Even if it’s not, it sure feels like it after the Lakers not only held on to their top-5 protected draft pick, but moved up to the 2nd slot overall by leapfrogging the Knicks (sorry, Phil) and the 76ers (more on them in a minute) at Tuesday’s NBA Draft Lottery. No, the Lakers didn’t get all the way to #1, but getting to #2 is a fantastic turn of events for an organization which hasn’t had many things go right in the last two plus seasons.
So, in the wake of all this happiness, below are 10 thoughts in the aftermath of the Lakers lucky lottery:
Will today be the day that a little bit of luck interjects into the lives of Lakers’ fans? We can only hope.
Really, hope is all we can do. This isn’t like a big game where actual performance of professional athletes will determine the outcome. I remember the lead up to game 7 in the 2010 Finals and being a wreck, wondering if any one of a thousand variables would shift the game towards the Celtics. This is not that.
No adjustments or pep talks or random role player performance will tilt the result. This doesn’t make it less stressful, but it does make it different. We’d all feel somewhat better if the Lakers’ pick would be theirs for sure, but, alas, we all know that is not the case.
For now, though, let’s detach ourselves from the anxiousness and review some of the key numbers and the odds of where the Lakers’ pick will land:
The Lakers have an 82.8% chance of retaining their pick
Odds the Lakers stay at #4: 9.9%
Odds the Lakers drop to #5: 35.1%
Odds the Lakers move up to #3: 13.3%
Odds the Lakers move up to #2: 12.6%
Odds the Lakers move up to #1: 11.9
Of course, if the Lakers have an 82.8% chance of keeping their pick, they have a 17.2% chance of losing it to the 76ers. Those odds break down like this:
Odds the Lakers fall to #6: 16.0%
Odds the Lakers fall to #7: 1.2%
Of note from all these numbers: The single most likely individual result is that the Lakers fall to #5. The next likely is that the Lakers fall to #6 (WELP). After that, however, there is a better chance that the Lakers move up to #’s 3, 2, or 1 (YES, PLEASE) than stay at #4.
So, based on the above, if you take comfort in numbers, you are still stressing the hell out. Yeah, I actually think I liked the feeling before the 2010 Game 7 better than this.
We’ll be back later with the results. ‘Til then, don’t mind me, I’ll just be sitting over there in the corner sweating this thing out.
Jordan Clarkson came on strong in the 2nd half of the season when he was inserted into the starting lineup in the 45th game of his rookie campaign. That first start came against the Spurs where Clarkson scored 11 points on 5-9 shooting while chipping in three rebounds and four assists. It wasn’t an eye popping performance and his statline doesn’t necessarily stand out, but that game showed glimmers of a rookie who could play in this league.
Fast forward over the rest of the season and Clarkson did more than show glimmers – he proved to be one of the better players on the team. Post All-Star break, Clarkson started 28 of the team’s 29 games (missing the last game of the year due to injury) and averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 5.4 assists while shooting 47.9% from the floor and 84.3% from the FT line.
It was on the strength of those numbers that Clarkson was named to the NBA’s All-Rookie 1st Team. He is joined by Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins, Nerlens Noel, Nikola Mirotic, and Elfrid Payton. Clarkson earned 74 1st team votes and 52 2nd team votes, for a total of 200 points. That was 58 points better than Marcus Smart who headlines the 2nd Team.
It is interesting Clarkson edged out Smart since the latter was a player the Lakers were linked to heavily in the lead up to last June’s draft. The Lakers, of course, ended up selecting Julius Randle with their #7 pick with Smart going one pick earlier to the Celtics at #6. Time will tell who will end up the better player between Randle and Smart, but the fact that Clarkson, the 46th pick in the draft, ended up making the 1st team speaks volumes to his growth and play as the year progressed and the Lakers’ ability to find a gem later in the draft.
Hopefully, Clarkson can build on his success from the second half of last season and carry that over into this Summer and next season. Considering his work ethic and ability to take in what he learns off the court and apply it to game situations, I know we are all thinking he can. So, here’s to more plays like the ones below next season and beyond.
Releasing Henry is really the no-brainer move here as he’s done for the season after tearing his achilles tendon earlier this month. Henry’s contract was fully guaranteed so he will take his salary and rehab in the hopes of making a strong comeback next season. I wish Henry nothing but the best in his endeavors, though it will surely be an uphill climb for him. Last season under Mike D’Antoni, Henry showed that he has an NBA skill set, flashing an ability to hit the long ball while also getting to the basket regularly. If he can ever find a way to make a higher percentage at the foul line and not have so much tunnel vision once he beats the first defender off the dribble, he can take the next step as an offensive player. Of course, all that comes secondary to simply getting healthy — something that, sadly, has been an all to frequent theme for the former Jayhawk.
As for Black, the rookie big man was released by the Rockets who needed a roster spot to sign Josh Smith after the latter was released by the Pistons. This enabled the Lakers to pick him up for nothing but the commitment of paying his salary. The 6’11”, 250 pound Black has flashed some talent as a reserve big man, getting most of his minutes at center when Dwight Howard sat out due to knee problems. So far this season, he’s averaged four points and five rebounds on 54% shooting in 15 minutes a night.
As you can see from his shot chart, Black is mostly a player who stays around the rim offensively and doesn’t seem to step outside of his comfort zone at all. Based on the Rockets’ offensive approach, Black likely gets most of his baskets off dump-offs or as the roll man out of the P&R as evidenced by the fact that nearly 69% of his shots are assisted. His hovering around the rim also contributes to his very good 16.7% offensive rebounding rate (for comparison, Ed Davis’ ORR is 13.3 this season).
Where Black fits into the rotation now remains to be seen. Right now Davis, Hill, and Boozer are the team’s best big men and Robert Sacre has earned the coach’s trust and plays solid minutes as the team’s 3rd Center. With Ryan Kelly reportedly nearing a return (he is targeting next Friday), the front court rotation is already set to get more crowded. So, Black will either displace a current rotation player (Sacre?) or languish on the bench. Unless, of course, a trade is made to remove one of the team’s big men.
I’m not one to speculate, but moving one of the team’s bigs would not be a surprise to me. While Black isn’t really the type of player you sign to throw into the lineup right away, he is a player who should probably play to see what you have in him and right now those minutes simply do not exist. We’ll see, however, what the team decides to do. In any event, they have added an interesting piece to the roster who should get a chance to show whether he is worth an investment beyond this season.
Kobe Bryant and I are the same age (he also, coincidentally, shares a birthday with my older brother). Some 19 years ago when Kobe stood at a podium with his Oakley sunglasses propped up on his forehead to announce that he was taking his talents to the NBA, I too was transitioning to that next phase in my life and preparing to go away to college. After it was announced that this high school kid would be a Laker, I, naturally, took a great interest in his career.
In the nearly 19 years that Kobe has worn a Lakers’ jersey so much has occurred it’s nearly impossible to recount it all. Airballs in Utah, ridiculous shots in Portland on the last day of a season, a championship celebration in Orlando, a fractured hand, a hurt shoulder, a ruptured achilles…it all blends together like a desert landscape viewed through the window on a long car ride. I’d pick out one moment, but I don’t have a favorite uncle; my family is my family.
The new moments, though, act as a reminder. They jog the memory and turn history into today’s celebration, recreating the feeling from many years ago by rekindling the flames of past accomplishments. Especially when today’s acts truly are a culmination of what is, essentially, a life’s work.
We’ve known this moment was coming for some time. But actually watching it happen, for me at least, was still a tremendous moment. The combination of longevity and production needed to reach such heights astounds me. The fact that the guy who did it is that same guy who, as a kid, had those Oakley’s sitting on his forehead makes it that much more special.
Kobe will never quite be the player many want him to be. As his efficiency wanes, his personality shows more hard edges, and his team suffers more losses than wins another type of validation will come for that sect. And as the complexities of his game, leadership, and overall status as a player are pushed to the middle of the spotlight both sides of the argument will meet with loud voices and even louder arguments trying to get to the bottom of what it all means.
For me, though, there will be none of that. And there especially won’t be some long discussion about Michael Jordan, measuring sticks, and how achievements do or don’t stack up. Kobe is one of the greatest players I ever saw grace a basketball court. Where he falls in that discussion matters less to me than the fact that he is part of that conversation. Far from perfect, but a provider of more moments worth celebrating than not. And, really, what more could you ask for?
The man harnessed his skill through immeasurable work to achieve at a level I never would have expected. He did it his way, for better or for worse, and nearly two decades later is still out there giving it his all. And while many would have hoped for a different route, it’s hard to argue with the path traveled considering there really wasn’t a road map to follow.