Los Angeles Lakers Must Protect 2015 1st-Round Draft Pick at All Costs

With just four games left to play in a snakebitten season, the Los Angeles Lakers find themselves with the fourth-worst record in the league, hoping to land a top-five lottery pick on June 25.

The pot of gold is enticing—elite candidates include Karl-Anthony Towns from Kentucky, Jahlil Okafor and Justise Winslow from Duke, D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State and Emmanuel Mudiay, whose season in the Chinese league ended in March.

But despite losing five games in a row, the Lakers won’t know their fate for certain until May 19—the night when representatives from the 14 non-playoff teams will attend the annual bouncing of the Ping-Pong balls.

Due to the top-five-protected nature of the Lakers’ pick and a byzantine NBA selection process, the determination of the draft order can become a little murky.

Under current rules, the team with the worst record has a 25 percent chance to secure the top pick, with odds decreasing proportionately for the remaining teams. After the top three picks are chosen, the rest of the selections descend according to wins and losses. If the Lakers fall below the No. 5 pick, they’ll have to forfeit it to the Philadelphia 76ers, who inherited it in a trade with the Phoenix Suns in February.

As Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times notes, the Lakers currently “have an 82.8 percent chance” of keeping the pick on May 19.

The New York Knicks currently have the worst record in the league at 15-63, with the Minnesota Timberwolves at 16-62. The 76ers are next at 18-61, the Lakers are at 20-58 and the Orlando Magic are at 25-53.

It is conceivable, but not likely, that the 76ers could win the remainder of their games while the Lakers lose out—thus landing the third-worst slot and further improving their lottery chances.

But there is also the inverse scenario—that L.A. c...

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