The Los Angeles Lakers’ level of play has fallen off precipitously after their 10-10 start. The team is 6-24 since then, with their previously decent efficiency marks regressing to the 24th most efficient offense in the NBA (103.2 points per 100 possessions) and the single-worst defensive efficiency in the league (allowing 110.2 points per 100 possessions, even worse than last season’s league-worst 109.3).
TL;DR: The Lakers’ play since December has essentially been the basketball equivalent of a high-speed car crash.
For those looking for silver linings, the Lakers’ ineptitude has left them with a 46.9 percent chance (as of today) to keep their top-three protected first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, a selection that would convey to the Philadelphia 76ers should it fall outside of the top-three selections.
In a sit down with David Aldridge of NBA.com, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak didn’t exactly “embrace the tank,” but he at least acknowledged that the team would be in a position to add a pretty solid player should they retain their pick (emphasis mine):
Me: How are you doing?
MK: I’m great. I think what we’ve got here is exciting. I think our fans can see what’s going on. Clearly, we’d like to have a couple more Ws. But I think they get it. They see the six or seven young guys. They see the future. They see the plan unfolding in front of their eyes. We’ve got cap flexibility this summer and going forward. So I like where we are. I’d like to win a couple more games, but I think our future’s very bright.
Me: I’m sure that while you may want a couple more wins, you’ll accept whatever outcome occurs.
MK: I know what you’re saying. It is a good Draft.
Kupchak isn’t wrong. The 2017 Draft is loaded with talent in the top-three, from players like Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, Dennis Smith, Jayson Tatum, and hometown kid Lonzo Ball of UCLA all competing for top billing.
The Lakers’ losing might not be a whole lot of fun, but there could be a light at the end of the tunnel. Or that light could be a train if the team doesn’t keep their pick but loses a bunch of games anyway.
Either way, Kupchak’s talk with Aldridge made it clear he and the rest of the Lakers’ front office are embracing modern, positionless basketball with their young players and the whole thing is worth a read for any Lakers fan (especially with another whole day before the team takes the court again).