By Craig Kwasniewski
It’s that time of year for the Lakers to pin all their hopes on the whims of 4 plastic balls. What I’m talking about is the NBA Draft lottery and what is now an annual occurrence, the Los Angeles Lakers taking part in the Lottery. They have strict restrictions on their first round pick and how a coded combination of four numbered plastic balls determine whether they either: 1 – keep a top three pick in a front-loaded draft or 2 – transfer a top 4 thru 7 pick to the Philadelphia 76ers as final payment for the Steve Nash trade from the summer of 2012.
By now we all know the long-term repercussions of this lottery: lose two first round picks (2017 and 2019) or lose one first round pick (2018) and two second round picks (2017 & 2018), the latter is a result of the Dwight Howard trade in 2012. It all comes down to four plastic balls and it’s all extremely stressful. Obviously, in the grand scheme of things, landing in the top 3 and ONLY losing one first round pick is desirable. Since we literally have no control of the outcome, let’s look at the results assuming Team Schadenfreude gets the worst of the two options Here’s an outlook assuming the Lakers “lose” in today’s Lottery and four reasons to feel good, no matter what happens tonight:
1 – The Lou Williams trade saves face – Lou Williams having a bounce-back year earned the Lakers a first-round pick from the Houston Rockets. Yes, it’s a late pick but worst case they get an invite to the draft party. Unlike last year, this is a relatively deep draft and drafting 28th can land a strong rotation player the likes of Caleb Swanigan. The pick isn’t high enough to move for Paul George but it’ll land a decent player.
2 – No. 3 Second Round Pick – This is essentially a late first round pick but with second round contract obligations. Meaning, the Lakers have their pick of the litter on desired long-shots. Lakers landed Zubac last year at the 32nd overall pick and he looks like he’ll pan out. These type of players are available at this spot.
3 – Finally, closure on the 2012-13 disaster – 4 years of will they or won’t they lose the pick finally ends. After today we’ll have full closure on the disastrous Nash/Howard trades as all picks will be transferred and the Lakers can focus on the long-term building process knowing where their draft assets stand. These 4 years of draft purgatory have been an excruciating process.
4 – Lakers are finally headed in the right direction – Gone is the bumbling process that is the Jim Buss era. In Luke Walton the Lakers have the right coach with the right mentality to build a young team around. Magic still owns every room he walks in and will provide the needed, and much improved, face of the franchise. Rob Pelinka seems to be the smart and innovative hire for the GM spot. Mix in small things like a new training facility and it feels like the reset button has been properly hit and the Lakers momentum is headed in the right direction. Not to mention that the rotation of Russell, Clarkson, Nance, Zubac, Randle and Ingram feels like the right mix to build with.
(Of course, keeping the pick wouldn't suck either.)