The Lakers’ season hasn’t exactly gone to plan. Looking strong going into the New Year, the team looked like they were a definite lock for a top-5 seed in a packed Western Conference. Yes, they looked shaky from time-to-time, but were capable of matching the very best teams that the NBA had to offer.
As we already know, the Lakers season has crashed and burned since. The purple and gold sit 2-7 off the back of the All-Star break, and their postseason hopes look bleak. Playoff-mode didn’t exactly activate, did it? A positive of this is the opportunity to add a valuable asset through the 2019 NBA Draft. This asset may be in the form of a draft pick itself that could be used as trade bait, or through a promising young player that could be acquired.
At present time, the Lakers possess the 10th worst record in the league, joint with the Charlotte Hornets. Such position gives the team a 11.7% chance of breaking into the top-4 of the draft. A draft that hosts new changes implemented by the NBA, in an attempt to halt tanking for the league’s worst teams.
The new system refuses to reward teams that are solely built to lose games, and advantages teams that win around 30 games, who now see higher odds of landing a top pick. Winning 30 games is exactly where the Lakers sit at the moment. If the team slip down one spot to 9th, the chances of a top-4 pick pretty much double. Additionally, if the team somehow do so bad in the remaining games and hold the 7th/8th worst record, a top-4 pick shoots to circa 30%.
The higher draft pick, the better it is for the franchise. With such pick, the Lakers would gain a valuable trade asset should they enter a bidding war in the summer to acquire Anthony Davis, or go in a different direction to lure additional talent via trade to fill out the roster.
Alternatively, the Lakers could look to add another young piece to the roster. The more loses accumulated results in a higher chance of landing an impact player, in theory. The Lakers have drafted extremely well over recent years, so if the latter, the team must fancy their chances of a solid addition should they maintain a top-10 pick.
Most Laker fans can’t believe that the team find themselves in this situation, looking to tank yet again. Apart from last season, the franchise have been aiming for high draft picks each year since the 2013/14 campaign. Whilst this clearly frustrates fans at present time, what does a few more wins do for the franchise at this stage? The playoffs are pretty much out of sight now, so it makes sense to rack up the losses.
A recent report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports suggests that the franchise may be looking to shut the season down and prepare for the draft. Haynes states that the Lakers’ front office and LeBron James’ camp have agreed on a minutes restriction for the remainder of the season. Additionally, James may sit out when the team play back-to-backs.
Furthermore, on Saturday the Lakers officially announced that Brandon Ingram is expected to miss the remainder of the season due to a Deep Venous Thrombosis (DVT) in his arm. There is also speculation surrounding Lonzo Ball, with various reports suggesting that he may be the next player that the Lakers shut down.
It does make sense at this stage for the Lakers to embrace the tank. There is a significant enough incentive to do so.
By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)