The rivalry between the Los Angeles Lakers and Boston Celtics might not be the first thing most were thinking about during the 2018 NBA Draft Lottery, but make no mistake, the event had huge implications for the decades-long battle between the two franchises.
Had the Lakers’ lottery pick — protected by the Philadelphia 76ers for the top overall pick and picks 6-30 (more on that in a second) — landed in the 2-5 range of the draft, it would’ve went to the Celtics, and made their already incredibly far along rebuild continue to look eons ahead of the Lakers’ own rebuilding efforts.
Instead the pick ended up 10th, avoiding every Lakers fan’s worst nightmare of not only losing a first-rounder from another lottery year, but losing it to their most bitter rival who is already good enough to be in the conference finals without that asset AND has at least two more first round picks from other teams in the 2019 NBA Draft.
Now it wouldn’t have been the Lakers’ fault that the pick went to Boston, because (take a deep breath) it is/was owned by the Sixers as one of the last living vestiges of the Steve Nash sign-and-trade 2012. Boston received the rights to it if it fell from 2-5 in the 2018 lottery as part of Philadelphia’s so-far ill-fated deal for Markelle Fultz, and Philadelphia got it from the Phoenix Suns, who desperately wanted Brandon Knight, for some reason. Got it?
(Editor’s Note: This pick legitimately appears to curse every franchise it touches. Sorry, Philly)
The Lakers couldn’t do anything about a cascade of transactions that nearly put their own first-rounder in the hands of their most bitter rival, but it still would have to have sucked for the team to watch the reward the team was supposed to get for another playoff-less year continue to fuel the Celtics’ status as one of the most well-executed rebuilds in NBA history, and right before they played the second game of the Eastern Conference Finals with a 1-0 lead despite missing (on paper) their two best players, to boot.
But Lady Luck was kind to the Lakers in yet another lottery, just as she was in allowing the team to narrowly avoid forfeiting their first rounder for the last three years, long enough to convert their first-round pick obligations to the Orlando Magic (from the Dwight Howard deal) into two second-rounders.
Or at the very least statistics were kind to Los Angeles, as the odds always favored the Sixers keeping this pick:
Potential Landing Spots – Lakers Lottery Pick— Kevin Negandhi (@KNegandhiESPN) May 15, 2018
Pct Chance Goes To
1st 1.10 PHI
2nd 1.30 BOS
3rd 1.58 BOS
10th 86.97 PHI
11th 8.88 PHI
12th 0.18 PHI
13th <0.01 PHI
But the odds wouldn’t have tilted so drastically away from the Lakers giving Boston that pick had the team not wildly over-performed their expectations this season. So if this motley crew is remembered for nothing else in a few years, if their competitiveness results in no free agent signings and the young guys don’t pan out as well as fans hope, this group should at least be positively remembered for that.
Because at the end of the day, if the Lakers can’t win titles and have to try and cope with the reality of Boston skyrocketing past them in their race back to contention after the most recent NBA Finals battle between the two in 2010, they at least don’t have to watch a player that could’ve been wearing their uniform continue to aid the Celtics’ ascent.