Either way, it’s looking like “four or bust” for 2016.

Heat pick (protected 1-10)

Miami Heat (25-21, projected 19nd pick): Dwyane Wade led the Heat to a couple of big-time road wins the last couple of nights, but Miami has struggled since leaving South Florida after a home-heavy start to the season. The East is a jumbled mess: Miami is two games back of the third seed while 3.5 games ahead of 11th place.

Thunder pick (protected 1-15)

(Forgive me, but I’m just going to copy and paste what I wrote last time for this section. It still holds up.)

Oklahoma City Thunder (34-13, projected 28th pick): As it turns out, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Serge Ibaka are pretty good together when they’re all healthy. Awesome team.

Golden State Warriors (41-4, projected 30th pick): The awesomest team. If OKC knocks the Dubs off in the playoffs, maybe the Sixers can swap 30 for 29.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann