<
>

Assessing Lakers' lottery odds following win against 76ers

The development of young players like D'Angelo Russell is important for the Lakers this season, but so is maintaining a top-3 draft position. Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports

The two worst teams in the NBA met up at Staples Center on Friday, and, after a hideous contest befitting the level of competition, the Los Angeles Lakers walked away with a win, defeating the likewise once-proud Philadelphia 76ers, 93-84.

The Lakers improved to 7-27, the worst record in the Western Conference and second worst in the league behind the 76ers, who fell to 3-32.

It also marked the first time the Lakers have won consecutive games this season.

"Give us a parade, man," Lakers coach Byron Scott said sarcastically after the game.

Lakes fans would be happy to throw a parade ... but only if the team lands prized Louisiana State freshman phenom Ben Simmons in the 2016 draft, which brings us to the point of this missive.

Friday’s game might have seemed meaningless in the grand scheme, but it’s one of the few games that truly matter for the Lakers this season because of the possible implications for the 2016 NBA draft lottery held on May 17 in New York.

As most every Lakers fan surely knows by now, the Lakers 2016 first-round pick is top-three protected and will fall to the 76ers if that pick falls outside the first three slots because of the Steve Nash trade in 2012.

Such an outcome would be nothing short of disastrous following what will almost certainly be the worst season in Lakers' franchise history -- or worse than last season’s 21-61 mark.

At the moment, the Lakers have a 19.9 percent chance at landing the top pick, a 38.6 percent chance at landing a top-two pick, and a 55.6 percent chance at landing a top-three pick.

So they have a little bit better than 50-50 odds right now to keep their pick; not too bad.

Barring something drastic, such as an extended winning streak, the Lakers are likely to remain in that position, because the 76ers are that bad and the Brooklyn Nets, who have the third-worst record (9-23) aren’t bad enough.

That said, the Lakers have 48 games left and anything could happen over that stretch, especially if their young players continue to develop and shine -- specifically guards D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson and forwards Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr.

There is also the possibility, given that their records aren’t too far apart, that the Lakers and Nets swap places and the Lakers have the third-worst record and the Nets the second-worst.

That would really put the Lakers in danger and make their fans and executives sweat heading into May 17.

All of this is to say that if Lakers fans were cheering for their team to lose down the stretch last season when the standings were close, expect those cheers to become even louder as this season moves on. And expect there to be even more upset fans each time the team manages to win a game.