Oh. “Better Lottery Odds” actually isn’t an NBA team, you say? My mistake. The Lakers play the Suns tonight. But the title of this post is actually more accurate. You see, even though the Suns have won 3 of their last 4 games and are play well lately, that matters less than the fact that it’s the Suns who are two games up in the standings (and loss column) on the Lakers. This game has real lottery implications.
A Lakers win puts that difference at only a single game with only 17 games left on the schedule. That small a margin could easily equate to the Lakers finishing with a better record than the Suns which flip the odds of the Lakers keeping their top 3 protected pick from 55.8% to 46.9%. That margin may not be huge, but it is statistically significant and would mean only one team would need to jump from outside the top 3 to inside it to move the Lakers’ pick into the 76ers’ hands.
In other words, the specifics of the Lakers’ opponent matters but not as much as the implications of the outcome. I wish we were done with years where this were the case. Maybe next year.
Anyway, with that, I’d love to talk to you about the matchups between the young players on both teams. How I always look forward to seeing how D’Angelo Russell plays against good friend Devin Booker. How I’m interested in seeing how Julius Randle deals with the athleticism and length of Marquese Chriss. How I want to see how Brandon Ingram matches up with TJ Warren. On any other night under most other circumstances, those things would matter much more to me.
Tonight, though, these lottery implications really do take center stage. This isn’t to say I am rooting for the Lakers to lose. I’m not really capable of doing that. It’s just not in my heart to do it. But, my head does understand how these things work. The logic side of my brain fully grasps how much the standings game matters here and how it can impact things in May when the lottery order is determined.
This is the battle I think all Lakers fans are facing each night now, me included. I want the young players to do well. I want competitive games where the team plays hard. I’d even like them to win a few more games simply to feel the reward of hard work and see the correlation between effort and positive results. How those goals bump up against the realities of the draft picks the team still owes are a difficult situation to navigate from a rooting interests standpoint.
And, in that regard, there’s probably not a bigger game than the one vs. the Suns on Thursday.
Where you can watch: 7:30pm start time on TNT.