The Los Angeles Lakers are closing out yet another horrible season, on pace to break the franchise record for the worst record since their time in Los Angeles which spans 55 years and they’ll do so just one season after setting that same mark under coach Mike D’Antoni who led the team to a then franchise worst 27-55 record.
The way the NBA works there’s a draft that provides teams with the worst records, those teams needing the most help, an opportunity to get the best available talent in the draft of college and international players.
The major problem in the case of the Lakers is they traded their pick to the Phoenix Suns in the Steve Nash trade back in 2012. Now, the pick is protected so the Lakers can still keep the pick but they have to land in the bottom 5 following the NBA draft lottery.
Here’s a quick look at the current lottery standings courtesy of tankathon.com.
It appears that the Lakers are in a good place, sitting in their current 4th position, 6 games ahead of Sacramento at 6th and 2 games ahead of 5th place Orlando.
Since the Lakers just have to remain in the top 5 it would appear to many the Lakers are in good shape, Right?
Wrong. They are most definitely not in good shape if they fall to 5th.
The Lakers currently hold the 4th spot in the lottery standings which holds an
84 percent 82.8 percent chance of staying in the top 5 as it requires 2 teams to jump over them and win one of the top 3 spots in the lottery which is unlikely to happen. The odds of 2 teams leaping over the number 4 team in the lottery is about 1 in 6.
If the Lakers drop just 1 spot to 5, the spot that is currently held by the Orlando Magic, those odds to stay in the top 5 are greatly reduced, down to
64 percent 55.6 percent because unlike the 4th spot where 2 teams have to win a top 3 spot and leap over the Lakers, only 1 team will need to do so at the 5th spot. The odds of 1 team jumping the 5th team in the lottery is just 1 in 3.
Now, many of you might think that even in the 5th position and its
64 55.6 percent chance to remain in the top 5 is a pretty safe position to be in, after all, it’s 64 55.6 percent; except, when you look at the history of the draft and see how it has actually shaken out it provides a different picture.
In 7 of the last 8 NBA drafts a team with a 6th or higher spot (6th to 14th) has won one of the 3 spots in the lottery. If that happens again this year they’ll push out whichever team is in the that 5th position which the Lakers cannot afford to happen.
If we go back 25 years, starting when the NBA changed to the current lottery format, 15 of the last 25 years a team ranked 6 or higher (6th through 14th) has landed a top 3 spot.
That’s 60 percent of the time.
The Lakers have 7 games remaining and as Lakers fans it means that they will have to cheer for the Lakers to lose against the Clippers twice, the Nuggets, Wolves, Mavs and back to back games against the Kings to close out the season.
I know that is counter-intuitive as fans of a team, to cheer for the opposing team, but it’s what’s best for the franchise, especially considering how precarious the 5th position in the lottery would be for the Lakers.
A point that solidifies our irregular way of thinking and explains why it is so crucial that the Lakers do not fall out of the top 5 and lose their draft pick is that every championship that the Lakers have won over the 55 years which is their entire time the franchise has been in Los Angeles, included a star player that was drafted by the Lakers.
The Lakers drafted Jerry West with the 1st overall pick in 1960.
Magic Johnson was taken with the 1st overall pick in 1979.
And Kobe Bryant was taken with the 13th pick in 1996, via Charlotte’s pick.
Looking at those numbers for team picking in the 5th spot in lottery is frightening and has to be avoided by the Lakers at all cost because again, they don’t just drop a few spots in the draft order, they lose their pick entirely.
At least last season the Lakers were compensated for their horrible season by receiving the 7th pick in the draft and taking Julius Randle.
In addition to Randle, the Lakers made great work of scouting by getting the steal of the draft with Jordan Clarkson who they picked up with the 46th pick.
Randle and Clarkson are a nice start for a rebuild, but much more help is needed for the Lakers to get anywhere near back to championship contention and it is why they are in desperate need of this year’s lottery pick that must be kept at all costs.
The cost in this case is the Lakers losing out to close their season. Considering the consequences they’ll face if they win any of these last 7 games by losing their lottery pick, that is a price worth paying.