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May 17, 2017

Ten Sixers thoughts following the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery

The NBA Draft Lottery is my favorite television program each year going away (sorry, “Billions”). The tension and stakes that go along with the simple act of Mark Tatum revealing those damn envelopes can’t be beat. For Sixers fans and fans of other teams who are prominently involved in the lottery, those few minutes are absolute torture.

That’s why I love it.

It was a good night in Manhattan for the three early 1980s powers as the Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and your Philadelphia 76ers went 1-2-3. Let’s get Dick Stockton back announcing the finals for old times’ sake! Here are ten Sixers-centric thoughts I have following the best show on TV:

1. The well-run teams were rewarded

Even if it wasn’t for No. 1 overall, the pick swap happened. The pick swap, The Process’ processiest feature, actually happened. This then led to Nik Stauskas dethroning Joel Embiid for Sixers tweet of the year in a Douglas-Tyson level upset:

This is why you negotiate hard during trade discussions. This is why you ask for everything possible, because the there is always a chance that the other team will give you an extra goodie in desperation. You just never know what is going to happen. I gave Sam Hinkie an A the day that the Sixers-Kings trade went down two years ago, and here is the tl;dr version:

At minimum he got Stauskas and another first rounder for taking on a couple of contracts that aren’t burdensome to the Sixers at all. In the same transaction, he also bet against the Sacramento Kings. Hinkie did a good thing here.

Stauskas hasn’t really lived up to his lottery pick status, but he was only one part of the trade. Hinkie also bought chances to land a star player for short-term cap space, and the Sixers were able to jump from the fifth to the third pick because of it. That unprotected 2019 pick, the best part of the deal, isn’t going anywhere either.

I don’t believe in karma or “the basketball gods,” but two teams that made lopsided trades were rewarded. Boston likely landed Markelle Fultz because the Brooklyn Nets mortgaged their future for an aging core that really had no chance of competing.

The teams dealing from a position of strength had a good night.

2. Well, with the exception of the Lakers

The lottery isn’t rigged, even if I will laugh at a snarky comment or hundred. But even with the understanding that there is no frozen envelope or weighted lottery ball, I never felt like Magic Johnson was walking out of that room minus a couple of first-round picks even if there was better than a coin-flip chance that it would happen. Falling out of the Top-3 could’ve crippled the Lakers.

Still, Los Angeles was pretty darn lucky to ride this thing out to the end. Doing some quick math, they had a 21.4 percent chance of keeping their pick of the outset of the three lotteries and they succeeded. It’s about time something nice happened to that franchise.

I tweet the GIF out when something bad happens to them, so fair is fair:

3. This likely means two more years of lottery parties

We still have an offseason to go through, but barring the Lakers trading a Lonzo Ball package for Paul George (why would they do that if George will come in free agency?), it doesn’t seem likely that Los Angeles is going to improve all that much next season. And that is good news for Xfinity Live, because the Rights to Ricky Sanchez Lottery Party should return for two more years with unprotected picks from the Lakers and Kings in the pipeline.

Get acquainted with Luka Doncic and Michael Porter. There's a chance we're talking about them at this time next year:

4. Good thing, because that event has taken on a life of its own

I remember the first lottery party in 2014 at Miller’s Ale House in the Northeast. The bar was packed with something like 200 people and I thought it was amazing and also ridiculous.

Fast-forward three years later and Xfinity Live is packed to the gills, that first gathering on 1990s MLB-level steroids. The whole thing is absurd, but the level of passion is pretty unique.

5. The Sixers could be faced with the age-old question

Best Player Available vs. Fit? A lot can change by the time the draft rolls around, but my educated guess at this point is that Fultz (Boston) and Ball (Lakers) will be off the board when the Sixers are up at 3.

Most people (including myself) would say that Kansas swingman Josh Jackson is the next best player on the board. Jackson is a wonderful prospect who plays tremendous perimeter defense, blocks shots, gets steals, passes well at 6’8”, and rebounds. There is a lot to like with his game.

But Jackson has one question mark coming into the NBA, and it’s a biggie. Despite the fact that he shot 38 percent from three at Kansas in a small sample, there are reasons to be skeptical of his shot mechanics moving forward. That, and the fact that he managed just 57 percent from the free-throw line.

In today’s NBA, wings need to be able to make threes. And for the Sixers, with Ben Simmons in the fold as the de facto point guard, shooting is even more critical at those spots. Would the front office pass on Jackson for someone like Malik Monk because of the shooting gap? Brett Brown has talked about taking fit more into consideration, and Bryan Colangelo did so last night as well:

6. Boston might get its star

Beware of the Celtics.

Isaiah Thomas gets to be a folk hero for another few days until LeBron James quickly ends Boston’s season, and his reward is a No. 1 overall pick who plays the same position. This was a huge night for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. Fultz is an elite talent that the Sixers would’ve loved to bring to Philly, and he gives them an upside that their 80 (approx.) solid role players don’t quite have.

7. Joel Embiid is the best

The casual manner in which JoJo clowned a nervous Magic Johnson was as good as it gets. He needs to stay on the court, but man, this is already the best personality in the NBA… and he has already fully embraced Philadelphia! That’s pretty darn cool if you ask me:

It sounds like Embiid will be on the floor working out this entire summer, which is good news. Just try to stay healthy, big fella.

8. The lottery has been good to the Sixers

Say what you want about the Sixers, but they make it to the commercial break.

We wrote about this subject the other day, and the trend continued on Tuesday night. Hinkie was all about being comfortable with some uncertainty, and uncertainty has actually treated the Sixers pretty well in this specific regard. This will be their fourth consecutive Top-3 overall draft pick.

9. How will this affect free agency and roster construction?

Let’s say the pick is Jackson as opposed to a guard. Are the Sixers more likely to aggressively target a certain expensive North Philly native in free agency? Does someone like Jackson make a player like Robert Covington more expendable now that he’s due a major raise? And if the Sixers do target a player like Monk, would it be worth trading back a few spots and finding some extra value?

Maybe the answer to all of those questions is no. But I do think the Sixers will have to at least kick them around.

10. Josh Harris went out of his way to thank Sam Hinkie?

You know what, let’s not even go there.

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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