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January 31, 2017

2017 NBA Draft: Sixers first-round pick tracker, part four

Yeah, yeah, we just did a draft pick tracker 11 days ago. But when the Sixers defeat the Sacramento Kings in Pick Swap Bowl IV without the services of Joel Embiid, we have to run it back ASAP. Sorry, those are the rules.

Anyway, here is how the potential mock drafts have shifted over that little bit of time.

•    Part one
•    Part deux
•    Part three

Sixers Pick

Philadelphia 76ers (projected 31-51 by 538, tied for fourth pick): Once everyone found out the news that Embiid is going to miss a little bit of time, some Sixers fans undoubtedly started turning their attention back to the upcoming NBA Draft.

One problem: Nobody told Robert Covington, Dario Saric, and the rest of the Sixers. With the win over Sacramento, they capped off a 10-5 record for the month of January. That is an accomplishment for this young group, especially considering they won 10 total games all of last season.

“There were times Nerlens started, there were times Jahlil started, there were times that Joel carried us a lot,” Brett Brown said. “But we were able to win with a bunch of different people, with a bunch of different lineups, and in some different ways. I think it was truly a team month. I thought the contributions from the team were strong.”

Does this mean that the Sixers might miss out on Markelle Fultz, Dennis Smith, and other players appearing at the top of mock drafts? Yep, and don’t get me wrong, it would be nice to play the lottery hard one more time. But you know what? If the Sixers are winning behind the play of Noel, Embiid, Covington, Saric, T.J. McConnell, etc., there isn’t too much to complain about.

The schedule is about to start catching up as well, as the Sixers have now played seven more home games. They’ll be on the road quite a bit in February and March.

Sacramento Kings (projected 33-49 by 538, tied for seventh pick):

I can confirm this actually happened for a minute:

Despite whatever warts he has, DeMarcus Cousins is still an incredible player. In pouring in 46 points on 16 shots last night, you saw the face-up jumper out from beyond the arc and the battering ram drives that the entire Sixers frontcourt had no answer for. If you had to ask Nerlens Noel who his toughest cover in the entire NBA is, my guess is he would say Cousins.

And despite the disappointing loss to the Sixers, Sacramento has played well on this road trip, getting wins in Detroit, Cleveland, and Charlotte. The Kings finish up in Houston tomorrow, and that game will determine if they finish the swing 3-5 or 4-4.

Even with a decent trip, the Kangz now just sit 0.5 games ahead of the Sixers. There is a lot of home cooking coming for them, though: Nine of their 11 February games will be played in Sacramento. Contrasting their upcoming schedule with the Sixers', we might want to hold off on pick swap talk for a little while.

One last Kings note: ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz wrote a great profile on Cousins and the entire franchise. This detail, on the trade that made us care about the Kings in the first place, is pretty rough:

By way of example, league sources say -- and Divac denies -- that when the Kings and Sixers struck a deal to send Nik Stauskas to Philadelphia, Divac was surprised to learn that the trade had to be confirmed on a conference call with the league. Multiple agents express astonishment at how poorly versed Divac is in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement.

Los Angeles Lakers (projected 26-56 by 538, second pick): Luke Walton doesn’t believe in tanking. Take a look at the Lakers’ incentive to get a top-three pick in this year’s draft, via The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor:

It’s paramount that the Lakers end up with a top-three pick: If they don’t it’ll be conveyed to the Sixers and Los Angeles would also have to send its unprotected 2019 first-rounder to the Magic. The 2012 acquisitions of Dwight Howard and Steve Nash still haunt the team like a Free-Agency Freddy Krueger. If the Lakers do retain their 2017 first-rounder, they’d instead send their unprotected 2018 first to the Sixers, and their 2017 and 2018 second-rounders to the Magic.

If I were Luke Walton, I would be both: 1. Rich and famous 2. A pretty chill dude by all accounts 3. Tanking like crazy the rest of the 2016-17 NBA season.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann