The Philadelphia 76ers were playing for a No. 1 draft pick virtually all year. By that measure, the Sixers lost big in the NBA draft lottery on May 20, as all their historic losing didn't even get them in the top two. Yet while the Cleveland Cavaliers won another unlikely draft lottery, the Sixers still got what they wanted by settling in the top three, although having the No. 3 pick has its risks.
The Sixers landed in the top three with the Cavaliers and Milwaukee Bucks, which had to make them feel confident at first. Since the Bucks had the top odds to win the NBA draft lottery, and since the team with the best odds rarely wins, the Sixers were in a good place with the second best chance. And while Cleveland had leaped into the top three, the fact it had the No. 1 pick two out of the last three years had to rule it out -- on paper anyway.
Philadelphia found out its fate right away in the final act of the lottery, as it received the No. 3 slot. Milwaukee then settled for No. 2, putting Cleveland at No. 1 yet again after all. The Cavaliers will now have the first choice between Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker -- and once the Bucks take a second player from that group, the Sixers will likely get whoever is left.
In that regard, the Sixers will really be letting the Cavaliers and Bucks choose for them. Unless Philadelphia becomes enamored with someone else, like Julius Randle or Australia's Dante Exum, it should just take whomever Cleveland and Milwaukee passes over from the projected top three. Of course, while this might make things easier, it would have been nicer for the Sixers to control their own destiny.
For all the Sixers know, the NBA draft lottery results might be perfect for them, no matter who they pick. Getting anyone in the Parker-Wiggins-Embiid group still looks like a win, plus Philadelphia has the No. 10 pick from the New Orleans Pelicans as a backup. But it is the third pick that will define the Sixers' rebuilding project.
The accompanying slideshow lists the biggest recent hits and misses among those chosen third in the NBA draft, which shows how high and low the Sixers can go.