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Ball Don't Lie

David Stern reminds 76ers fans that winning the draft lottery is a long shot even with the worst record

Kelly Dwyer
Ball Don't Lie

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Nothing is assured, Philly fans (Getty Images)

Last week, at the Beyond Sport Summit in Philadelphia that we discussed here, NBA commissioner David Stern was asked about the city’s hometown team. A team that, in the months following the disastrous Andrew Bynum Year and subsequent rebuilding on the fly by new general manager Sam Hinkie, decided to blow up the outfit and shoot for a complete and total overhaul.

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That overhaul could leave the Sixers with the fewest wins in the NBA in 2013-14, something the team (and a large section of their fan base) probably wouldn’t be averse to. Especially because it could leave them with the best shot at winning the NBA’s draft lottery in May, and a chance at selecting Andrew Wiggins.

Stern, though, wants to remind that the correlation between the worst record and the top pick is a slim one, indeed. From Roy Burton at Liberty Ballers:

"That is so... small," said Stern. "I hope they have a great season & don't have the chance for the No. 1 pick."

He's right, of course. Even if the Sixers finish with the worst record in the NBA next year, there's a 75 percent chance that might not land the top selection in the 2014 draft. In fact, there's a 35.7 percent possibility that the 76ers wouldn't end up with any of the first three picks.

We have to remind, once again, that the lottery works. All the strange internet hand-wringing over late season tanking leaves us boggled. Think of the two most notorious late-season tank jobs of the modern era – both the Boston Celtics and Milwaukee Bucks punting the last two months of the 2006-07 season in order to attempt to grab more lottery balls for Greg Oden and Kevin Durant (in that order). Once the lottery rolled around, both the Celtics and Bucks “fell” as far as they could in that year’s draft order, to fifth and sixth respectively. The lottery works, because nobody is assured anything, and any team that thinks that it’s assured a certain pick is off their rocker, with a GM that is soon to be out of a job.

The Philadelphia 76ers have punted 2013-14 already and we applaud them for that. It’s certainly better than paying near-luxury tax levels of money for a boring team that only topped out as a second round participant because Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah were injured for most of Chicago’s first round series against the Sixers in 2012.

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If the team happens upon Andrew Wiggins along the way? So be it. There’s a 75 percent chance that they won’t, even if the Sixers end up with the worst record in the league. The point is to gather assets, save money, and develop players, and Philly is well on its way toward all three.

The Sixers are going about this the right way, even if they don’t end up with the top pick in next year’s draft. And, most importantly, David Stern and the NBA have gone about this the right way – making a lottery win a hard statistical sell, while still encouraging most franchises to take big chances on a championship, rather than a steady, financially breaking even run as a Milwaukee Bucks-type mediocre outfit.

Fans aren’t dummies, and they appreciate as much. Even if it means the highlight of the Philadelphia 76ers’ 2013-14 season may come in mid-May, as they attempt to overcome those long odds for the top pick.

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