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Land the Picks, Bryan: failure to tank puts Lakers at lottery disadvantage

Heading into the May 16 drawing with unfavorable odds, Los Angeles created a possible doomsday scenario by winning meaningless games.

NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Los Angeles Lakers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Whether it was poetic justice for resting healthy players or taking advantage of depleted rosters, the Los Angeles Lakers somehow pieced together a 5-2 record in April. An unexpected, convenient turnaround by L.A. catapulted Tinseltown above Phoenix on Tuesday, with a win over New Orleans solidifying their No. 3 seed in next month’s lottery.

Through Metta World Peace’s fire-at-will mindset against Minnesota on Sunday, D’Angelo Russell’s fortunate roll on his game-winning triple that night, and Corey Brewer’s pivotal steal against Sacramento, L.A.’s run this month was surprisingly enjoyable to witness. The outcomes weren’t optimal for Lakers fans, who’ve endured four rebuilding seasons and enter May’s lever pull on edge. But the Sixers faithful can rejoice and thank some of the Lakers’ talents for giving them as good of a chance as any to leave lottery night with two high-end picks in hand.

Team: Los Angeles Lakers (26-56) Ranking: Third

Protections: 1-3 in 2017, unprotected in 2018

Analysis/Pick Status:

Brandon Ingram’s transformation post-All-Star break and Julius Randle’s evolution into a versatile weapon in Luke Walton’s offense were promising developments in an otherwise forgettable Lakers campaign. However, their contributions in April could draw the ire of Lakers fans dreaming of Lonzo Ball sporting purple and gold threads next season.

Most of these developments were hardly expected, though. Thomas Robinson, Tyler Ennis and Corey Brewer regularly posted positive BPM results in April, collectively taking advantage of opponents on late-season cruise control. Something as trivial as adding end-of-bench fodder, especially types with little to no track record of success at the NBA level in the cases of Robinson and Ennis, could have played them out of crucial ping pong balls.

The Lakers’ bench, filled to the brim with fliers, old heads and whatever Metta World Peace is, could cost them top picks in both the 2017 (Philadelphia) and 2019 (Orlando) drafts. What a crazy, unexpected, and fortuitous ending.

Chance for Pick Conveyance:

53.1 percent. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t convey; it’s unprotected next season.

Team: Sacramento Kings (32-50) Ranking: Eighth

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:

Ending their final 10 games at 5-5 and 32-50 on the year, the Kings gained some clarity as an organization. The return for DeMarcus Cousins was comical, but two young pieces, and not having to manage his outbursts, set up Sacramento for a clearer path to contention.

Buddy Hield (15.1 PPG, 4.1 RPG, 48.0 FG% with Sacramento) changed prognosticators views on his potential. Divac hit on the Skal Labissiere pick, in a class that underwhelmed year one, but it’s tough to gauge if Georgios Papigiannis is a legitimate rotational piece. Willie Cauley-Stein’s ceiling also remains floors below guys drafted after him.

Getting into the top three picks and possibly flipping with Philadelphia seems to be the most viable plan at landing a star this draft. Since the acquired New Orleans pick is top-3 protected, they’d ideally hope it stays at No. 10. Like Los Angeles, unfortunate ball bounces could alter their franchise’s rebuilding plans. It’s protected next year for just the first overall selection, but Anthony Davis with possibly Cousins and a Josh Jackson or Markelle Fultz could depreciate its value.

Having the Pelicans push Los Angeles out of the top three would be appreciated, affecting the Kings and their 2018-19 rotation. For the first time since the 2014-15 season, Sacramento won’t impact Philadelphia next year. If you’re in the crowd that wants a top pick and doesn’t care if Sacramento gets a high lottery pick, hope to see either a Timberwolves or Knicks logo appear at eight. If you want New Orleans to cause havoc for Sacramento, have the Dallas Mavericks pop up at No. 10.

Chance for Pick Conveyance:

Chant “Vlade” at the TV screen or/and grab your lucky trinket on May 16. Swapocalypse is upon us.

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