With protected draft picks and draft lottery ping pong balls at stake, losing isn’t just the preferred outcome for some teams — it’s likely to be the attempted strategy.
That’s especially true when looking at the contest between the Heat and the Sixers.
The Sixers want to lose to potentially gain a share of the league’s second-worst record, which would improve their draft lottery chances. The Heat need to lose, in order to ensure they’ll keep their draft pick. If it lands outside the top 10, it will go (ironically enough) to the Sixers.
Tom Ziller of SB Nation has the full breakdown of Miami’s situation:
If the Heat’s pick falls to No. 11 or later, it goes to Philadelphia. They currently have the 10th worst record in basketball. If the Heat lose on Wednesday, they will almost assuredly keep their pick. If they win and the Nets lose, Miami and Brooklyn would tie for the league’s 10th worst record. A coin flip — yes, a coin flip — would determine which team is seeding No. 10 in the lottery and which team is No. 11. Given how unlikely it is either team or anyone behind them would leap into the top three, chances are the loser of that coin flip would end up with the No. 11 pick. If that’s Miami, the pick goes to the Sixers.
So Miami beats the Sixers and it potentially loses its pick to the Sixers, depending on the Nets result and the coin flip. Miami loses to the Sixers and it almost assuredly keeps its pick.
It’s unclear what type of madness, if any, we might see unleashed in this game. We can only hope we get something similar to what we saw in 2006, when Mark Madsen launched seven three-pointers in a nine-minute span in the Timberwolves’ final game of that season.
Minnesota needed to lose in order to make sure it didn’t lose a protected draft pick — which is the same situation the Heat are in tonight.