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Land the picks, Bryan: Lakers capitalize on ‘big’ problem

The Sixers drop an untimely contest against the Lakers, Sacramento climbs standings.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Philadelphia 76ers Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

A reeling Lakers team, 0-8 in its last eight games, entered a favorable situation Friday, taking on the last-place Philadelphia 76ers. Along with being favored, Luke Walton’s squad might have faced the Sixers at its most confused period rotationally in recent memory.

Los Angeles exploited the “Twin Towers” pairing of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the frontcourt. With Julius Randle playing a small-ball 5 in spurts, he bullied his way to a season-high 25 points, finishing around the basket, corralling boards (nine rebounds) and causing havoc for the Okafor-Embiid tandem.

The Lakers might not have a more opportune win this season: last night was a shocking mess they took advantage of. A loss to a team in current disarray, one that’s usually at a talent disadvantage, would’ve sent worrying signals in the Lakers direction. At 11-18, just 2.5 games out of having the worst record entering Friday, there is some padding.

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (11-18) Ranking: eighth

Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018

Analysis/Pick Status: Having the backcourt duo in D’Angelo Russell and Nick Young will contribute to more victories in the immediate future. Against the Sixers, their defensive performances were promising. It wasn’t the torpor sporadically displayed in past years; both Russell and Young looked determined to contain on the less glamorous end. (Less than one minute into the game, Russell intercepted a Sergio Rodriguez pass for the breakaway layup.)

It’s the requisite effort that won’t have Walton consitently concerned with his charismatic backcourt. His frontcourt, however, is bizarre. Flashy Larry Nance Jr. has developed into a long-term combo forward who the Lakers can depend upon. Luckily, he didn’t put the Sixers in Vines for the wrong reasons, but it’s been a common occurrence recently.

Luol Deng (7.6 PPG, 37.7 percent shooting) and Brandon Ingram (7.9 PPG, 35.3 percent) have been letdowns offensively, expected to produce in their first years with the franchise. Both struggled Friday against the Sixers, with an Ingram-Ben Simmons matchup failing to materialize and the Lakers’ stud rookie going just 1-for-8 from the floor.

Lou Williams and Russell, pre-injury, were the Lakers’ catalysts. Help is paramount to avoid surrendering a top-10 pick to Philadelphia.

Chance of Pick Conveyance: DraftExpress. Check out their fluid rankings to pick your ideal mid-lottery prospect the Sixers can finally nab.

Team: Sacramento Kings (10-16) Ranking: 10th

Protections: In 2017, Philadelphia has the right to swap first-round picks with Sacramento if the Kings’ pick lands in the top 10 post-lottery.

Analysis/Pick Status: A 132-98 defensive collapse to the Rockets Wednesday bookended by wins against LA Monday and Memphis Friday, the Kings’ week didn’t establish whether they’d be making a run or staying the lottery course. A 96-92 shocker on the road against Memphis could’ve been a product of the Grizzlies’ persistent offensive ineptitude, rather than the Kings’ defensive fortitude.

DeMarcus Cousins’ off-court incidents are a discussion for another time, but teams can’t be excited to see another Boogie debacle. He went off on an official after a blown call late in the Memphis game, but a critical technical foul call crisis was averted. Amidst the implosions, Darren Collison looks to be solidified at the point for Sacramento.

Averaging 14.7 PPG and shooting 46.2 percent from deep in 31.6 MPG this month, the journeyman might not be nomadic when the season concludes. An unrestricted free agent in 2017, he’s forcing Vlade Divac’s hand to keep him with improved play. Collison, Cousins and Gay have formed a triumvirate that’s keeping Sacramento somewhat relevant in the West and not bottoming out.

Chance of Pick Conveyance: Likely, at the moment. If rotation flux continues for the Sixers, Sacramento will enjoy the prospects of the 2017 draft.

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