The Los Angeles Lakers have lost 47 of the 58 games the have played this season, a record of 11-47 going into their 59th game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. The team has spent the majority of the year with the least efficient defense in the league, giving up 109 points per 100 possessions. For context, the third ranked Spurs offense scores 109.3 points per 100 possessions, so essentially the Lakers are so bad on defense that make their opponents look like a title contender.
The Lakers offense hasn't been much better, ranking second to last in the league with 98.2 points per 100 possessions, leaving Los Angeles with a net rating of -10.9, worst in the NBA. The team has been so futile that their record is the second worst in the league behind only the intentionally tanking Philadelphia 76ers, a long fall for a team that fancied itself a playoff contender in the preseason. The Lakers have struggled so much that it begs the question: are they trying to lose games?
Lakers head coach Byron Scott told Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News that's not the case:
"You can't try to lose basketball games," Scott said. "That's a bad way to present to our team that we're trying to lose so we can protect the top three pick. That's a bad omen to me. We didn't try to do that last year."
"It sets a bad precedent to me, especially to this organization and people who have been in this organization for a long time," Scott said. "We've never been like that and never will be. I never even behind closed doors tell my players, tell my coaches, tell the trainers or anybody that we're trying to lose games on purpose to protect the pick. That's not my nature."
Scott says losing is not in his nature, but he certainly has been around a lot of it as a consequence of taking rebuilding jobs with the New Orleans Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, and now the Lakers. Los Angeles' futility this season has led to Scott now holding sole possession of the worst winning percentage of anyone who has coached more than 1,000 NBA games (.416), according to Basketball Reference.
The Lakers look to be in the driver's seat to finish with the league's second worst record, with a four loss "lead" on the Phoenix Suns for the second best odds to keep their first round pick that will convey to Philadelphia should it fall outside of the top three selections. If the season ended today, the Lakers would have a 55.8 percent chance to keep their draft pick.
As Scott told Medina, the Lakers are "probably not" going to win a lot more games despite their efforts to do so, and thus the team looks to have fairly good chances to keep a first rounder that most assumed was gone headed into the year.
All stats not otherwise cited per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.