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Land the Picks, Bryan: Lakers in the giving spirit

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An abysmal Lakers December stretch has the Sixers in a fortuitous lottery position.

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

The Lakers have been that one family member you rarely talk to outside of holiday gatherings who forgets to get you a present each year. However, they’ve finally come through and delivered a gift that exceeds your expectations. With a strong chance to eventually land anywhere from pick four-to-eight this year, it’s more fortuitous for conveyance in that area this season than previous years.

With NBA personnel lauding the 2017 draft as potentially “the strongest in a decade,” it ties to the obvious, ideal depth. There was a similar sentiment to the 2014 class, but the players selected at No. 5 (Dante Exum) to No. 11 (Doug McDermott) haven’t panned out due to their respective issues.

There was promise leading up to that draft that many of the prospects outside of the Joel Embiid-Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker trio could match their appointed, All-Star level ceilings. It’s optimal that the theme has returned when the Sixers could have a stab at a high-upside “second tier” talent with LA’s pick, barring the team exceeding expectations and entering similar territory. (Then there will be two chances: not ideal.)

The Lakers frigid December has created optimism and DraftExpress’ views, probably, have surged in views of draft prospects as a parallel. It’s the non-tangible asset with no return in value thus far. However, it’s possible return should be worth the back-to-back pain suffered in May.

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (11-22)

Tankathon.com Ranking: seventh

Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018

Analysis/Pick Status: Just 1-12 over the last 13 games, no team has struggled more than the Lakers over that span. The 7-5 start proved to be a facade, with consistent wins surpassing the 100-point mark eventually proving to be unsustainable. Defensive ineptitude has been the norm over recent years and it’s unwavering.

Near the bottom in a myriad of categories defensively, including points allowed per game, opponent’s field goal percentage and defensive efficiency, there’s major issues that impede a Lakers surge come January. It hasn’t been a lacking effort from its contingency; the roster isn’t constructed to thrive on that end.

Per basketball-reference.com, no player has a defensive rating lower than 108 for Los Angeles. Defensive pushovers including Brooklyn (one) and Phoenix (four) possess players who are at least statistically competent on that end. Relying on offensive catalyst Lou Williams (19.1 PPG) has run its course, naturally unable to alleviate the defensive struggles.

The Lakers’ downhill trajectory in the standings might be troubling if it’s long term, but it’s regression that eventually has to subside. An upcoming home stretch could keep this team around the six-to-nine portion of the lottery.

Chance of Conveyance: You can enjoy your holiday knowing that the Sixers could receive substantial value out of this pick. Probable chance of pick conveyance.

Team: Sacramento Kings (13-17)

Tankathon.com Ranking: 15th

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: If the season ended today, the Kings would be in the playoffs. However, consistency has been an issue for this team for most of the past decade.. DeMarcus Cousins had a tumultuous week last week and followed it up by spitting his mouthguard in the direction of the Portland Trail Blazers Tuesday. Dropping 55 points in the 126-121 win, Boogie’s offensive gifts were once again tarnished by decision-making.

Less emotional, statistically captivating performances also led to wins for Cousins and the Kings, upsetting the Jazz 94-93 Wednesday on the road and taming the Timberwolves 109-105 last night. Cousins (29.0 PPG, 10.7 RPG) will be a prominent figure in trade talks as the period begins, but Sacramento is a playoff contender (recently unfathomable). It’s hard to envision Kings’ management meddling during Boogie’s gaudy season and on the brink of playing meaningful basketball for the first time in a decade-plus.

The Kings aren’t doing anything foreign this season, they’re still below-average statistically on both sides of the ball, but they’ve pulled out some quality victories on the road thus far. Whether or not it’s a confidence-builder after wins like those, Sacramento has developed consistency many other Western Conference teams have failed to acquire in the 2016-17 season. Stated previously, Sacramento would convey its pick to Chicago if the team finishes 11th or lower in the lottery. Now “if the team makes the playoffs” is a necessary addition under current circumstances.

Chance of Conveyance: Very unlikely. However, it’s the Kings: anything’s possible.