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Playing for ping pong balls

Waiting for a flight to Philly, out of Milwaukee, where last night the 76ers played very well and beat the Milwaukee Bucks. Not too many folks were happy about this victory, of course, because more losses means more ping-pong balls, and more ping-pong balls means better odds in the NBA Draft Lottery, and a lower finish means a better draft pick.

So, with that in mind, let's take a look at where the Sixers currently reside in the race for the bottom. And (roughly estimating), where they'll likely reside on April 15, when this season finally comes to an end. I'm just pulling these numbers, so if there's an error or glitch somewhere, or if I overlooked something, feel free to let me know.

First, here's a glance at the NBA's bottom standings as of this morning (we're not including the fringe playoff teams like the Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets because they have enough wins -- like 34 or so -- to not be real contenders for some of these bottom spots):

30. New Jersey Nets (8-63; .113)

29. Minnesota Timberwolves (14-58; .194)

28. Golden State Warriors (20-51; .282)

27. Washington Wizards (21-49; .300)

26. Detroit Pistons (23-48; .324)

25. Sacramento Kings (24-48; .333)

24. Philadelphia 76ers (25-47; .347)

23. Indiana Pacers (26-46; .361)

22x. Los Angeles Clippers (26-45; .366)

22x. New York Knicks (26-45; .366)

Let's look at the remaining schedule for each one of these teams.

The Nets (8-63): vs. Detroit Pistons, at Chicago Bulls, vs. San Antonio Spurs, vs. Phoenix Suns, vs. New Orleans Hornets, at Washington Wizards, at Milwaukee Bucks, vs. Bulls, at Indiana Pacers, vs. Charlotte Bobcats, at Miami Heat. Rough Estimate of Nets final record: 10-72. (Yeah, they're going to make sure they don't set a new record for NBA's worst-ever record.)

The Timberwolves (14-58): at Orlando Magic, vs. Suns, vs. Sacramento Kings, vs. Miami, at Oklahoma City Thunder, vs. Golden State Warriors, vs. Los Angeles Lakers, at New Orleans, at San Antonio, vs. Detroit Pistons. Rough Estimate of Timberwolves final record: 17-65.

The Warriors (20-51): vs. Dallas Mavericks, at Los Angeles Clippers, at Utah Jazz, vs. New York Knicks, at Toronto Raptors, at Washington Wizards, at Minnesota, at Los Angeles Clippers, vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, vs. Jazz, at Portland Trail Blazers. Rough estimate of Warriors final record: 24-58.

The Wizards (21-49): at Charlotte Bobcats, vs. Utah Jazz, at Houston Rockets, at New Orleans Hornets, vs. Chicago Bulls, vs. New Jersey Nets, vs. Golden State Warriors, at Orlando Magic, at Boston Celtics, vs. Atlanta Hawks, at New York Knicks, vs. Indiana Pacers. Rough estimate of Wizards final record: 23-59.

The Pistons (23-48): at New Jersey Nets, vs. Chicago Bulls, vs. Miami Heat, vs. Phoenix Suns, at Atlanta Hawks, at 76ers, vs. Hawks, at Miami Heat, at Charlotte Bobcats, vs. Toronto Raptors, at Minnesota Timberwolves. Rough estimate of Pistons final record: 26-56.

The Kings (24-48): at Boston Celtics, at Cleveland Cavaliers, at Indiana Pacers, at Minnesota Timberwolves, vs. Portland Trail Blazers, vs. San Antonio Spurs, vs. Los Angeles Clippers, vs. Dallas Mavericks, vs. Houston Rockets, at Los Angeles Lakers. Rough estimate of Kings final record: 26-56.

The 76ers (25-47): vs. Atlanta Hawks, vs. Oklahoma City Thunder, at Charlotte Bobcats, vs. Toronto Raptors, vs. Detroit Pistons, at Miami Heat, vs. Milwaukee Bucks, at Memphis Grizzlies, vs. Miami Heat, at Orlando Magic. Rough estimate of Sixers final record: 28-54. (Don't be angry, but the way this season has gone, the Sixers can't do much right, even lose when they need to. They're going to pick up a few wins at the end against teams that won't be at full strength as guys rest for the playoffs. Last season the Sixers won at the Cleveland Cavaliers in the final regular season game and it's not crazy to think they'll win that game against Orlando if the seeds are set.)

The Pacers (26-46): vs Utah Jazz, at Atlanta Hawks, vs. Sacramento Kings, vs. Miami Heat, vs. Houston Rockets, vs. New York Knicks, at Cleveland Cavaliers, vs. New Jersey Nets, vs. Orlando Magic, at Washington Wizards. Rough estimate of Pacers final record: 30-52.

The Clippers (26-45): at Houston Rockets, vs. Golden State Warriors, at Milwaukee Bucks, at Toronto Raptors, at Denver Nuggets, vs. New York Knicks, vs. Portland Trail Blazers, at Sacramento Kings, vs. Golden State Warriors, vs. Dallas Mavericks, vs. Los Angeles Lakers. Rough estimate of Clippers final record: 31-51.

The Knicks (26-45): at Phoenix Suns, at Utah Lazz, at Portland Trail Blazers, at Golden State Warriors, at Los Angeles Clippers, vs. Boston Celtics, at Indiana Pacers, at Orlando Magic, vs. Miami Heat, vs. Washington Wizards, at Toronto Raptors. Rough estimate of Knicks final record: 32-50. (Knicks have been playing .500 ball as of late and let's just assume it continues through the end of the season.)

Okay, so using those (seriously rough) estimates of final records, let's put together a new bottom standings:

1 (30th). New Jersey Nets (10-72)

2 (29th). Minnesota Timberwolves (17-65)

3 (28th). Washington Wizards (23-59)

4 (27th). Golden State Warriors (24-58)

5x (26th). Detroit Pistons (26-56)

5x (26th). Sacramento Kings (26-56)

7 (24th). Philadelphia 76ers (28-54)

8 (23th). Indiana Pacers (30-52)

9 (22nd). Los Angeles Clippers (31-51)

10 (21st). New York Knicks (32-50)

Here's a quick synopsis of the NBA Draft Lottery rules (from Wiki, what a wonderful website): "In the current rules, 14 non-playoff teams participate in the Draft Lottery. The lottery is weighted so that the team with the worst record has the best chance to obtain higher draft pick. The lottery process determines the first three picks of the draft. The rest of the first-round picks draft order is in reverse order of the teams' win-loss record. The lottery does not determine the draft order in the second round or the subsequent round of the draft."

If you look at the predicted finish for the Sixers (and, again, I'm not a math major), they'll have the 7th-worst record in the NBA, which will give them an outside -- very outside -- chance at landing the No. 1 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. Here's what the Sixers odds would be, if they did finish with that 7th-worst spot (these odds are if there are no ties, just clean and simple. Obviously above there is -- hypothetically -- one tie between the Pistons and Kings, but that wouldn't drastically alter the Sixers odds in the NBA Draft Lottery):

76ers odds of landing No. 1 pick: 4.3 percent

76ers odds of landing No. 2 pick: 4.9 percent

76ers odds of landing No. 3 pick: 5.9 percent

After these top three spots being drawn, positions 4-14 are assigned based on weakness of record, meaning if odds hold true, the Sixers would likely end up with the 7th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. If odds don't hold true (and another team jumps into the top 3 spots), the Sixers have a 72.4 percent chance (according to the odds chart) of still holding onto the 8th spot.

In 1993, the Orlando Magic won the No. 1 pick with a 1.52 percent chance of doing so. In 2000, the New Jersey Nets won the No. 1 pick with a 4.40 percent chance. In 2007, the Portland Trail Blazers won the No. 1 pick with a 5.30 percent chance. And in 2008, the Chicago Bulls won the No. 1 pick (and Derrick Rose) with a 1.70 percent chance.

Hopefully all this makes sense.

Quick-hit synopsis: Odds are that the 76ers will have a draft pick somewhere around 5th to 9th in the 2010 NBA Draft -- depending on the results of their final 10 games. And they still hold an outside chance of landing a Top-3 pick.

Time to fly out of Milwaukee ...