The Lakers’ current five-game losing streak affects more than just the mood in the Staples Center. It could help determine the long-range balance of power in the Atlantic Division and the entire league.
L.A.’s first-round pick for 2018 will belong to either the Sixers or Celtics, depending on where it falls. If it’s No. 1 overall or sixth or later, Philadelphia gets to keep it. If it’s anywhere from second to fifth, the selection goes to Boston. The unusual protection rules were applied in the deal that sent this year’s number one from the Celtics to the Sixers.
The draft choice has been on a long journey since the Lakers sent it to Phoenix in the Steve Nash trade in July of 2012. The Suns moved it on to Philadelphia in a three-team deal in 2015 that brought Brandon Knight and Kendall Marshall to Phoenix. The pick was top five protected in 2015 and top three protected in 2016 and 2017, so the Sixers have been waiting a long time for it to convey.
The Celtics appeared to be out of the running for the pick when the Lakers started the season strong, but they have fallen on hard times over the past month. Their 11-23 record is the third worst in the league, ahead of only the Grizzlies at 11-24 and the Hawks at 9-26. A handful of teams are jumbled just in front of them, so L.A. is just a half-game from catching the sixth-place Kings and moving the odds for the pick back in Philadelphia’s favor. Regardless of where the teams all finish, the final determination won’t be made until lottery night.
The potential payoff for the Celtics or Sixers could be huge. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony has Slovenian star Luka Doncic ranked first in his latest mock draft (Insider account), followed by Duke’s Marvin Bagley III, Arizona’s Deandre Ayton, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr. and Texas’ Mohamed Bamba. Either Boston or Philadelphia will be in line to add a cornerstone player to an already impressive roster.
If the Sixers land the top pick, Doncic could be a versatile running mate for Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons for the next decade or so. The Celtics could upgrade at center by taking Bagley, Ayton or Bamba or they could add another star wing player in Porter.
Our question for tonight is which team would benefit more from landing the Lakers’ pick if it remains high in the lottery? Please leave your comments in the space below.