Lonzo Ball, one of the top prospects in the upcoming NBA Draft, told ESPN last week he’d rather play for the Lakers than be the No. 1 overall pick.
If the Lakers keep winning, Ball might have to go back to school for another year for that to happen, because there’s a half-decent chance LA’s first-round pick might (finally) be coming to the Sixers.
Actually, with two games left in the NBA regular season, there’s a slightly better than half-decent chance. There’s a 53.1 percent likelihood the Lakers won’t get a top-3 pick, because suddenly, they can’t stop winning basketball games.
The Lakers are riding a four-game win streak into the final two games of the season after beating Minnesota 110-109 on a last-second shot Sunday night. The loudest cheer after this D’Angelo Russell rim-rattler may have come from Sixers fans.
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) April 10, 2017
Before this run, the Lakers were in full-on tank mode, as they have more to lose this draft season than any team in the lottery. The Lakers forfeit their first-round pick to the Sixers should it fall outside the top 3. If the Lakers do secure a top-3 pick this year, the Sixers will get their first-rounder next season. But with a super deep top of the draft this year, the Sixers undoubtedly hope to land two top picks, and have the insurance of a pick-swap with Sacramento too, should the Kings end up with a better selection than the Sixers.
So, this win-streak from Los Angeles makes no sense, in a grand-scheme situation. The Lakers had just two wins in their first 15 games in March, and were hovering just above Brooklyn for the worst record in the league.
The Nets locked up the worst record in the NBA a few days ago, thanks in part to this Lakers run. The Nets’ first-round draft pick is headed to Boston and comes with a 25-percent chance at the top pick in the NBA Draft, a 21.5-percent chance at the No. 2 spot and a 17.7-percent chance at the No. 3 spot.The worst that pick can land is fourth, but there’s a 35.8 percent chance three teams will jump that pick in the lottery.
The second-worst record — the record the Lakers had just about a week ago — comes with a 20-percent chance at the top pick, and a 55.8-percent chance at landing inside the top-3 picks.
The third slot comes with a 46.9-percent chance at the top 3. That’s still good, but it means there’s a better chance the Lakers would not get a top-3 pick than they will.
The Phoenix Suns also won Sunday, beating Nerlens Noel and the Dallas Mavericks for their 24th victory of the season. That win, the Suns’ second in a row, should have been a disaster for the Sixers, were it not for the fact the Lakers are suddenly the hottest team in the NBA.
Seriously, this doesn’t make any sense.
The Sixers and Orlando Magic share the fourth-worst record in the league at 28-52, each with two games to play. The New York Knicks have 30 wins and end the season hosting the Sixers on Wednesday. Sacramento and Minnesota are both at 31 wins, so while there is still a lot of tank-like maneuvering in the fourth-through-eighth range of the lottery. The Sixers cannot finish worse (read: better) than a tie for the sixth-worst record. Clearly, finishing with the fourth-worst record is the best.
In the history of the NBA Draft Lottery, just once (last year) has the worst three teams earned the top three picks in order. The less protection the Lakers have in the lottery, the better. One team jumping into the top 3 will push them out, should things stay the way they are in the standings.
While it would be great for the Sixers to win the lottery again, what matters as much right now is any team outside the top 3 getting one of those spots, pushing the Lakers outside the protected picks, and giving their selection to the Sixers.
The Lakers end the season against New Orleans — losers of four-straight — before traveling to Golden State. The Lakers should never win a game on the road against the Warriors, even if the Dubs opt to rest players, but the Pels game is winnable Tuesday, especially given how the two teams have played over the last two weeks.
The Suns lost 13-straight games before their last two wins, but they’ve been scoring more than 117.5 points in their last six games. They have just one game left, against Sacramento. In a way, the Sixers can’t lose that game, because Sacramento losing would possibly give them more ping pong balls than Minnesota and, if the Sixers lose in New York Wednesday, the Knicks. And yet, pushing the Lakers out of the top 3 is more important than a few tenths of a percentage point for the Kings’ pick.
This is a big week for the Sixers, to keep rooting for the right losers.