The Los Angeles Lakers have built one of the most prolific franchises in all of sports. Since joining the NBA in 1960, they have put together three of the strongest lineups in NBA history. First in the 70’s with Jerry West, Wilt Chamber- lain and Elgin Baylor. Next, in the 80’s with Magic, Kareem and James Worthy. Finally, in the early 2000’s with Shaq and Kobe. With the retirement of Kobe Bryant last April, the Lakers have finally hit rock bottom, currently sitting at 14-32, which places them at 14th place in the Western Conference, putting them on track for their worst season in franchise history.
After three consecutive years of medi- ocre performance, the Lakers managed to receive three straight lottery (Top 14) draft picks, electing to go with Ju- lius Randle, D’Angelo Russell and Bran- don Ingram. Individually, they have all shown signs of greatness in their short careers, but not consistent enough to translate to the team’s success.
Despite the team’s abundance of youth and lack of victories, head coach Luke Walton continues to play veteran players such as Lou Williams and Luol Deng up to 30 minutes per game, both of them averaging more minutes than the second year standout Russell. This year would be a great opportunity for the team to develop their younger players and improve their odds in the draft lottery at the same time. However, Walton has dis- played his distaste for “throwing” games continuously throughout the year. Walton said, “You start losing on purpose, I think the basketball gods come back to get you in the long run… We try to do things the right way around here, which means we’re going to play to win.” It’s hard to argue with coach Walton’s morals, but the future success of the team may very well rely on their current failure. The Lakers 2017 first round draft pick will be going to the Philadelphia 76ers due to a previous trade, unless they can manage to get a top three pick. This would mean that their pick is protected, allowing them to give their 2018 first round pick to the 76ers. The Lakers also owe their 2019 first round pick to the Boston Celtics due to a prior trade. However, in the NBA, teams are not allowed to trade first round picks in consecutive years. So if they Lakers were to get a top three pick this year, they would trade their 2018 first round pick to the 76ers, and wouldn’t be able to trade their 2019 first round pick to the Celtics. As a substitute, they would trade two future 2nd round picks to the Celtics, which are much less valuable in comparison a first round pick.
As tough as it may be for coach Walton and the rest of the Lakers to do, losing games right now is the only way for them to eventually win. Giving up two first round draft picks in the next three years would be crippling to their current rebuild- ing process and leave their once great franchise in a pile of rubble. If they want to have any hope of con- structing a fourth superteam, their only option is to start playing worse.