The Philadelphia 76ers finally did it. After three years of relentless tanking they have finally secured the worst record in the league. Now, with five games remaining they have a different goal. Win just one game or go down as one of the worst teams in NBA history. Currently their record stands at 9-68 with five games to play. The NBA record for fewest wins in an 82 game season is held by the 1973 76ers.
Putting the futility of the 76ers in context is difficult but not impossible. Last year the New Orleans Pelicans won 45 games and secured the eighth and final playoff spot. Since trading away Jrue Holiday (in an apparent heist) during the 2013 NBA Draft the Sixers have won 46 games. Total. 46-195 over the course of three seasons while winning every single transaction.
However, despite securing the worst record in the league Philadelphia has a reason to tank when playing the Pelicans. Thanks to a salary dump last summer the Sixers own a pick swap, and therefore the lottery balls, of the Sacramento Kings. Losing to the Pelicans increases the probability that New Orleans may tie or pass the Kings, adding to the Sixers odds to finally turn all that tanking into the first overall pick.
New Orleans is more than likely to oblige. While the Sixers are a pathetic 1-23 since the All-Star Break the Pels are an almost respectable 9-14. A soft schedule (which only gets softer) has the Pelicans posting the 16th best defensive rating since February 14th. The offense has not been so lucky, ranking 25th. Philly is 29th on both sides of the ball in that same time span. Philly doesn't do much of anything well at this point but they play really fast so there are sure to be plenty of opportunities for failure by both squads.
Keys to Victory
Attack the Glass: Philadelphia is terrible at many things but rebounding stands out. The Sixers are collecting just 44.3% of available rebounds since the All-Star break. While most of the Pelican roster is on the mend three different centers are still healthy. Omer Asik (if he plays more than four minutes), Alexis Ajinca, and Kendrick Perkins should have a field day creating additional possessions.
Run the Break: 15.9% of opponent possessions come in transition against the Sixers, the highest rate in the NBA. (The Pelicans are actually 1st in the league at limiting transition opportunities at 11.8%.) While Anthony Davis is recovering three of the Pelicans most efficient players on the fast break will play; Luke Babbitt, Dante Cunningham, and Jordan Hamilton.
Move the Ball: In the last three games the Pelicans have 27, 29, and 31 assists. Passes themselves have not particularly increased; the Pels in that span are averaging just 279 passes and rank 25th in the league by that metric. They are not particularly exceptional in potential assists either, ranking 13th. However, thanks to some hot shooting (42.6% behind the arc) New Orleans ranks second in assists. There's a mirage occurring here.
However, oh boy to I enjoy watching Tim Frazier pass. So let that man cook.
What: New Orleans Pelicans at Philadelphia 76ers
Where: Wells Fargo Center
When: April 5th, 6:00 PM
How: FSNO, WRNO 99.5 FM