For many NBA fans (especially those in Cleveland and Toronto) tonight is exciting because it is Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals, but for those fans whose team didn’t even come close to sniffing the postseason tonight is the most exciting day in months.
It’s the day where hope is abound across the 14 teams who weren’t fortunate enough to make the playoffs or have one of the 14 lottery picks. Some teams draft dreams are dashed while others are made a reality once those ping pong balls are selected and NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum rips open those envelopes to reveal where each team will be drafting.
For every miracle, like the Magic getting the no.1 pick in 1993 with a 1% chance or the Cavaliers jumping up from the number 9 spot to pick number 1 in 2014, there is also the despair of the Celtics missing out on Tim Duncan in 1997 or the then Bobcats missing out on Anthony Davis in 2012.
There is one franchise that without question has much more on the line this evening than any other, and fittingly it is the most glamorous and glitzy franchise of all: the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers hold the 2nd highest draft odds in this year’s lottery behind the Philadelphia 76ers. They have a 38.7% chance to land a top-two pick and a chance to draft one of the two projected potential superstars in this draft in Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram.
That is the good end of the spectrum and could give the Lakers the young star it needs to jump start their return to NBA prominence and a new identity with the retirement of Kobe Bryant.
But tonight could also be an absolute nightmare and unmitigated disaster.
There is a 44.2% chance that the Lakers pick falls outside of the top three picks in tonight’s lottery which would be especially damning as that would mean they would have to forfeit their pick to the Philadelphia 76ers.
This is a result of the sign-and-trade of Steve Nash from the Phoenix Suns to the Los Angeles Lakers in 2012 in which the Lakers gave up a lottery protected 1st round pick in 2014 (that became Archie Goodwin) and a top-three protected pick in 2016 that would otherwise turn into two future 2nd round picks.
The Suns traded this pick to the 76ers at the 2015 NBA Trade Deadline in a three-team deal that landed them Brandon Knight (really Phoenix?).
Reports have come out in recent weeks that the Lakers being the Lakers with no desire for a lengthy rebuild, would trade the no. 3 pick in the draft for an established veteran if they are unable to land one of the top two picks in the draft.
— NBC Sports (@NBCSports) May 17, 2016
So basically when you break down the implications of tonight’s draft lottery for the Lakers it may be as follows:
38.7% chance of drafting Ben Simmons or Brandon Ingram
17.1% chance of trading their pick for an established veteran
44.2% chance of having no pick at all
The Lakers operate under the assumption that they are still the number one attraction for any NBA free agent because of their location and history but the fact of the matter is the entire NBA has money this offseason and the chances of them landing enough stars to engender a quick turnaround next season are slim. The best case scenario is for the Lakers to get a top-two pick and embrace an actual rebuild in order to return to prominence.
Tonight could recharge the NBA’s most glamorous franchise and get it heading down the road to regaining its usual luster or send them spiraling downward in a tailspin as their last failed attempt at piecing together a championship contender on the fly haunts them one last time.
Make sure to tune in tonight to see which fate is bestowed upon the NBA’s banner franchise.