The Los Angeles Lakers had one goal as the NBA regular season winded down, and that was to put themselves in the best possible position to retain their pick in the upcoming draft. After a promising 10-10 start, the Lakers came back down to Earth by losing 45 of their next 56 games. That won’t get it done in the competitive Western Conference, and with a protected pick that would go to the 76ers if it falls out of the top three, it would behoove Los Angeles to lose as many games as possible down the stretch.
Don’t tell that to the players though, as this ragtag group of Lakers have now strung off quite possibly the worst two-game winning streak in the franchise’s history. After a surprising victory over the Grizzlies in Staples on Sunday, the Lakers traveled to San Antonio where they shocked the Spurs in a 102-95 victory. The Lakers led wire-to-wire in the AT&T Center, bolting out to a 31-14 lead after the first quarter and never looking back. The loss puts LA a full game ahead of the Phoenix Suns with just four games remaining on their schedule.
Management has tried their best to drive this tank all the way to the top of the lottery. They shut down Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov weeks ago (may have just been better to play them big minutes instead). D’Angelo Russell doesn’t look like he will play another game this season due to “knee soreness”. Nick Young has been shut down. Brandon Ingram was placed on a “minutes restriction” and then proceeded to post a plus-13 in just 10 minutes of play (what kind of player is on a 10 minute restriction?). They’ve tried lineups starring castoffs Tyler Ennis, David Nwaba and Metta World Peace. Anything short of Luke Walton telling his players to repeatedly take five-second inbound violations or hoisting up off-handed full court shots, they have tried.
And they have failed, as the Lakers have now moved from about a 55.8% chance of keeping their top-3 pick to less than a coin flip – 46.9%. Phoenix’s 13-game losing streak has certainly “helped” them better their draft odds, while the Lakers have continued to string together solid performances every few days or so to put them in a precarious position.
Of course, it still is a lottery. Even with better odds there still lies a chance that the ping pong balls don’t fall in their favor. LA has a solid chance of keeping their pick, or even moving up in the lottery with a bit of luck. There is an extra caveat included that if the Lakers happen to lose their pick this year, they will also send their 2019 first-round pick to Orlando, providing an extra layer of pressure to the NBA Draft Lottery in June. But losing all of their remaining games should be a top priority for Luke Walton and his staff, even if they can’t explicitly state it.
Even when the Lakers win, they find a way to lose.
Image Source: Sir Charles in Charge