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March 29, 2017

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

The Sixers currently find themselves in their own version of March Madness. The past few years were a bit different, as they were either clearly the worst team in the NBA or in that very bottom tier. That isn’t the case as the 2016-17 season winds down, and anecdotally, I don’t remember this many teams being so bunched up together toward the bottom:

For Tankapalooza and NBA Draft purposes, this will create a crazy finish to the season. Losses are at a premium, so let’s not waste anymore time and get right to the sixth installment of the Sixers first-round draft pick tracker.

Part one | Part deux | Part three | Part four | Part five

Sixers Pick

Philadelphia 76ers (projected 32-50 by 538, tied for sixth pick): “A team with Robert Covington and Dario Saric simply can’t tank,” he said, 100 percent seriously. What a world we live in.

Tuesday night’s win over Brooklyn might not seem like much, but that is a team with no incentive to tank that had gone 6-6 in their last 12 games (with a couple of blowouts in there) headed in. To win that game with essentially seven players — Shawn Long and Tiago Splitter played a combined 17 minutes — is no joke. Brett Brown and his young roster, with an average starting age of 23.4-years-old, deserve a lot of credit.

That said, from the perspective of a grizzled Process veteran, it would definitely be better in the long run if the Sixers lost these games. The wins aren’t totally meaningless as players like Saric and Richaun Holmes are continuing to develop, but increasing the odds of landing a star in the NBA Draft is very important. The rules stink, but they are in fact the rules.

Looking at the remaining Sixers schedule, the good news is that six of the remaining eight games are against teams jockeying for playoff position in the Eastern Conference. But as we saw last Friday in Chicago, that might not matter all that much if Saric is hitting his shots. 5 out of 8 are at the Wells Fargo Center, starting tonight against the Atlanta Hawks.

And looking at the standings, Sixers-Knicks at MSG on the final day of the season could be an all-timer.

Remaining Schedule: Atlanta, at Cleveland, at Toronto, Brooklyn, Chicago, Milwaukee, Indiana, at New York

Sacramento Kings (projected 32-50 by 538, tied for sixth pick): Similar to the Sixers, the Kings have also shown a surprising amount of fight down the stretch. I mean, seriously Clippers? This is probably the worst regular-season loss of the NBA season:

Sacramento followed that one up with a one-point win over the Grizzlies, and they’re now only 0.5 games “up” on the Timberwolves for the seventh-worst record. As of now, 538 is projecting that the Sixers will have a 40.2 percent chance at a Top-3 pick and 11.9 percent at No. 1 overall.

Here is how the Kings’ closing stretch shapes up, and your guess is as good as mine.

Remaining Schedule: Utah, at New Orleans, at Minnesota, Dallas, at Los Angeles, Houston, Phoenix, at Clippers

Lakers Pick (Top-3 protection)

Los Angeles Lakers (projected 23-59 by 538, second pick): Here come the Lakers! With Phoenix throwing up 70-point performances while losing nine straight games, the Lakers had a chance to move into third place with a win over Washington on Tuesday night. Heck, the Lakers even led by 13 points after three quarters after shooting 15-16 from the field in the third quarter.

And then, well, they Lakered about as hard as you possibly could:

While the Sixers and Kings look like they’re worsening Philadelphia’s own pick, the Suns’ late slide has made the second-best lottery odds a legitimate race. If the Lakers slid back to No. 3, the Sixers’ odds at landing their draft pick in 2017 go up from 44.2 percent to 53.1 percent.

Remaining Schedule: at Minnesota, at Clippers, Memphis, at San Antonio, Sacramento, Minnesota, New Orleans, at Golden State

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann