After lots of losing, 76ers hope to win big in lottery

  • By BRIAN MAHONEY
  • Tuesday, May 17, 2016 1:00am
  • Sports

NEW YORK — The Philadelphia 76ers lost plenty the previous two seasons, though never managed to lose the most.

This season, they finally fell all the way to the bottom.

The potential payoff comes Tuesday, when the 76ers have the best chance to win the NBA draft lottery — and could walk away with two top-four picks if the pingpong balls bounce their way.

“It’s a big day on Tuesday,” new president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “We’re going to know where we are and no matter how it comes out, we’re at least going to know where we stand and what we have to play with with respect to building this team.”

The Lakers and Celtics, the NBA’s most storied franchises, have the next-best odds of getting the No. 1 pick and the chance to draft the type of player who could get them back to the lofty positions they used to occupy.

But nobody is set up like the 76ers, who used to be regular winners themselves but have done nothing but lose — which seemed to be their plan — in recent years.

The team with the worst record normally has a 25 percent chance of winning the lottery, but the Sixers’ odds are even better. They have the right to swap picks with Sacramento from a trade involving Nik Stauskas, so adding the Kings’ 1.9 percent chance of moving up to No. 1, Philadelphia actually has a 26.9 percent chance.

“To win it is a euphoric feeling,” said Colangelo, who did just that 10 years ago with Toronto. “Obviously there’s a lot of chance involved. We have likely more chances than anybody else, which is a good thing.”

And there’s more: If the Lakers don’t remain in the top three, their selection would also go to Philadelphia, a pick the Lakers originally dealt to Phoenix for Steve Nash that the 76ers later acquired in another trade.

It makes lottery night the highlight of what’s been three miserable seasons for the 76ers.

“The actual day I’ll be nauseous. But I can’t wait,” 76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said.

The 14 teams that didn’t make the playoffs go to the lottery, which sets the top three picks. The remainder of the order is determined in inverse order of the teams’ records.

The Lakers had the No. 2 pick last year and are right back in the same spot in the lottery after going 17-65 in Kobe Bryant’s final season. The Celtics were a 48-win playoff team who will take the Brooklyn Nets’ spot on stage as part of the payment from the Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce trade in 2013.

The lottery debuted in 1985 when the Celtics, Lakers and 76ers were in the midst of claiming nine straight NBA championships, so any of them, with good history and strong fan bases, would be a welcome landing spot for this year’s top talent.

“Those are franchises that have won many championships. Those organizations, they’re big-time,” said Marquette center Henry Ellenson, an expected lottery pick. “And just playing for something like that, it would be something special.”

The Sixers, though, have been an embarrassment in recent years. They lost 26 straight games in 2013-14, then started 0-17 in 2014-15.

But they didn’t have the worst record in either season and last year that proved particularly costly, with Minnesota cashing in its 25 percent chance and getting Karl-Anthony Towns, the Rookie of the Year who appears to be a franchise player.

It’s unclear yet what the Sixers have, as they ended up with the No. 3 pick both times and drafted Joel Embiid — who still hasn’t played because of a foot injury — and Jahlil Okafor, who had some rocky times as a rookie.

Nobody was beating Philadelphia to the bottom this season, after an 0-18 start and 28-game skid spanning the previous season sent the Sixers to a 10-72 finish that was barely better than the worst ever in an 82-game schedule.

So they’re in great position for a shot at LSU’s Ben Simmons or Duke’s Brandon Ingram — or perhaps one of them and another building block.

The Sixers have been bad. Now they want to be lucky.

“It’s been a long time coming,” O’Neil said. “We’re finally going to get a chance to have some fun.”

More in Sports

Porter Nelson, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, signed his letter of intent to play baseball for Citrus College, a community college located in Glendora, California, on May 24, 2022. “I was pretty stoked. I didn’t think they were going to answer my email,” said Nelson about the college extending the offer. “They’re the dream for me.” Nelson plays center fielder, and intends to study kinesiology, he said. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
JDHS baseball player signs for California college

Porter Nelson, a senior at Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé, signed his… Continue reading

JDHS players and fans recognized seniors Tias Carney, Sam Marnon, Callan Smith, Zayden Schijvens, Samuel Holst, Andre Peirovi, Owen Costello, Ahmed Mezel, Solomon Alper, Will Rehfeldt and Ben Goldstein during senior night on May 22, 2022. They’ll play their final high school games together this week at the state tournament in Anchorage. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Juneau soccer teams celebrate their seniors

For many, their final high school games come this week at the state tournament.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Coaches’ Corner: JDHS boys basketball

Season-end awards announced.

Blake Plummer, left, and Sophia Pugh, both JDHS girls soccer players, sign their letters of intent to play for Peninsula College and the Pratt Institute respectively on May 9, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
JDHS soccer players sign for college teams on opposite coasts

The two have played together for years, playing key roles for JDHS.

A ball streaks down the lane at an unbroken formation of pins at Pinz, Juneau’s bowling alley, on May 5, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
Let the good times roll: Management brings new life to an old bowling alley

“If you’re throwing a ball down a lane and having a good time, you’re bowling.”

The Thunder Mountain High School boys basketball team on Sunday held its annual year-end banquet. At the banquet, players on both the junior varsity and varsity teams received individual awards.  (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
TMHS announces end-of-season awards

MVP, most improved and more.

JDHS player Gabe Cheng drives down the field with the ball during a tight game against TMHS on April 23, 2022. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire)
TMHS and JDHS tie 4-4 in fierce match

It’s been a bruising and competitive season so far.