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Luke Walton isn’t worried about the Lakers losing their draft pick

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Los Angeles’ head coach says the team will need luck no matter what.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Los Angeles Lakers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Lakers’ shocking upset victory over the San Antonio Spurs Wednesday night dropped the team a full 1.5 games behind the Phoenix Suns in the race towards the bottom of the NBA.

The Lakers now have the third-worst record in the league, giving them a 46.9 percent chance to keep their top-three protected first-round pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. If the pick falls outside the top-three picks in the lottery, the selection that will be conveyed to the Philadelphia 76ers as the last vestige of the Lakers’ ill-fated sign-and-trade for Steve Nash.

The reason this is news is because the Lakers had the second-worst record in the NBA (which would’ve given them a 55.8 percent chance to keep their pick) until unexpectedly winning three of their last 10 games while the Suns went on a now-13-game losing streak to fall past the Lakers.

An 8.9 percent swing in their odds to keep a top-three pick in a loaded draft class might seem like a big deal, but Lakers Head Coach Luke Walton didn’t sound like he was too worried after the game:

Walton’s words aren’t exactly surprising, unless one naively defines tanking as players and coaches intentionally trying to lose games. That doesn’t happen in the NBA (or at least not very often), and the Lakers did essentially everything they could to “tank” in the way most team’s do so.

Let’s review:

  • The team sat nearly all of their veteran players
  • D’Angelo Russell was held out of the game
  • Tyler Ennis played a team-high 39 minutes
  • Metta World Peace played in an NBA game in 2017

What is Walton supposed to do if Ennis plays the best game of his life and the Spurs somehow don’t shred the Lakers’ defense despite being one of the best teams in the league? Forfeit? Trip his own players as they run down the court? Play Metta World Peace more than 17(!!!) minutes?

The Lakers are doing everything they can to tank without telling their players to lose, which again, no NBA teams do. Walton is right to be excited with the growth and commitment his young players are showing, and let the front office worry about the lottery.

All stats per NBA.com. and Basketball-Reference.com. Harrison Faigen is co-host of the Locked on Lakers podcast (subscribe here), and you can follow him on Twitter at @hmfaigen.