Julius Erving is the most iconic superstar in Sixers history, and tonight he’ll try and bring luck to the Sixers in finding their next one when he represents the team at the NBA lottery.
“Dr. J is one of the most revered and legendary figures in the history of the Philadelphia 76ers and the National Basketball Association, so it is fitting that he represent us at the podium on this exciting night,” said Sixers CEO Scott O’Neil. “As we build for the future, we are thrilled to have a key part of our past with us to bring the team good luck during tomorrow night’s lottery.”
The Sixers are second in lottery odds, with a 19.9-percent chance of landing No. 1 and a 55.8-percent chance of landing in the top three. They also have New Orleans’ 10th-spot pick in the lottery, with a 1.1-percent chance of No. 1 overall and a 4.4-percent chance at a top-three pick.
The draft lottery is a night some teams appeared to be aiming toward for months during a season that featured plenty of talking about tanking.
The winner gets the No. 1 pick in next month’s draft, when an Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker might make this season’s misery worth it.
It’s a potential make-or-break night for some teams, which is why a program about the results of a random drawing ends up as the prime-time lead-in for Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals.
”To me it’s part of the mystery and part of the enjoyment in seeing who’s right, who’s wrong,” commissioner Adam Silver said recently.
”Will these perceived great players coming into the draft really be in a position to turn around teams? So it’s part of the fun.”
The Bucks and 76ers sure are enjoying it, and trying to get their fans in on the good times. There’s a viewing party in Milwaukee where all fans get a pingpong ball. The 76ers were giving away a trip to New York for the actual event.
Silver is aware of the tanking speculation and uneasy that fans might think NBA teams were willing to take their money without caring if they win the games. But he understands that teams sometimes need to rebuild, and that may mean going straight to the bottom if they think that’s the quickest route to the top.
”The jury is out on the strategy and I think that makes for good copy as well. I’m intrigued,” Silver said.
The Bucks have a 25 percent chance to win and give incoming new ownership a great welcoming gift. Philadelphia (19.9 percent), Orlando (15.6) and Utah (10.4) have the next-best chances, with longtime powerhouses Boston and the Lakers behind them after rare poor seasons.
But this was a season where for some teams, a job well done meant doing their jobs poorly. After a forgettable draft in 2013, this one is considered much more promising, good enough that some teams which knew they weren’t going to win decided they would be better off if they lost.
Philly owner Joshua Harris even called his team’s season a ”huge success” after its 19-63 record included a 26-game skid that matched the longest in NBA history. The Sixers may have topped the list, but they were hardly alone among suspected tankers this season.
”I thought it was pretty crazy that teams were doing that. But they’re saying this is going to be one of the toughest draft classes since 2003,” Indiana University star Noah Vonleh said.
That class produced LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, so if this draft really is that good, it’s hard to blame any teams for trying to get to the top of it.
The fact that so many did has sparked new calls to change the lottery process so as to not invite tanking. Silver said it will be looked at over the summer, but as the lottery turns 30, there isn’t a perfect idea for how to run it.
”I think for us, we’ve got to make sure we understand whether there’s an aberration here because of the perception of a particular draft class, whether indeed there is a better way of do it,” Silver said, ”because of course at the same time you want to properly align incentives, but the very purpose of the draft is to help the worst teams restock.”