The Sixers Absolutely Need to Lose Tonight. The Problem? So Do Their Opponents.

In a season-ending showdown that's more about a draft pick than basketball, it's in both teams' best interests to lose. Ain't basketball in the tanking era grand?


Photo illustration | Alyse Moyer; Photo credits, from left: Nerlens Noel (Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports), Franklin (David Dow, NBA Photos ), Brett Brown (Jason Getz, USA Today Sports) and Joel Embiid (Bill Streicher, USA Today Sports).


Last month, we told you how to root for the tanking Sixers the rest of the season. It wasn’t just about watching the team develop, but rooting for certain other teams so that protected draft picks would convey to the Sixers.

Well, you didn’t root hard enough. It’s the last day of the NBA regular season, and there is a good chance the Sixers will not get any of the three first-round draft picks they acquired in trades.

It’s quite complicated, but Derek Bodner has continued to update his NBA draft pick tracker to simplify things for fans. Here’s a summary of what’s going on with the four picks the Sixers could have received this year.

The Sixers will not get the Oklahoma City Thunder‘s first round pick this season. The lowest the Thunder can finish is 18th. That pick is top-18 protected. It will stay with the Thunder this year. (It’s top-15 protected again the next two seasons; if it doesn’t convey by then, it turns into two second-round picks.) The Lakers are locked into the fourth-worst record. Their pick is top-5 protected and there’s just a pretty small 17.2 percent chance two teams with better records jump to the top 3 via the draft lottery and bounce the Lakers back to sixth.

But there is a chance the Sixers will get a pick from Miami. It’s top-10 protected. The Heat currently sit in 10th place. But if the Sixers lose tonight, and the Nets lose to Orlando, Miami and Brooklyn will be tied for 10th. A coin flip will determine which team will pick 11th if neither move into the top three in the lottery. So the Heat need to lose, Brooklyn needs to lose and the Heat need to lose a coinflip against the Nets.

The Sixers host the Heat tonight.

This puts them in an odd scenario. NBA players might not try sometimes, but they clearly don’t want to lose. But the Sixers need to drop tonight’s season finale if they want to maximize their chances of getting that draft pick. And their opponent, the Heat, need to drop tonight’s game if they want to maximize their chances of retaining that pick. Business Insider breaks down the odds:

  • Miami loses: 90.9% chance they keep their pick
  • Miami wins, Brooklyn loses: 46.9% chance they keep their pick (90.9% chance if they win coin toss, 2.9% chance if they lose the coin toss)
  • Miami wins, Brooklyn wins: 90.9% chance they keep their pick

It stinks to root for your favorite team to lose, but that’s what Sixers fans should be doing tonight. A Sixers loss and a Knicks win would even tie them for the No. 2 spot in draft — giving them a better shot at winning the first overall pick.

So, yeah. If you like the Sixers, you ought to be rooting for the Heat tonight. Yes, it’s a strange time to be a Philly sports fan.

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