The worst season in Lakers history since the organization moved to Los Angeles finally came to a conclusion on Wednesday night. The Lakers defeated the San Antonio Spurs, 113-100, to improve their record to 27-55.
Los Angeles has been a fixture in the NBA playoffs, but they missed the postseason by 22 games in the 2013-2014 season. The Lakers were ravaged by injuries to their top stars, with Pau Gasol missing 22 games and Steve Nash forced to sit out 67 contests. Kobe Bryant saw action in just six games, suffering the worst season of his 18-year career.
“S*** season,” Bryant tweeted on the last day of the regular season. “Flush it. Forget it #amnesia Next Season will be epic #blackout #bussfam”
While this year was an incredibly disappointing one for the Lakers, there is some reason for optimism surrounding the team. Because the Lakers had such a poor season, they will have a top selection in the 2014 NBA Draft. The organization will be forced to keep the pick, before the draft, considering they’ve already sent their 2015 first-rounder to the Phoenix Suns. League rules don’t permit teams to trade their first-round pick in consecutive years.
The Lakers were fortunate to have the 2013-2014 season as their worst in nearly 60 years. This year’s class is predicted to be the best in the last decade, and L.A. will leave the draft with a highly talented player. They even have a legitimate chance of landing the No.1 overall pick.
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L.A. finished the season with the sixth-worst record in the NBA, making them the No.6 seed in the draft lottery. The 2014 lottery is scheduled for May 20, and will determine the draft order of every team that missed the playoffs. Now that there are no more games to be played, the Lakers’ odds are set in stone.
When the ping pong balls are drawn, Los Angeles will have a 6.3 percent chance of landing the top pick. That’s just ahead of the Sacramento Kings (4.3 percent) and right behind the Utah Jazz and Boston Celtics (11.9 percent and 8.8 percent), who will need a coin toss to decide the No.4 and No.5 seed. The Milwaukee Bucks lead the way with a 25 percent chance, after winning just 15 games this season.
If the Lakers get the No.1 pick, there’s no guarantee their selection will become a star. Last year, the Cleveland Cavaliers took Anthony Bennett from UNLV. In his rookie season, Bennett played in just 52 games, averaging 4.2 points and three rebounds per contest.
However, the 2014 draft class is considered to be more talented than the 2013 class. Experts believe this class not only has superstar potential, but also depth.
While they might not get the top pick, the Lakers have good odds of landing one of the premiere prospects in the draft. Andrew Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker have separated themselves from the rest of the class. There’s a 7.1 percent chance that the Lakers will get the No.2 pick and an 8.1 percent chance they will be selecting third.
Most likely, the Lakers will come in at No.6 (43.9 percent) or No.7 (30.5 percent) in the draft. They have a four percent chance of drafting eighth, but can’t fall worse than ninth in the first round.
The Lakers may target a guard in the middle of the lottery. General manager Mitch Kupchak could consider selecting Dante Exum or Marcus Smart to add youth to an aging backcourt.