The Sixers are a quarter of the way through the NBA schedule, and they are well on their way to again reaching the organizational goal of the last four seasons: finishing at the bottom of the standings in order to increase the odds of reaching the top of the NBA draft lottery.
With many fans telling me that the Sixers' 4-18 record going into Thursday's game in New Orleans does not matter because winning games during a rebuilding project isn't important, Pingpong Ballapalooza is about to kick into high gear.
The heck with the games, it's all about positioning for the 2017 draft.
The Sixers already have played a league-high 15 of their 41 home games. They have yet to make either of their two extended West Coast swings or their Texas Two-Step, featuring a back-to-back at Dallas and San Antonio as part of a five-game road trip.
If the roster remains the same, the odds of the Sixers improving on their sub-.200 winning percentage do not look good even if No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons does recover from his broken foot in time to play this season.
There are several bad teams around them, but the Sixers should finish the season with no more than the third-fewest wins, in which case they would draft no lower than sixth.
With that in mind and with most NCAA teams having played about a third of their schedules, let's take a look at the early returns on some players who might become the next 19-year-old to come to South Philly to help the Sixers become good in 2019-20.
This is based on an amalgamation of various draft projections. Because the Sixers are overloading with guys 6-10 or taller, let's look at some of the top little men who could be available to them in the 2017 draft.
Fortunately for the Sixers, wings and guards appear to be the strength of the 2017 draft.
The list is in alphabetical order.
* Lonzo Ball, 6-6 point guard, UCLA: With a lot of national high school player of the year awards on his resume, Ball is off to a quick start with the Bruins by averaging 14.6 points, 9.3 assists and 5.0 rebounds through nine games. He had 14 points, seven assists and six rebounds to help UCLA upset former No. 1 Kentucky.
* Markelle Fultz, 6-4, point guard, Washington: The latest prospect from famed DeMatha Catholic High School in Hyattsville, Md. Fultz leads the struggling Huskies in points (23.0) and assists (5.9) through eight games. He is shooting 50.8 percent and 48.5 percent (16-for-33) on three-pointers. Fultz had 30-point games against Yale and Cal State Fullerton and in his last game put up 25 against eighth-ranked Gonzaga.
* De'Aaron Fox, 6-3, point guard, Kentucky: Fox has fit right in as the next great Kentucky field general. On a team where minutes are always shared, Fox is the only Wildcat averaging 30. He has averaged 15.1 points, 7.4 points and 5.4 rebounds through nine games. He's shooting just 42.7 percent and is 3-for-20 on three-pointers. Fox had 20 points and nine assists in the loss to Lonzo Ball and UCLA.
* Josh Jackson, 6-8, small forward, Kansas: He'll turn 20 in February, but Johnson is considered a true freshman. The highly touted McDonald's All-American has drawn comparisons to former Kansas one-and-done Andrew Wiggins. Through nine games, Jackson has averaged 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds. He's shooting 52.6 percent and scored 15 in an upset win over then-No. 1 Duke.
* Malik Monk, 6-3, combo guard, Kentucky: Playing off the ball is considered his natural position, but his size projects Monk as a NBA point. He's playing the two-guard at Kentucky and averaging a team-high 19.3 points while shooting 48.1 percent. He scored 24 against UCLA and 23 against Michigan State.
* Frank Ntilikina, 6-5, combo guard, France: Ntilikina jumped onto the radar with a strong showing at the NBA Basketball Without Borders Global Camp at the All-Star Game in Toronto in February. He's playing off the ball this season for Strasbourg and is averaging 5.7 points and 1.3 assists in the French Champions League. He is considered raw but with elite athleticism and a high NBA ceiling.
* Dennis Smith Jr., 6-2, point guard, North Carolina State: After tearing his ACL as a senior in high school, Smith is averaging 18.3 points and 4.9 assists for the Wolfpack. Smith had 24 points and eight assists against Saint Joseph's.
* Jayson Tatum, 6-8, small forward, Duke: In his second game, after missing the first eight with a foot injury, Tatum had 22 points and eight rebounds in a win against 21st-ranked Florida. In two games, the 2016 Gatorade National High School Athlete of the Year is averaging 16 points and eight rebounds.
If the Sixers' brain trust decides Simmons is going to be the primary ballhandler for this team going forward, the need for a wing or combo guard who can put the ball in the basket at a high rate takes precedence over an elite point guard.
Obviously, we won't know the 2017 draft order until the draft lottery, and things can change as the season goes on. But today, if Tatum or Jackson is on the board when the Sixers' pick comes, I'd take one of them.