The Los Angeles Lakers may have picked the best year to have one of the worst seasons in franchise history. As an extremely deep class of prospects enters the 2014 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers are guaranteed to be in the lottery.
Where exactly will the Lakers pick in the first round? A lot has yet to be determined, but it will likely be the team’s highest selection in 32 years.
With 18 games remaining on the schedule, L.A. sits at 22-42. They have the worst record in the Western Conference, and the 4th-worst in the entire league. If the Lakers end the regular season in their current position, they’ll have an 11.9 percent chance of winning the No.1 overall pick. Los Angeles would also be guaranteed to leave the lottery with no worse than the seventh selection in the first round.
All 14 teams that miss the playoffs are entered into the lottery, and have a chance to win the top pick. The team with the worst record has the best odds of winning the lottery at 25 percent. The odds continue to drop from there, falling to 19.9 percent and 15.6 percent for the teams with the second- and third-worst records. The clubs in the lottery with the four best records all have a less than one percent chance of getting the top pick.
It isn’t likely that the Lakers will finish worse than their current standing. The Orlando Magic trail them by three games, and they’re followed by the Philadelphia 76ers, who have just 15 victories. However, it’s possible that the Lakers could do damage to their lottery chances with a small winning streak. They rank fourth in the lottery, but are only separated from the No.10 position by two games in the standings. The Lakers trail the Boston Celtics, Utah Jazz and Sacramento Kings by a half-game.
The Lakers have a lot of work to do this offseason, and should be active in free agency. They assuredly, though, will not trade their draft pick. L.A. sent their first-round picks in 2013 and 2015 to the Phoenix Suns, when they traded for Steve Nash. The organization will be forced to hold onto to its 2014 selection, since teams aren’t allowed to deal their first pick in consecutive years.
There have been suggestions that Nash could retire at the end of the season. The 40-year-old could be waived by the Lakers through the "stretch provision," which would spread his $9.7 million salary in 2014-2015 over three years. Such a move would provide Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak with some extra salary cap space to pursue a free agent.
“At the appropriate time, I’ll sit down and talk about it. But it’s really his decision,” Kupchak said of Nash's possible decision to retire, according to the Los Angeles Times. “He’s under contract to play basketball next year. There’s a lot of moving pieces in something like this. For us to sit down and influence one way or the other is not ethical. It’s really his decision.”
Should the Lakers and Nash part ways, L.A. may consider pursuing a point guard in the upcoming draft. Dante Exum, a 6'6 combo guard from Australia, is projected to be picked in the first 10 selections, and could be a solid option for the Lakers. Duke forward Jabari Parker might be an ideal choice for the Lakers, but the Chicago native will likely be taken in the top three.
The team with the NBA’s worst record hasn’t won the lottery since 2004 when the Magic selected Dwight Howard. The Chicago Bulls made history in 2008, by winning the lottery with just a 1.7 percent chance.