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January 20, 2017

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

Things really can change on a dime in the NBA season. When we checked in on the Sixers’ draft pick status just a few weeks ago, the landscape looked very different than it does today. The day after that post, the Sixers won in Denver, kicking off a run of seven victories in nine games.

All of the sudden, the Sixers don’t have the first-overall pick in everybody’s mock draft. This is a strange feeling, but let’s get to it.

•    Part one
•    Part deux

Sixers pick

Philadelphia 76ers (projected 28-54 by 538, tied for third pick): In every single one of these posts, I have dropped a “right on schedule,” meaning that the Sixers had the best odds at the top pick. And then this guy started, you know, playing basketball. In case you haven’t heard, he plays it pretty well:

For the last few months, the Sixers have been a downright average NBA team. This counts as substantial progress around here. Check out the numbers since December 1st:

•    10-12 record
•    -2.2 net rating (17th out of 30)
•    103.2 defensive rating (5th out of 30)

The playoffs still feel like a reach, but I also thought the over-under of 27.5 wins was crazy and now it certainly isn’t. The lottery picture is a mess, partially because the race for the Western Conference eight seed is a mess. The Sixers (7th to last) are 2.5 games ahead of Miami (2nd to last) and 2 games back of Portland (11th to last).

If the Sixers keep playing like this, they have a chance to jump some teams. The good news about that is…

Sacramento Kings (projected 32-50 by 538, eighth pick): Sam Hinkie bought a little insurance in the still preposterous Nik Stauskas trade. The Kings are 2-8 in their last 10 games and there are two reasons to believe that slide will continue:

1.    Rudy Gay unfortunately tore his Achilles last night. Before you say “Rudy Gay isn’t that good!,” he has been an important piece for Sacramento. He’s the only Kings rotation player sporting a positive point differential, and without him on the floor, they’re getting outscored by 10 points per 100 possessions. That’s a lot.

2.    At 16-25, the Kings are about to embark on an eight-game road trip: At Memphis, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Indiana, Charlotte, Philly, and Houston. Yikes.

As a reminder, if the Kings first-round selection falls within the top-10 and it is higher than where the Sixers finish, those draft picks will be swapped. And while that looked like a remote possibility a month ago, you bet that is in play now.

Lakers pick (protected 1-3)

Los Angeles Lakers (projected 27-55 by 538, second pick): The first draft-pick tracker (Are the Lakers too good?) feels pretty dated a few months later. The Lakers have been the anti-Sixers, with a strong start followed by a huge nosedive. Since December 1st, Los Angeles has clearly been the worst team in the NBA along with Brooklyn.

It feels like we’re headed for the Lakers representative at the lottery (maybe Mitch Kupchak again) sweating bullets on national television for a third straight year.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann