To tank or not to tank? For the the fourth year in a row the LA Lakers find themselves in the lottery with the fate of their pick being determined at the draft lottery in May. The Lakers seemingly had been in position to have the second worst record in the NBA, which would have given them the second highest amount of ping pong balls at the upcoming draft lottery. After playing terrible basketball for much of February and March the Lakers went on a 5 game winning streak in April, their longest winning streak since 2013. Laker fans were put in the uncomfortable position of wanting to see the streak snapped and rooting for the team to lose games.
The issue of tanking is of much intrigue to the Lakers as their last two lottery picks and their upcoming pick all had restrictions placed on them. In 2015 the pick was top 5 protected and in 2016 it was top 3 protected. They now face the same predicament as last year in the upcoming 2017 NBA draft. What makes this current scenario even more troublesome is that if the Lakers were to lose this years pick they would also lose the pick for 2019.
As the unexpected streak continued some of the players took issue with the fanbase becoming angry at their winning ways. Lakersnation.com asked Larry Nance Jr. and Julius Randle their opinion on tanking. Larry Nance Jr. made it clear he was against tanking. “Our job is to compete; I’m not worried about anything going on behind the scenes or anything two games from now”.
Julius Randle flat out said the fans opinion on what they should do didn’t matter. “We know what’s going on in this locker room, so we don’t really care.”
The Lakers finished the season at 26-56, the third worst record in the league. The Lakers chances of losing the pick were always going to be high. They had a 44% chance of losing the pick with the second worst record and a 53% chance of losing the pick with the third worst record.
As a lifelong Laker fan who has watched what the team has turned into the last four years, I have definitely seen the importance of drafting and drafting well. While D’Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram and Julius Randle are still question marks in term of their potential, they represent valuable assets that may be used to lure big name players like Paul George and Jimmy Butler in the off season.
The real question that needed to be asked, was what value did a 5 game winning streak during meaningless games in April really do for the team? Is beating a Spurs team resting thier best players going to make the Lakers play better next year? Is beating the Kings and Pelicans, teams that both happened to be tanking, going to boost morale for next season? To me, the answer is no.
The Lakers will find out on May 16th if their 5 game winning streak was truly worth it. The future of the franchise once again rest on the random drawing of ping pong balls. All Laker fans can do is hope that their “streak” of draft lottery success continues.