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Let’s Check in on the Lakers Pick

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The Lakers are sitting with the 2nd best lottery odds after a rough stretch, so where do we sit with their pick?

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

I’ve said to myself and on the Stepover Podcast many times that I’m not focusing on the NBA Draft Lottery this year. We should be past the point of praying for a #1 pick, and if the balls shake out the way they may, just let Boston have whichever of this year’s Lakers pick, next year’s Kings pick, or next year’s Sixers pick they’re gonna get. The deal was done and we’re moving on. But then the Lakers went 1-9 over their last ten, giving them the 2nd best lottery odds* at this early juncture. My Tankathon-click finger got itchy, as I remembered the sweet, sweet high of seeing that red, white, and blue ball sit atop the lottery. I needed a fix, and today, I decided to give in.

Just as a reminder, the Sixers get the Lakers’ pick if it lands at #1 overall, or anywhere after #5. From at #2-5 it goes to the Celtics, and we keep the Kings’ pick next year. If we keep the Lakers pick this year, the Celtics get the better of our own or the Kings’ pick next year, as long as that is also not #1, then it’s the other one. Super clear? Cool.

First, let’s look at lottery history. Before a recent string of the three teams with the best odds all winning, the team who entered the night with a 25% chance of that top pick hadn’t won it since 2004. In fact, even including the three recent top-odds winners, the average chance the winning team has had at the first pick since 2005 was 12.2% (worse than the odds the 4th place team gets). Their average landing spot? 4.77th. Though the gambler’s fallacy tells us that each individual draw is not effected by the prior and has no bearing on the future, it still bumps the confidence a bit.

Where the Lakers sit right now, the Sixers are left with a 19.9% of taking that as the top pick, and it cannot fall further than 5, so it’s there their odds stay. But with those protections on the pick, if your one and only goal is for the Sixers to keep the pick, no matter where it lands (within reason), you should be rooting for a 5th or 6th place finish, which would give the Sixers 55.6% and 82.3% chances of keeping the pick, respectively.

Here’s how it shakes out by finish (all odds calculations by Lottery Bucket):

  • Lakers land at #1 - 25% keep (only at #1)
  • Lakers land at #2 - 19.9% keep (only at #1)
  • Lakers land at #3 - 19.6% keep (15.6% chance at #1)
  • Lakers land at #4 - 29.2% keep (11.9% chance at #1)
  • Lakers land at #5 - 53.5% keep (8.8% chance at #1)
  • Lakers land at #6 - 84.8% keep (6.3% chance at #1)
  • Lakers land at #7 - 89.3% keep (4.3% chance at #1)

And on and on and on. From the 3rd spot to the 4th spot is where the Sixers’ most likely pick (if they keep it) switches from #1 to #6.

For old times’ sake, I took a single spin of the ol’ Tankathon button and - I swear this is what happened - I got that high I’ve been craving:

Only 3 of the next ten spins put that pick at #1, but oh boy was it sweet.

*It being early, the difference between the 2nd best odds and the 7th best odds is a game and a half, but let’s not let that get in the way.