Fun Fact: During the 2015 Las Vegas Summer League, when sitting with our esteemed Editor in Chief Drew Garrison before the Los Angeles Lakers' first game of the exhibition tournament, I swore I would never write this column again. I leaned in and told him something along the lines of, "Well, at least no matter what happens this year, there is no way the team will be bad enough that I will have to write Tank Watch again."
Someone needs to photoshop a Crying Jordan head on me, because I could not have been more wrong. The Lakers are far worse than I thought was possible headed in to the '15-16 campaign. It's hard to believe, but there was a time before the season when many (yours truly included) thought the Lakers would be bad but respectable, somewhere in the 25-28 win range.
The team has yet to hit even half of that overly optimistic total, with just 11 victories and only 22 games left to play. The Lakers' 11-49 record has them at last place in the Western Conference and three games back of the Philadelphia 76ers (8-52) for the worst record in the entire NBA. Making matters worse, if the Lakers' pick falls outside of the top-three in the draft, it must be conveyed to those same Sixers (who received it from the Suns), the last lurking land mine left over from the ill-fated Steve Nash sign-and-trade.
As a reminder, here is a breakdown of the Lakers' lottery odds, brought to you by the invaluable Tankathon.com
- If the Lakers finish with the worst record in the NBA, they have a 64.3 percent chance to keep their first round pick.
- If the Lakers finish with the second worst record in the NBA, they have a 55.8 percent chance to keep their first round pick.
- If the Lakers finish with the third worst record in the NBA, they have a 46.9 percent chance to keep their first round pick.
The team currently boasts a four and a half game "lead" on the Phonix Suns (15-44, third worst record in the league), and a six game advantage over the Brooklyn Nets (17-43, fourth worst record in the league).
Unlike last season when the team was mostly comprised of expiring veteran mercenaries on one-year deals and every win felt pointless, this season at least when the team acquires a victory or two, it is usually an indication that one or more of the Lakers' hoped for future. Therefore, wins feel like far less of a catastrophe, but given the high stakes, the team's tank is still worth documenting over the last 20 games.
From last year, here is a reminder of the categories:
Tank Play of the Week - A look at one of the worst (or best, depending on your perspective) plays the Lakers made during the week. Normally, we will be looking for a play that ended any chance of the Lakers winning a game, and thus helping their tank roll on.
Tank Commander - The individual who did the most during the week in review to move the tank along. This is looking more at sustained badness over a week long period, rather than just one play.
Anti-Tank Mine - This category will examine a play, player or coach who did their best to derail the Lakers' tank this week. Not necessarily limited to Lakers personnel either, for example, an opposing coach or player could win this award for making a terrible play or substitution against the Lakers. (We see you Tyrone Corbin).
Tank Reinforcements - Essentially the opposite of the previous category, where we acknowledge a player, coach, or team that helped the Lakers tank along or removed some potential obstacles from its path.
Top-Five Today - A look at the bottom-five teams, the odds of the Lakers' keeping their pick, and a weekly sim. Courtesy of Tankathon.
As always, tweet at us (@LakersSBN) with your nominees using the hashtag #TankWatch. Now, on to the tanking.
Tank Play of the Week
While the worst inbounds play of the week was obviously the Oklahoma City Blunder leading to Andre Iguodala's free throws that sent the Golden State Warriors into overtime in what was probably the best NBA game of the season, the Lakers probably had the runner-up. Against the Memphis Grizzlies last Wednesday, the team had one one of the most poorly executed out of bounds sets you will ever see:
Mike Conley made a great play, but the decision to throw the ball into traffic was still a poor one. Unlike Leonardo DiCaprio's character in "The Revenant," the Lakers were unable to recover from this Grizzly attack that made the game 81-66. It was a sloppy night overall for Los Angeles, with plays like this one slamming the refrigerator door shut in favor of the Grizzlies.
Tank Commander: Nick Young
Last season Byron Scott "won" this "award" four out of the seven times it was issued, so while it is usually his spot to lose, he's at least attempting to make some positive changes on offense, encouraging the Lakers' young players, and finally committing to playing Tarik Black and Anthony Brown more over the team's stretch run force actually saved him this week.
Really the only decision one could quibble with was Scott's decision to play Nick Young 19.9 minutes per game over the Lakers' last three contests. In that floor time he averaged 11 points on 36 percent shooting (33 percent from three-point range) and not much else.
While Young's presence was necessitated by Bryant's absence in the Lakers' most recent game against Memphis, if Scott is truly committing to playing Brown some real minutes going forward, Young should be excised from the rotation in games Kobe is healthy enough to take part in.
Anti-Tank Mine: The Brooklyn Nets
The Lakers next game is Tuesday night against the Nets, who have won enough that the Lakers have a significant six-game cushion between them, but a Lakers win would move the Nets within four games. Making matters worse, Brooklyn just bought out Joe Johnson, one of their few actually useful players.
The majority of the rest of Brooklyn's roster may be a festival of sadness, but it is still probably too late for their rolling stone to gather enough momentum downhill to catch the Lakers. Even so, the purple and gold certainly shouldn't give them an extra push on Tuesday night.
Tank Reinforcements: Brooklyn's upcoming schedule
Thankfully for the Lakers, the Net's next seven games are against: The Lakers, the Denver Nuggets (who just lost Danilo Gallinari), the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Toronto Raptors, the Philadelphia 76ers, the Milwaukee Bucks, and Philly again. That's six very winnable games excluding the contest against Toronto, with the last two even at home. If the Nets beat the Lakers it's probably enough to keep them from catching Los Angeles, but even if they don't, they still have a chance at one or two victories over their upcoming stretch.
Top-Five Today, brought to you by Tankathon
Weekly Lottery Simulation
All stats per NBA.com. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.