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April 07, 2015

Sixers in danger of not getting any of their extra first-rounders this year

After a rough week, Miami and Oklahoma City have their work cut out if the picks are going to convey

It’s not very often that Sam Hinkie lets the media past the parted hair and into his head to reveal what he’s specifically thinking, but when the probability of draft pick conveyance came up after the trade deadline in late February, the Sixers general manager found the subject harmless enough to humor us.

“I’ll tell you gut feels — we have some sophisticated techniques [that simulate draft pick probability] — but to your point, a big trade happens and Goran Dragic goes to Miami and things obviously change in a certain direction. My guess is the Lakers pick is very unlikely to convey this year for a whole host of reasons. My guess the Oklahoma City pick, I would give it loosely 30-70 odds of conveying this year. I think it’s much more likely to convey next year, and I think the Miami pick is increasingly likely to convey.”

We know that the Sixers’ own first-rounder isn’t going anywhere, as the final stench of the Arnett Moultrie fiasco will be shipped up to Boston in the form of a couple second-round picks. If the status quo at the league’s bottom is kept, the selection will have a 96 percent chance of landing in the top five picks. Not only was it the best movie Chris Rock has ever made (though “Head of State” has its moments as a cable flick), top five will also be a useful place at the 2015 NBA Draft. After watching Justise Winslow take his game to another level in the NCAA Tournament, there are going to be a few intriguing prospects even at the fifth pick. For a worst-case scenario, it's not all that bad.

That leaves the other three potential first-rounders, which just suffered a brutal week in the conveyance department. Hinkie isn’t one to provide false hope like the previous regime was guilty of at times, but there’s a chance all three picks could be pushed back another year. Let’s take a quick look at them individually:

Lakers Pick

Protection: Top-5

What’s the deal? With the Magic winning two games in a row recently, it looks increasingly likely that the Sixers will finish with the league’s third-worst record and the Lakers will come in fourth. If that turns out to be the case, Lakers fans will still have to sweat out lottery night big time. Even these guys:

That’s because there’s a 17.2 percent chance the pick conveys, which would require two teams behind the Lakers to jump them into the draft’s top-three slots. Unfortunately for the Sixers, that only leaves one spot left at the top of the draft. If you wanted to spin the situation in a positive manner, I like to think of this selection as an insurance policy if the lottery turns out a little wonky. If a couple of teams at the back of the lottery leap the Sixers, maybe they’ll get both the fifth and sixth picks as a consolation prize. That would obviously soften the blow of dropping quite a bit.

Should the Sixers want it now? Yes, although of the three picks, I don’t think this one’s value changes all that much next year. With Kobe Bryant’s absurd contract still weighing down the Lakers’ books and the Western Conference still a competitive bloodbath (Utah and New Orleans are on the rise, too), I can’t imagine the Lakers anywhere else but the lottery again even if they make some solid free agent signings. Next year’s pick would also only be top-3 protected.

Heat Pick

Protection: Top-10

What’s the deal? Hinkie was most confident about this one, but Miami has been a trainwreck down the stretch, mostly due to Chris Bosh’s unexpected absence caused by a blood clot in his lung. At the time of the deadline, a Dragic-Wade-Deng-Bosh-Whiteside lineup felt like a shoo-in to make the playoffs. Similar to Kimmo Timonen’s season, Bosh will miss extended time. He’s done for the year.

The Heat’s epic Saturday collapse in the Motor City to the Pistons is the newest addition to their 2014-15 Wall of Shame, and they now sit at 34-43. Mind you they're still right in the thick of the playoff race. Eastern Conference basketball, everyone, catch the fever! I listen to Miami columnist Dan Le Batard’s radio show a lot, and yesterday was the first time they started seriously asking if the Heat are better off tanking for their pick. Luckily for the Sixers, Miami is going to try like hell to make the playoffs, even if it’s ultimately a fool’s errand. Here’s what Erik Spoelstra told the Palm Beach Post’s Jason Lieser about tanking:

 “We’re not wired that way. For better or worse, I’ve never even heard that in a conversation — thank God — in this building.”

The 2007-08 season would beg to differ, but I do think the Heat are going to make a run at the playoffs. Right now, they sit in tenth place from the bottom, which is essentially the cut-off point of where Hinkie and co. wants them to land. If Miami comes in at any number higher than 10 entering the lottery, the Sixers are in good shape regarding this pick. Anything lower, and the odds that it will convey are slim. Miami has a pretty favorable remaining schedule with four home games and one road trip to Philly of all places (where a victory will by waiting for them if necessary), and it starts tonight win an absolute must-win game against Charlotte. This is still doable with the three teams ahead of them all within a game, though considering the way the Heat are playing, it will be a challenge.

Should the Sixers want it now? Yes, primarily because I like this draft more than the next one. The Heat will likely have Bosh back next year, but the protection doesn’t change until 2016-17 (to completely unprotected), by which time Pat Riley will have loads of cap space to retool the team. Considering Miami’s lure as a free agent destination, I would definitely want this one now. As it sounds like the fans in Miami chant on a nightly basis, “Let’s Go Eat!”

Thunder Pick

Protection: Top-18

What’s the deal? Of course Serge Ibaka gets injured out of the blue and Kevin Durant becomes lost for the season. Originally, I thought the 30/70 estimate from Hinkie was very conservative, and for a while it looked like the pick would be handed over easily. After OKC lost four out of five games and the Wizards had a mini-resurgence in the past week, it appears as if the Thunder will finish in the dreaded 18th position. They’re two games back of the 19th-place Wizards with five to play.

The one sliver of hope? Washington plays four of their final five games on the road, starting tomorrow in Philly. Plus, they do have a couple of dates at Brooklyn and Indiana that could turn into a win-win situation with the Heat pick.

Should the Sixers want it now? Definitely. If OKC comes back at full strength next year, the pick will come in at closer to 30 than 19.