The term “tanking” has become more and more prevalent as the NBA has progressed. When teams are in rebuild mode, they tend to tank and therefore lose games intentionally at the end of the season in order to get a higher pick for the following season’s draft. If you are the Lakers, is this something to consider, or do you keep playing and developing the young guns?
At least until Adam Silver’s new anti-tanking rule comes into play in 2019, there is no doubt that teams who have performed poorly this season will start to play more rookies, mix and match lineups and lose games more often as a result.
Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks and others have countless young guys that they’d probably like to get a look at before this season comes to an end. With this tanking mindset, the minutes will be there.
What About the Lakers?
The Lakers are slightly different, however. They are currently 23-34 in a very competitive Western Conference, which puts them at the 11th seed. If the West weren’t so stacked and they weren’t eight games behind the eighth-place Pelicans, LA may have a chance to string together a few games and make a playoff push. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like such a situation is all too feasible.
The difference between the Lakers and a lot of other tanking teams is that the Lakers really don’t have a reason to lose games this season. There are two main reasons for this.
First of all, the trade that sent Steve Nash to the Lakers in 2012 involved them giving up their 2018 first-round pick. While it seemed like a good idea at the time, all the Kobe-Nash-Dwight team did was lose four straight games in the first round of the playoffs to the Spurs. It was safe to say that was the end of that.
This pick that they gave up matters in a big way in the upcoming draft. Normally, having a worse record gives us a better chance of having a higher pick, but since that pick doesn’t belong to the Lakers anymore, there is absolutely no reason to purposefully lose games.
So LA doesn’t have any picks?
Here’s where it gets just a little tricky. Rewind to before the trade deadline and the Lakers aren’t going to be having any high picks in the draft. But, as always, the trade deadline and all that happens in the 24 hours beforehand changes everything. Say goodbye to Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr., but hello to Isaiah Thomas, Channing Frye and a first-round pick.
And just like that, the Lakers have their first-round pick back. With Cleveland being somewhat successful this season, it is almost definite that this pick won’t be a lottery pick, but that shouldn’t be a problem for the Lakers at all.
Let’s go back to draft night 2017, when the Lakers selected Kyle Kuzma 27th overall. Many fans just said, “Kyle who?” and had no idea what to expect out of the rookie. With averages of 15.7 points and 5.9 boards on 45 percent shooting from the field, one thing is clear. Los Angeles has a stud on their hands. And one of the best parts about it? He was the 27th pick.
Luckily for Lakers fans, they don’t have to worry about them intentionally losing games this season. Their pick for the draft later this year does not lie in their control, so there is not a single reason why they shouldn’t continue to play the guys that they normally have been.
Many might be worried about the fact that the pick won’t be too high, but the Lakers have proven just this last year alone with Kuzma that they are capable of finding studs late in the first round.
Although a playoff push is unlikely, the Lakers can definitely win a handful of games late in the season as they continue to simultaneously fight and develop their youngsters.
Featured image from NBA.com
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