After a brief, wonderful one-year respite from the NBA lottery, the Los Angeles Lakers are back, once again reliant on the bounces of 1000 ping-pong balls to help determine their fate.
The Lakers fully own their 2019 first-round pick, so the stakes are not terribly high, at least compared to the nerve-racking lotteries from 2015 to 2017, when even a slight drop could have sent the team’s choice elsewhere. Feel free to watch this one with a low heart rate, as there isn’t much that can happen to really affect next season’s outcome.
With that out of the way, let’s take a quick look back at all the factors going into the evening.
Frequently asked questions
What chances do the Lakers have at the No. 1 pick, and where are they most likely to end up?
The Lakers finished with the 11th-worst record in the NBA, so they have a 2.0% chance of getting the first overall pick, and a 9.4% chance of jumping into the lottery. A reminder that the league instituted draft reform this season, so the “lottery” now includes the top four picks in the draft. Therefore, there’s a 2.0% chance of Los Angeles moving up to no. 1, and then an additional 7.4% chance of finishing 2, 3 or 4.
The most likely outcome for the Lakers is staying in the no. 11 spot — they land here in 77.6% of permutations. There is a possibility (12.6%) that one of the teams below L.A. jumps into the lottery, which would push the Lakers down to no. 12. There is also an extremely unlikely possibility that two or three teams with worse odds than Los Angeles move up into the lottery, but that only happens 0.4% of the time.
If you feel like simulating the Lakers’ lottery odds, your best bet is visiting Tankathon.
What time is the lottery on TV, and what channel can I watch on?
The lottery is taking place in Chicago and will be shown on ESPN at 5:30 p.m. The official ping pong balls will be spun half an hour earlier, but the people in that room are sequestered while the envelopes are revealed on live television for the general public.
You can watch the lottery online via Watch ESPN or the ESPN App. Sometime the next day, the official lottery video will also be released, which is surprisingly dramatic theater considering how little actually happens.
Who will be representing the Lakers?
General manager Rob Pelinka will be going into the lottery room for the second time for Los Angeles. The last time he had this duty in 2017, the Lakers came up second, allowing the team to keep their pick and draft Lonzo Ball instead of sending it to Philadelphia. Pelinka was justifiably pumped at the time.
Kyle Kuzma will be sitting on the dais for the Lakers. The last five team representatives were Magic Johnson in 2017, Mitch Kupchak in 2016, Byron Scott in 2015, James Worthy in 2014, and Jeanie Buss in 2005. Three of those choices are likely off the table, and Worthy didn’t bring the team any luck in 2014. Although it would be hilarious for Buss to make her first media availability in a month at the lottery today, Kuzma is the more logical choice. Kuzma told Mike Trudell that he is not planning on bringing any lucky charms with him to the lottery. He considers himself lucky enough, considering the Lakers were able to pick him at no. 27 in the 2017 draft.
How will the lottery affect the team’s cap space?
The Lakers currently have 7 players under contract next year, accounting for $65,813,315 in cap space (including Luol Deng’s dead money). Assuming roster holds for 2 more players, and Reggie Bullock’s cap hold ($4.75 million), the Lakers can afford to spend about $8.69 million on their first-round pick and still have enough money to sign a 7-to-9 year maximum contract, like Kawhi Leonard, Kemba Walker, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, or Jimmy Butler.
If they get the no. 1 pick, the first-year salary for that player — let’s call him Zion Williamson — would be $8,165,600. That gives the team just enough wiggle room to still keep its superstar dreams alive this summer. Therefore, there’s no reason to worry about having to choose between Zion or Kawhi. The Lakers can have it all, with a little luck.