When a team tanks, it makes sense on a logical level. The worse a team’s record, the better their draft pick will be. The question is, why doesn’t every non-playoff team tank? If it means a brighter future, and a better draft pick, then we should see more teams tanking, a la the 76ers. The Lakers could certainly learn from what the Sixers are doing this year. And with a generational talent such as Ben Simmons coming up in next year’s draft, it is no small beans to try and get the top pick in the NBA draft.
There are two reasons that people argue against tanking:
1) Bad for morale, affects the locker room, and hurts the team culture
2) Too risky, because it doesn’t necessarily guarantee a top draft pick
In terms of the first reason – morale, I look to the Celtics of last year. They were a borderline playoff team for a lot of the season, and started to outperform expectations. The problem was, and still is, that they didn’t have a franchise player, and therefore are unlikely to ever win a championship with their current cast of players. Marcus Smart was a solid draft pick, but he’s not a clear All Star. And so, the Celtics made the playoffs, and then lost in the first round.
The argument for them was that it was great for the locker room, and gave some playoff experience to a young team. The problem with that argument, in retrospect, was that Danny Ainge was scrambling to get into the lottery in order to draft Justice Winslow (a player he deemed to have star potential). Ainge reportedly offered FOUR first rounders to the Hornets in return for their pick. I can confidently speculate that if Ainge could go back in time, he would have missed the playoffs last year in order to have gotten the lottery pick that he so desired. That’s because instead of drafting Justice Winslow, they had to settle for Terry Rozier. Their championship aspirations did not improve much.
The Lakers, for better or for worse, are in a different situation. They only get to keep their draft pick if it falls in the top 3. Well, guess what? The team which has the worst record in the NBA is guaranteed a top 4 pick, and are 75% guaranteed to draft within the top 3. Considering that the Lakers are currently 2-11 and tied for the 2nd worst record in the NBA, they are in a bad position. That is because they are both completely out of the playoff picture, and don’t even have the worst record, which means they currently have a lower chance of getting the top pick than the Sixers. With odds like these, it makes more sense to play free bingo and actually have a chance at getting some luck out of it.
That is why it is imperative for the Lakers to finish with the worst record in the league. If they finish with, let’s say, the 4th worst record, they will likely receive the 4th or 5th draft pick, at which point it is promptly shipped off to the CELTICS.
Considering that free agents have spurned the Lakers the last 2 summers, the NBA draft is the perfect route to rebuild with, and landing Ben Simmons will simply speed up that process.
To make matters worse, it is currently looking bad for the Lakers newest draft pick D’Angelo Russel, who is struggling to fit in with Jordan Clarkson and Kobe Bryant. If the Lakers could go back in time, they would certainly draft Kristaps Porzingis, who the Knicks are pleasantly surprised with right now.
The only move for the Lakers right now is to lose as much as possible, because that simply means a brighter future in the form of a higher draft pick.