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Why no one wants to win Heat vs. Sixers

We could be in for a special tanking treat on Wednesday.

Strange things happen on the final day of the NBA regular season. Because the draft is both so important and so wonky, there are just a ton of competing interests. Many teams have reason to try to win their season finale -- four teams are playing for opportunities to get into the playoffs, five more teams are playing for seeds. Others are just finishing out the string before a postseason run; some teams are locked into their lottery spots and want to give the fans one last victory to cheer. A few select teams would rather lose in order to ensure their preferred spots in the lottery.

Then there are the Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.

The Heat were eliminated from playoff contention on Tuesday. The 76ers were eliminated in, uh, August or so. Both teams are thus in the lottery and, per tradition, would rather lose than win to ensure improved lottery odds. With a loss, Philly could potentially grab a share of the second-worst record, given a Knicks win. But a Knicks win is always unlikely. Miami can ensure the 10th-worst record with a loss, though the difference between the 10th pick and potentially a 50/50 shot at the 11th pick (the result if Miami wins) is rather miniscule. In actual lottery positioning, there's relatively little at stake for Philly and Miami.

Except that Miami owes Philly its pick if it lands outside the top 10.


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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 random drawing -- yes, a random drawing -- 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.

Of course, nothing is simple with the Sixers. If the pick does not convey this year, it is top-10 protected in 2016 and then unprotected in 2017. Could Philadelphia prefer to defer that pick until 2017, given its long-term rebuild plan and Miami's rough outlook?

My bet is that you'd rather have a sure thing No. 11 pick now in a good draft than a mystery first-round two years out. And my bet is that Miami desperately wants to keep its pick and convey a pick in the 20s next year instead. So we're possibly in for a full-on tankfest on Wednesday. I, for one, can't wait.

Hat tip to Joe Goodman for pointing out the magical potential of this matchup.